Tourism in Ruka-Kuusamo is founded upon the region’s magnificent natural attractions. Hence, the promotion of responsible tourism is especially important for local tourism businesses. Through the Sustainable Travel Finland program by Visit Finland, companies can incorporate sustainable practices and responsible choices into their daily operations.
Naturally Responsible Wilderness Gem
Responsibility is genuinely a part of everyday life at Isokenkäisten Klubi's wilderness hotel.
Isokenkäisten Klubi is located on the outskirts of the border zone between Finland and Russia. Its remote location amidst expansive nature, along with a family tradition of respecting heritage and valuable raw materials, has always inspired the Kämäräinen entrepreneur family to practice recycling and self-sufficiency.
The result is a true wilderness gem, a comprehensive experience featuring a wilderness hotel, a wild food restaurant, charming cottages, exotic floating rooms, and delightful sauna services – all built utilizing old buildings and wood from their own forest.
Authentic Borderland Life While Honoring Cultural Heritage
Founders Aimo and Sirkka Kämäräinen instilled in their daughters, Katja Vira and Sirpa Kämäräinen, a love for preserving buildings, objects, and stories, as well as the genuine skill to convey the uniqueness of the borderland to all guests visiting by the shores of Lake Heikinjärvi. The remote location has served as a strong incentive to organize tourism activities in an ecologically and economically viable manner.
Comprehensive historical knowledge about the region's residents, industries, and events has been passed down from generation to generation through stories. Guests staying at Isokenkäisten Klubi and enjoying the restaurant's offerings also hear these tales. These traditional stories seamlessly integrate into sauna experiences, snowshoe excursions to Kuntivaara led by expert guides, and berry and mushroom foraging trips into nearby forests. Gathered forest produce is turned into delicious local food and therapeutic products for sauna experiences, such as goat milk - birch salt soap. At the same time, guests receive informative tidbits about the proven effects of local berries and herbs.
Responsibility Arises from Everyday Actions
During the construction of Isokenkäisten's wilderness hotel in 2007– when the current wastewater law was still in its infancy– a wastewater treatment plant was installed on the property, the first of its kind in Northern Finland. The plant was designed with future growth plans in mind. The hotel is heated with geothermal energy, and the aim is to extend this heating method to cover all of Isokenkäisten Klubi's other buildings in the coming years.
At Isokenkäisten Klubi, green electricity has long illuminated the cabins. Electricity and water consumption are monitored and controlled through the installation of new faucets, towels are only replaced when necessary, and linens are washed with eco-labeled detergents. Room heating is adjusted to ensure comfortable sleeping without unnecessary ventilation.
Recycling of buildings and objects is in the Kämäräinen family's genes. Wall materials from old buildings have been used in new construction, and furniture has been acquired second-hand while their own discarded furniture is donated for recycling. Waste recycling has also been practiced for a long time. Composting is challenging in the border region due to bears, but the practice has encouraged finding unique solutions to this issue as well. Bears don't reside at Isokenkäisten Klubi, but they might make brief appearances in the yard during the quiet early summer, attracted by the offerings at a nearby bear photography hide.
Responsible Actions and Future Plans Brought to Light
The business, which has naturally favored self-sufficiency, recycling, and sustainable use of nature, received the Sustainable Travel Finland label in the spring of 2021.
– The key to the success of our responsibility work was the decision to seek external expert assistance in obtaining a responsibility certificate and the Sustainable Travel Finland label. An outside perspective revealed that we've already done many things responsibly, which motivates us to continue development work, Katja and Sirpa say.
The company has already received appreciative feedback for its responsibility work from international tour operators. Domestic customers are also increasingly interested in companies' responsibility efforts. Katja and Sirpa's tip for responsible tourism advises people to look beyond the surface.
– In nature, you can just be, you don't always have to perform. Let's pause in nature, listen to the environment, and calm down. Respect nature in every way!
Text: Sari Kumpuniemi
Photos: Isokenkäisten Klubi