Give yourself a chance to live offline

As someone who is obsessed with the mother nature, I recently realized I am slowly turning into a scheduled machine always doing things as pre-planned again and again. Nowadays our lives are always busy with something, so we do not have time to live our lives. We have responsibilities, work, studies, and many other things to take care of without even realizing the time is always ticking and we can not take back the time that has gone already.

As someone who came from the other side of the world to Finland, I find it as precious place to be in. The nature, the weather, the people, the culture – specially I cannot forget about the northern winter and aurora borealis. I believe the mother nature is amazing and unique in everywhere in the world, but we humans are yet to realize the real value of it.

The well-being of humans is one of the trending topics in modern world. Unfortunately, most people, including myself, are struggling to find the real happiness in the offline life. We are stuck in an online trap. We have already a very busy life due to our other things, but when you think about what is happening now is we are using our last free moments to maintain a fake life in social media. We are almost forgetting that we have a real life out there.

To change this from happening or continuing, we just have to take at least one step. So, I took my step. I found my passion. Now whenever I have the possibility or the opportunity, I always go offline for the well-being of myself. I highly encourage other to find their own passion and be close to the nature.

Finally, I believe that we are a product of the nature, but us humans have disconnected way too much from the nature, which is why we have so many problems. If we all are willing to treat the earth as it should be, it will also treat us as it should.

Text and pictures: Buddhi Panambarage, third year International Tourism Management student

EduTravel trainees have been developing new day trips this Spring

This is a collection of day trip test reports from students who have been working for SAMK’s own travel agency, SAMK EduTravel, this Spring.

Product testing: wonderful winter exploration day at Pitkäjärvi (on 20 January 2022)

It was still dark outside when our product testing group gathered at the SAMK parking lot at 7.30 AM. It started snowing when we were driving from Pori to Kokemäki, adding to the sense of a genuine winter adventure. Upon arrival at the Pitkäjärvi Recreational Centre, we were greeted by our host and enjoyed morning coffee with sandwiches near the frozen lakeside.

Full of energy and in high spirits, we then proceeded to the fatbikes, which were available as battery-powered or regular. I went for the muscle-powered option. After receiving instructions on how to use the electric fatbikes, we put our helmets on and proceeded to the road and then to forest. It was already dawning, and the white snow helped us to stay on the trail, although going offroad was not a problem when driving a fatbike on a pristine, thick layer of snow and ice.

Riding a fatbike through the forest was a pleasure, and those who went for electric fatbikes were clearly having a blast, as they could take on occasionally rough terrain with ease. It was snowing pretty much all the time when were out fatbiking, which proved some challenge with my GoPro, as the lens cover needed to be wiped dry pretty often.

The day was not over after our fatbike ride, as there was a tasty salmon soup lunch waiting for us at the lean-to near the lake. To make sure nobody was on the verge of hypothermia, the hot soup was followed by a sauna, with an option of dipping into the icy Pitkäjärvi lake. Having never tried it before, I quite enjoyed the brief swim in the chilly water.

We also had a photo contest where the participants posted their photos on WhatsApp, after which the winning photo was voted by all. Some of our photos and videos were also published on EduTravel’s social media channels.

As this day was also a Project challenge assignment for Iina, we filled her feedback sheets after the sauna and discussed the experience with our host over coffee and pastries. Our experiences were mostly positive, with the activities being enjoyed by everyone. In addition to product testing, the purpose of the trip was to redevelop the product and to gain footage for marketing purposes. The suggestions for improvement included such things as spending a little more time on biking instructions (how to wear the helmet correctly), putting together a diploma for those who tried winter swimming, and how to better utilize the day as a team-building opportunity.

All in all, a fine day with very nice activities in the great outdoors in Kokemäki!

Text: Olli Riihimäki

Photo: Annika Polvi

Product testing trip to Koivuniemen Herra Farm on Saturday 9th of April 2022 / Fun at the Farm (Budget)

The need for this product testing sparked when we didn’t get enough bookings for this day trip that we had planned. We suggested this product testing idea to Koivuniemen Herra Farm, and they gladly answered yes. So then began the process of modifying the original program and agreeing on minor details regarding the product testing. The aim was to make a “budget” version of the original program so that it would attract more customers in the future.

We began our journey to Koivuniemen Herra Farm on 9th of April around 13:00 from SAMK Campus Pori. On the way there we had short briefing about the days purpose, signed permissions for photography, went through the program for the day and openly discussed about these subjects. We arrived in Koivuniemen Herra Farm, Merikarvia, a bit earlier than expected so around 13:45. We were warmly welcomed by the staff and then gave short introductions of ourselves. At this point we also asked them to sign the permission for photography so that we could take photos and videos and use that for marketing purposes. Then Sirkkis (our guide for the day) showed us around the premises, for example we got to see the accommodation premises and other buildings such as the old barn that had been turned into multifunctional area for different kinds of events.

