Broader Shoulders - A New Formula for Responsible Tourism Development

Corporate responsibility (CR) is an increasingly vital competitive asset in global tourism business. Päijät-Häme with its small and family business centric company structure are in a severe threat to fall by the wayside in competing globally on people’s attention, time and money. In recent years, sustainable development has been underlined. For instance, Visit Finland’s Sustainable Travel Finland (STF) programme and certificate boost companies’ and tourism destination areas’ work in the field of sustainability and responsibility. However, there is a significant challenge –limited and scarce resources in terms of time, knowhow, and finance of small companies. This hinders the possibilities to get a grip on sustainability, to apply it on the level of business, service development and communication and to turn it into a competitive edge in the global competition. Eventually, this leads to a lack of differentiation and an inability to acquire suitable environmental and sustainability certificates.

The project at hand broadens the shoulders of Päijät-Häme based tourism companies and the destination management organisation in making sustainability and CR a competitiveness factor. The project starts with a current state analysis of companies’ sustainability/CR and its business opportunities. Then UAS students are mobilised to spar and support small business entrepreneurs to plan, execute and document the STF programme’s steps towards sustainability and to enhance the development and conceptualisation of sustainable tourism services. Via co-design practices and co-learning events a unique operations model and formula is created and pilot-tested and conceptualised and modelled. “Students as sparring co-developers” model is also introduced in other regions, and a dissemination plan is prepared to scale and multiply its possibilities outside the Päijät-Häme region to support other UAS – DMO – companies -networks in their sustainable development for the better tomorrow.

The model to come is about a procedure where tourism and hospitality management or international business students act in authentic, real business life and service development challenges. The students co-develop and co-design sustainable tourism services and plan responsible communication and learn about the possibilities and tackle the challenges of CR and sustainable tourism development in line with the VF’s STF programme. All this aims at supporting Lahti Region’s objectives in gaining the STF status for the Päijät-Häme destination region. However, this requires that 51 % the companies in the area have the STF certificate or a similar eco- / sustainability label. The project enhances the resilience and reactivity and proactivity of small and family-owned tourism companies in acting in the changing operational environment and making use of CR as a competitive advantage. Also, the DMO Lahti Region benefits from the project, whereas LAB UAS demonstrates its value in building a better world of work where it wants to challenge and be challenged. The project fits perfectly to the guidelines of the Päijät-Häme survival plan and the React EU funding principles.
Project period
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Project funding
ERDF 2014-2020
LAB role
Lead partner
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