The list of star products was published at the Helsinki Travel Fair on 22 January. Among the Ruka-Kuusamo companies, star status was awarded to SaunaTour Kuusamo Lapland, Kuusamo Folk Healers’ Gathering, and Chalet Ruka Peak that provides natural luxury at the peak of Ruka fell. Over 100 Finnish companies participated in the FinRelax product competition.
Marjo Määttä from Rukan Salonki Chalets, one of the hostesses of SaunaTour, is happy to see how the long-term effort of the local companies is now bearing fruit. In Kuusamo, wellness tourism has been under special focus for several decades.
– There are so many elements that fit under the well-being derived from nature. For example, SaunaTour is a product that separates us from others, and captures the interest of international customers. We have succeeded in choosing the right products and productizing them. Here in Kuusamo, training courses in wellness tourism have been offered already since the mid-1990s, Ms Määttä says.
The fact that three very different products were selected as star products in Kuusamo gives special pleasure to Ms Määttä.
– Our frame of reference is nature, but success comes from collaboration. The companies in Kuusamo have understood that none of us is able to make it alone.
The entire national tourism industry is seeking growth from well-being.– Wellness tourism is the fastest growing branch of tourism worldwide, with over 10 per cent growth per year, says FinRelax Program Manager Kiti Hakkinen.
FinRelax Program is a new way to develop things self-evident to Finns into products for international visitors. These things include the clean, untouched nature, moving around in the wilderness, the northern food and flavours, berry picking, the sauna tradition, and various treatments.
– Finland has a fair chance of becoming a leading northern country in wellness tourism, if we focus on the strengths that separate us from other countries. The 25 selected leading companies represent Finnish wellness tourism and its many aspects comprehensively, says Ms Hakkinen.
The goal of FinRelax Program is to generate entirely new wellness tourism by connecting accommodation and tourist services, adventure services, Finnish food producers, new technology, and product innovations.
– The Program provides a setting and a network for crossing the barriers between industries, Ms Hakkinen says.
In addition to sauna, folk healing, and natural luxury, things such as wild herbs, the untouched wilderness, and silence have been productized for the benefit of foreign visitors. Under a common brand, companies are now heading to the markets of Germany, Japan, and Russia. The star products nominated by FinRelax will be launched for international tourists at the ITB Berlin Travel Trade Show in March. The products will also appear in the marketing material of Visit Finland.
Chalet Ruka Peak is a boutique hotel and restaurant that has offered natural luxury for their guests for over a decade.
The patron of the hotel, Hannu Kuusiniemi, regards the star status awarded to his hotel as a fine tribute.
– This recognition gives us a great base for developing our product further, he smiles.
The Chalet Ruka Peak wellness product is a combination of quality accommodation, the finest view over the fell, clean nature, top quality service, Kuusamo wild food, smoke sauna built in a cave, and wellness treatments.
– Our success comes from a big-hearted attitude combined with an unbearable lightness of being –style philosophy.
According to Mr Kuusiniemi, Kuusamo’s strong influence as the leader of wellness tourism is based on the unique nature and innovative entrepreneurs of the area. People in Kuusamo are used to working and productizing things in their own way. The products selected into the FinRelax Program are unique; such products do not exist elsewhere.
– The principal element in wellness tourism is the environment. We all should realize that Kuusamo is the safest and cleanest place in the world.
The third product to receive a star status is the Kuusamo Folk Healers’ Gathering. Organized by Rukapalvelu Oy and The Folk Healers’ Association of Finland, the next Kuusamo Folk Healers’ Gathering will be held on 11–17 July 2016.
– The event creates opportunities for meetings that maintain old ways and allow people to learn new things. We have tried to establish an event where interaction is part of the experience, describes Anne Murto from Rukapalvelu.
Organized for the fifth time this year, Kuusamo Folk Healers’ Gathering has grown into a week-long, international dialogue with a focus on nature and people. Italian guests have already found their way to the event, and visitors are also expected from Viena Karelia this year.
– Finland is the best source of natural well-being in the world. In Kuusamo, wellness comes from the clean nature, genuine and original products, connection with nature, and from our ancient traditions, says Ms Murto.
Another goal of the Folk Healers’ Gathering is to cast light on Finnish culture and tradition, and thereby provide a way to a deeper nature experience. Finnishness symbolizes a set of values that the organizers wish to communicate: reliability, strength, authenticity.
– We produce an event where offering comprehensive treatment to people becomes visible and alive. The seminar offers a wide selection of information, and through their healing hands, folk healers offer people reliable remedies. Kuusamo provides a setting where silence is nurtured, and our sensitive ecosystem as well as the local culture are taken into account.
During the next Kuusamo Folk Healers’ Gathering, the second national Visit Finland FinRelax ACADEMY will be held at Kuusamo Hall on 14 July 2016. This wellness product development training event is expected to attract more than 200 visitors from Finnish tourism companies.
– We regard Finnish treatments as one of the four basic elements of the FinRelax Program, along with sauna, wild food, and well-being derived from the clean nature, says Kiti Hakkinen.
According to Ruka Kuusamo Tourist Association Manager Mats Lindfors, the achieved development in wellness tourism in Kuusamo is a very welcome step forward in the development of the entire tourism industry.
–The Ruka-Kuusamo region has been a popular nature tourism destination since the 1850s. Here, well-being derived from nature includes outdoor activities and wellness services as well as the local, genuine wild food, Mr Lindfors says.
More information: www.ruka.fi/en/wellbeing