Quiet chatter fills the bus that is heading from Pori to Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark. Onboard is the International Tourism Management class NTO19, who have just started their second year of studies at Satakunta University of Applied Sciences. This study visit to the Geopark is part of their Tourism Product and Experience Design course.
Study visits to different kinds of companies and field-related events are very common in SAMK. For example, our class has visited the Sokos Hotel Vaakuna here in Pori and we also got the chance to visit Matka Nordic Travel Fair, which is organized annually in Helsinki. Study visits bring variation to normal schoolwork and give the students an opportunity to actually see and hear what it is like to work, for example, in a hotel. We also get to ask questions straight from the professionals and get experiences that we would never get in the classroom.
In SAMK we students get to participate in cooperating with the local entrepreneurs and businesses. It can be in the form of a guest lecturer, study visit or doing a project with them etc. Especially in tourism studies, this type of contact with the companies is important. This can help us to network already during our studies, gives us insights on what we could possibly do with our degree and valuable hands-on experience. We get to work with real companies and give them our ideas and/or solutions. We get different kinds of ‘clients’ from different fields of tourism and a variety of assignments.
Assignment for the Geopark
This course assignment is for each team to design a themed trail in the Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark. We are supposed to use digital, experiential, and interactive content as part of the experience. The content could be anything from photos (old and new), videos, texts, audios, quizzes, games, stories (historical or fictional), etc. Only the sky and imagination is the limit here. These types of assignments are always fun because while they give us the frame it also gives us a lot of freedom to use our imagination and creativity. The different themes are aviation history, wellbeing, outdoors, and geology.
In order to accommodate the needs of the customer, we needed to know more about them so after a tasty lunch we gathered into a conference room to hear more about the themes and the park itself. First, we got to hear about the interesting aviation history that the area holds. It dates back all the way to the 1930s when Suomen Kuvalehti held a competition to find the best location for a new airfield and Soininharju Ridge won. For decades Jämijärvi was one of the pioneers of the Finnish aviation industry and even in the world.
After this Terttu Hermanson, Executive Manager of Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark, told us more about the park itself. Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark covers 5 000 km2 and reaches 10 municipalities. There are also 40 000 inhabitants living in the area. Within the perimeter, there are 52 geosites, 100 cultural sites and 39 natural sites. These sites range from rock formations to churches and bogs to farms.
Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark is one of the 161 UNESCO Global Geoparks that can be found in 44 different countries. They are defined as ”single unified geological areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development” (Website of UNESCO, 2020)
This means that the park is ‘not only about the rocks’. They are promoting geotourism, preserving the area, teaching networking and co-operation and much more. Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas is the second Global Geopark in Finland and only got its designation a few months ago (July 2020). UNESCO recognition gives the park visibility and peer support.
DigiLuonto Satakunta is a project organized by Turku School of Economics and Tampere University. Its target areas are rural sectors in the Satakunta region. DigiLuonto aims to develop smart destinations. The goal of this project is to “increase accessibility, real-time interactivity and destination attractiveness for new target groups by digitally augmenting the existing tourism destination resources with enriched experience contents, activities, and open data.”
Let’s get to work!
After a short walk outside our class returned to the conference room and was set to work. Our first task was to come up with at least one idea for each given trail theme. This way no one had to start their assignment from a blank paper. When everyone had given their ideas and thoughts we split into four groups and started to develop the ideas further. After some time we presented our new ideas for the trails to our class and got some feedback and suggestions on how to continue with our plans. The last task we had on our trip was to write a group work plan and also present it.
After a full day our class returned to Pori full of new ideas and ready to set to work for the coming months. Some headed back home, while others headed to the initiation of the first year tourism students. But such is student life at SAMK: busy, eventful, and fun!
We will see what this semester, and the course, will bring us and we will definitely keep you updated.
Text: Milla Ruonala and Roosa Rantanen, second year students of International Tourism Management
Pictures: Roosa Rantanen