Then the day continued with guided farm program and activities which included taking care of the animals and feeding them, but we also got to milk a goat, pet cute rats and chickens. During the day we also had this outdoor lunch including sandwiches, grilled sausages/corn, and French toast as a dessert. The day took a surprise twist when the program ended up with us virtually milking a cow, can you imagine! Finally, it was time to sit down, fill the questionnaires and have a feedback session with the whole crew. We arrived back to SAMK Campus Pori around 19:00.

The essential purpose of the day was to experience the day from international/exchange-student point of view, gather marketing materials, enhancing our partnership between EduTravel and the Koivuniemen Herra Farm and based on feedback made changes to the program/brochure. Viveca Antila was in charge of this project. She organized this product testing, negotiated about the details with the service provider and afterwards updated the brochure and other related materials based on the feedback that was gathered. Overall, I think everything went smoothly and we are happy with the results we got which are even tighter partnership with Koivuniemen Herra Farm and improved day trip product, but also it was super useful from a learning point of view for all of us!

Text: Mika Haavisto

Relaxing Forest & Summer Cottage Feeling – Product testing trip to The Forestry Museum and SyVilla on 22nd of May 2022

On a sunny Sunday morning in May, our entire team of five with our equipment crammed into a small passenger car and headed for Parkano, to Satakunta’s neighboring region of Pirkanmaa. At our first destination, The Forestry Museum of Parkano, we met our guide of the day, nature and recreation service provider Mr. Hannu Raitio, who introduced us the history of the forest industry from the rise of the sawmill industry in the 1860s to mechanization in the 1960s. He was professional and entertaining, and his personal experience and passion brought the stories to life.

The Forestry Museum and lake Kaidatvedet is a part of Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas UNESCO Global Geopark. The area of the Forestry Museum includes an exhibition hall, logging hut, sauna, horse stable and forestry machinery. There is also a nature trail, Messukallio cliff, beach, lean-to shelters, and campfire sites in the vicinity of the museum. Our guide introduced us to the premises and led us along the nature trail of “Gustav the Moose” to the magnificent place of devotion, Messukallio, where we had a snack break on a cliff honed by ice age.

Wellness and healing value of nature are growing in popularity as tourism trends. Studies show that nature promotes well-being in many ways, for example, it soothes the body and mind, relieves stress, and increases satisfaction. Spending time in nature improves perceived health status, enhances social cohesion, and supports physical activity. Our guide is a pioneer of the trend, as he is already familiar with the subject and has included relaxing wellness exercises into the day trip experience.

Text: Julia Alankoja

Photo: Maaria Berg

From relaxation and culture to the excitement of summer

We pass from the forest to SyVilla, a cottage located on the shore of a lake. There, we visited different spaces that make up SyVilla hosted by Hannu Raitio. There were two main buildings: in one were the rooms and in another the kitchen-dining room. Then we found different types of “cabins” dedicated to different spaces. For example, one was for the smoke sauna, in another there was a small dining room and in another a normal sauna. But not everything was buildings, it also has outdoor spaces where you can relax and make a campfire.

After visiting all the spaces, we proceeded to have lunch. We decided to do it in a kind of round glass cabin, since we found it very cozy and its views of the lake won us over. Lunch consisted of pasta salad, tomatoes and chicken casserole and to drink kotikalja (a home-made table beer) – what a delicacy!

After digesting, we proceeded to go to the water activities area, sauna and hot-tub. There we had a very fun time between SUP-Boarding falls, swimming and drifting with the canoes and row boating! Of course, the laughs were not lacking. After spending all our energy we spent a long time between the sauna and the hot tub, well… and Olli between beers too (0.0% of course). To finish completely relaxing, after a warm shower we went to another permise and had coffee and pastries.

At this time, we decided to carry out the feedback session, because once the entire product has been tested, it is the right time. We filled out a questionnaire made by SAMK EduTravel and together we gave our point of view and reached different agreements. During the session there is always someone who takes notes of what was said, because sometimes we say things that we have not written because we are inspired at that moment thanks to the opinion of another colleague.

Back to the office

In the office, a summary of what was exposed is made and uploaded to Teams, so that it is registered and everyone has access to it. The same process is for the visual material, which is then sent to the supplier, in this case Hannu Raitio, so that he can use it as well.

Testing a product is good for both parties, because in this way both can improve their services, both for other consumers and for those offered in cooperation between them. Hannu Raitio himself was not very convinced, but after finishing the feedback session he admitted that after that moment he understood what the purpose of this product testing is.

