On a bright and early September morning 25 enthusiastic persons gathered in Muonionalusta, in the very north of Pajala municipality just by the border to Finland. The participants were a mix of established company leaders, future entrepreneurs and other strategic stakeholders – all with a special interest when it comes to tourism and in this case; ecotourism and sustainability within the visiting industry.
We started out at Rajamaa in Lapland, where founder and manager Mr. Lasse Malmström told us the story behind the 30-year-old company. Rajamaa offers accommodation right next to the wilderness and a wide range of activities in the outdoors. Their motto is to keep things natural and use the products offered by the location – right next to the roaming Muonio river. For instance, there’s fishing, photo-safaris, bear watching, hunting, a Sámi-program, snowshoeing, elite ski camps and much more. For the moment they are developing the Arctic Canoe Route, to better connect the area through the river. They are also the latest company to receive the quality mark called Nature’s Best – among other things thanks to their efforts to reduce transfers to activities. www.rajamaa.com After having a cup of coffee and some breakfast we all stepped on board the bus and headed off on the Northern Lights Route (Route 99) up north towards Kuttainen. A few kilometers north of Muodoslompolo we made a quick stop to fill up our glass bottles from the cold spring called Uusipalo.
All hydrated we arrived to Kuttainen where we were received by Mr. Juha Pahajoki and his colleagues at Isosaari Sheepfarm. To reach the island where the farm is held, we got on board the brand-new ferry which still is maneuvered the old-fashioned way by manpower – or female power in this case. When we stepped shore on Isosaari the tour began, and we got to know the reason behind a whole village coming together to start a sheep farm. When the people of Kuttainen found their village to be over-grown by sly, they decided to start keeping sheep as a way to hold the meadows and the landscape open. That’s how Kuttainen Isosaari Economical Association was born. The business has grown since then and nowadays they trade with meat, skin and wool. Right now they are on the verge of building a new barn for their growing herd. Besides the farming, the association are also developing tourism activities on the island. You can hike the Rothari-trail, stay overnight in one of their cabins, fish or get a guided tour on Isosaaris nature and history. Before continuing our trip we had a chance to taste the local specialty called Gurppi (smoked lamb sauce) for lunch at the cozy BBQ-hut. http://www.karesuando.se/projekt/Isosaari/index.htm
Next stop on the trip was the stone grindery Kristallen, in small village Lannavaara, where executive director Ms. Jenny Söderström greeted us. Jenny is the second generation running the company, which started out as a jewellery making and gold washing business. Today their main focus is education and they are co-operating with the Gemmological Association of Great Britain among others. But they are still offering both short courses, jewelry designing and gold washing for visitors. We also got a tour in the mineral museum with an amazing and extensive collection, for instance containing the first diamond found in Sweden. The museum is open for public and so is of course also the jewelry shop and the sculpture garden outside. www.kristallen.com
The last visit for the day was Aurora Mountain Lodge – which is a part of the company Explore the north. We started out the tour in their restaurant with a cup of coffee and cake buffet out of the ordinary. Filled with sugar and caffeine we followed Ms. Katarina Zeehuisen and Mr. Sandro Schwander on a tour through the premises. Except for high standard hotel rooms, a cozy lounge, a newly built hostel and a sauna with a breathtaking view. The lodge also can show off Aurora suits with glass ceiling, an exceptionally well-kept kennel – and of course scenic surroundings. Winter is their main season and guests comes to them for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice-fishing and horseback riding. They also create activities for their visitors in co-operation with other companies in the village – such as learning Sámi traditions at Mangigården or grinding stones at Kristallen. www.explorethenorth.se/Aurora-Mountain-Lodge
During the day we got to see a whole lot of the area – in total we drove a little over 330 km. The bus-rides however were no loss of time. Except for networking, socializing and enjoying the surroundings we had time to hear about Urskogens hunting, fishing and adventure. A newly started family business in Parakka, where simplicity is the keyword. They offer hunting (birds mostly), fishing in Kalix river, crafts, courses and adventures. All with a base at Camp Nurmajärvi – a place where nature is just around the corner. Camp Nurmajärvi maybe isn’t the first-hand choice for the guest looking for full service, but definitely the place to be for the ones looking for silence, serenity and solitude. The camp has no electricity, the heating comes from the wooden stove and your phone will be charged through solar power – but of course there’s a sauna and a BBQ-hut where fire is the only energy necessary. www.urskogens.se
We also discussed a couple of specific topics. One question at hand were if the sparsity of the area is an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to tourism. A poll on the matter was made on Kahoot.it. Fortunately, the whole bus agreed on the fact that the sparsity is mostly an advantage. Equally consistent was the participants on the fact that networks were more important than education when it came to create more entrepreneurs. Great to hear when working over vast distances with the aim to connect existing and future entrepreneurs to each other!