Rural Finland has potential for food and wine tourism

Copyright: Minna Surakka

Food and drink are an essential part of any tourism product. Serving local food and wine helps to create what tourism researchers call a 'sense of place': something to remember, something that makes a place different from others, even unique. Making food and wine tourist attractions requires two things: emphasizing the quality of the product and emphasizing locality.

Professor at Otaga University, New Zealand, Michael Hall, visited Finland in September 2003 by courtesy of the Lake Tourism Project at the University of Joensuu in Savonlinna. As visiting professor Hall looked at various issues related to tourism in Southern Savo. One of his research interests is food and wine tourism that already plays an important role in tourism industry.

Food and drink are a big part of what tourism research calls a sense of place, a combination of things that makes the place unique. "I believe there's a great delight in eating seasonal food. We have various times of the year which we associate with different types of food, and we look forward to it as a great celebration. It is the uniqueness of the place, a part of the tourism product", says Hall.

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Hall sees capacity particularly in the rural areas of Finland to develop new ways of serving Finnish food. This could benefit tourism, which already is economically very important in rural areas. Periferial areas like the Southern Savo region in Finland are losing inhabitants to growing urban centres. According to Hall, one way of maximising local working places is by promoting local food and drink. Restaurants could promote local foods in their menus and charge more for the quality, Hall suggests. Local food is also both ecologically and energy sensible.

A fleurishing food or wine tourism business demands courage and innovation. "Farmers need to think on a more commercial basis. In the long run it is much better for the region", says Hall, who criticises Finnish farming for overdependence on subsidies.

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Michael Hall. Copyright: Minna Surakka

Michael Hall has seen Finland change over the years. "There are changes in eating and drinking habits. Finnish consumers are often far more sophisticated than even some Finnish businesses sometimes give them credit for", Hall says. He would also like to see Finnish restaurants promote local fruit wines more.

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