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