Last week I was in Helsinki, Finland, I was invited to speak at the opening of the 15th International Conference on Responsible Tourism in Destinations, the first since Covid struck. I spoke about the progress made in achieving sustainable tourism in the twenty years since the Cape Town Declaration, to encourage participants for the ICRTs in the Nordic countries to engage with the new Platform for Change and to encourage businesses and destinations to learn from those who have developed, tried and tested solutions.
The ICRT Finland organised the event in Helsinki’s Oodi Central Library. Book Heaven, on the third floor, houses an extensive collection of over 100,000 books in twenty languages and a large collection of movies, sheet music and games. Children’s World offers a world of fairy tales; entering through a secret door children will find a “soft nest” for peaceful story times. Oodi is no ordinary library, it pulses with life. People are encouraged to “Borrow books, read magazines, enjoy lunch, work, hang out, see a movie, hold a meeting, hold events, enjoy a glass of wine, create music, sew curtains, play with children or play board games.” In the Urban Workshop on the second floor people can print a T-shirt or learn how to use a 3D printer; there are even cookery courses in the learning kitchen and they also offer guided tours.
Oodi is much more than a library. Oodi was built to mark the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence and to contribute to the realisation of Finnish society’s “most important values, such as freedom of speech, education, equality and openness”. Oodi is accessible for all in prams and push chairs and it is fully accessible to the differently abled. The venue was chosen for the conference because of the values it embodies. Open for everyone, residents and tourists, young and old, it is firmly founded on the values of equality and respect; “everyone’s shared living room”, where all are “responsible for keeping it comfortable.”
I wrote here last week about the Global Responsible Tourism Awards which are open until the end of August. Oodi could enter in the “Access for the Differently-Abled: as Travellers, Employees and Holidaymakers” category. If you are in Helsinki don’t miss Oodi because of the facilities it offers to everyone and the values it embodies and conveys.
In the Responsible Tourism Awards, we have asked: how inclusive is our industry? We Speak Gay is an example of what can be done to increase diversity in tourism: “…diversity and inclusivity are more important. That everybody is welcome, everybody can feel safe and respected. On the Gay Travel Site we are promoting so called gay scene companies but more the diverse and open-minded We Speak Gay members. We Speak Gay is a community of open minded companies and events that are welcoming to LGBTQ customers creating a safe atmosphere in which you can feel valued and respected. These companies are against racism and all kinds of discrimination, homophobia and transphobia. The members of the community are committed to inclusion and want to embrace diversity in Finland. You can find all the member events of the community.”
3. Zero Waste
In the Responsible Tourism Awards this year, there is a category on reducing plastic waste. The Restaurant Nolla in Helsinki has been a pioneer in zero-waste and has reduced plastic waste to zero. They don’t accept deliveries which leave them to have waste to dispose of and their food waste is returned to the farmers for compost. “Nolla’s three co-owners are committed to their zero-waste policy – so much so that the kitchen doesn’t even have a bin. The trio’s philosophy is “Refuse, reduce, reuse, and only as a last resource, recycle. Nolla doesn’t accept any produce that comes in single-use packaging. Local producers supply the ingredients, which are used head to tail, and dishes are local and seasonal.”