Text: Corina Morales

Photo: Maaria Berg

Sharks returned to Maya Bay

When I travel, I try to make small gestures that wouldn’t overwhelm nature too much. One small ‘’green deed’’ is for example using the same water bottle if possible and filling it up whenever you can. In Thailand, you can’t drink tap water, but most stores will have refilling spots. I’d like to talk about preserving nature and tourism spots and use Thailand as example, since I have the most experience from there.

I think that visiting popular destinations should be restricted somehow. There should be fees to enter different places – the fees would be used for preserving the nature i.e. payment for the people taking care of the area.  For example, to enter an island called Koh Lanta in Thailand, you will have to pay 20 baht to get in. 20 baht doesn’t even equal to 1 euro, and I think it should be more than that. For a tourist, paying 100 baht (around 2,5 euros) wouldn’t be too much. They use the money to clean the beaches and areas around the island. Also, in the National Park of Khao Sok, you must pay 300 baht (around 8 euros) to enter. The money goes to preservation of the area. I think more places should do this.

The popular Maya Beach in Thailand was closed because the different tour operators were just after the money, and they took thousands and thousands of tourists a day to a beach that is only 250 meters long. It is no surprise the nature there got very damaged. The multiple speedboats a day didn’t help the corals and other life in the proximity of the beach. According to statistics, the Maya Beach was visited by 1,2 billion tourists between October of 2015 and May of 2016. That is an insane amount of people for just 6-7 months.

Thailand closed the beach and the whole Koh Phi Phi Le’s island from tourists in 2018. It has only been a few years, and the sharks that used to live in the area close to the beach have returned. I think it’s amazing how nature heals so fast when humans aren’t there to disrupt it.

Photo: Wikimedia

I think that popular destinations should have maximum capacities per day, so the areas wouldn’t get too overwhelmed. I would be happy to wait for my turn or pay a fee to get to somewhere if it meant that nature would be preserved. The destinations could also have some kind of a reservation system, where you can book a day and a time to visit. This way the tour operators can keep up well with how many people have visited and travelers can confirm their visit to the location. Waiting some time or paying a little fee shouldn’t hurt. Would it hurt you?

Text: Viveca Antila, second year student in the degree programme in Tourism

Designing digital routes and the importance of testing

It is a cool and crispy morning in December. The sky is grey and dripping as our hardworking students make their way to Kirjurinluto in a happy mood. They are on their way to test their route produced as a course assignment in collaboration with DigiLuonto Satakunta project.

SAMK often provides different and interesting alternative projects for the students to work on. On the course Tourism Product and Experience Design, second year students of International Tourism Management were given an assignment to work on in collaboration with DigiLuonto and the Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark to produce themed routes for the region.

Throughout the whole project all groups had a chance to implement their creativity while doing their routes. That was a truly great opportunity! We not only got skills in creating, testing and bringing our ideas in life, but also had a lot of fun working in the assignment together!

At the end of the Autumn, we were told to test the route before finalizing the details. This proved crucial! Before the product can be published to consumers it must be tested in order to assess potential defects and improvements before it is released for commercial use.

Our themed route

Different student groups had been assigned with different interactive, themed trails to work on during this semester. These themes included aviation history, wellbeing, outdoors action and geology.  

Our group was in charge of creating a wellbeing route in Jämijärvi region. While doing this task, we managed to come up with a lot of creative activities which can be done throughout the route, for instance guided meditation, physical exercise like yoga in the forest, and creating art in nature such as drawing mandalas on the sand. The main concept is to connect yourself with the nature, get some relaxation from the big and noisy towns and generally have a great time.

The whole process was creative and fun! We went to Jämijärvi and wandered through the forests in order to catch the inspiration which could lead to thinking up new ideas. Although it was a long process, we didn’t feel bored – vice versa, we were encouraged doing this assignment, which we considered to be a very positive attitude.

The importance of testing

During the testing phase, we were facing some inconveniences with the product, and the application itself. The content was provided prior to the testing, but some parts of it could not yet be found in the application. But one needs to keep in mind the application is still being developed!

Because of the pandemic, a member of the group could not participate in the testing in person. That did not stop the innovative and hardworking students! They video called him to help him participate in this activity as well.

It is definitely important to test your route or it might not function up to the standards required by the customer. There may also be unexpected bugs and missing features which are essential in making the experience. Testing also helps you realize what is working, what is not working, does something need to be aaded, is it easily accessible or usable?

The activities we had designed within the digital points of interest were fun and active. Here in this picture you can see our group doing physical exercises within the route we are testing:

After testing for a while, we realized there are still some technical difficulties within the application, but regardless it is almost ready to be released into commercial usage. The content still may be improved to make the app as user friendly as possible, but it is almost ready.

Text: Kalle Kaseva and Kristian Surmai, second year students of International Tourism Management
Photos: Kalle Kaseva, Kristian Surmai, Ella Sten, Sina Khabbazi

Study visit to Lauhanvuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark

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.

UNESCO recognition

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