Tourism students from Finland and Russia gathered to an intensive course on the Kola Peninsula, Russia in May 2016 to develop tourism products in the region.
Ten students from Multidimensional Tourism Institute (MTI) at the University of Lapland and the Lapland University of Applied Sciences rented a bus and drove eight hours from Rovaniemi to Tersky region, Kola Peninsula in May 2016. At the destination they met nine tourism students from Murmansk Arctic State University (MASU).
The aim of the excursion was to learn and practice together how to design, develop and market cultural tourism products. During the week the students deepened their understanding of cultural tourism products, tourism product development and distribution channels.
The course was a chance to network with young people in another country and to learn about another culture.
“In MTI the tourism studies focus more on business and cultural studies and in MASU more on information and history. The differences in our studies gave the students a chance to learn even more from each other”, said Anu Harju-Myllyaho, teacher and project manager at the MTI, Lapland University of Applied Sciences.
The assignment was to outline for the company Umba Discovery how to bring local tourism products to international markets. During the first three days the group of students visited local tourism destinations and villages to get a general picture of the region. After the visits they gathered to workshops to innovate the products.
“The students had really feasible ideas! I think they took the special features of the region into account very nicely”, Anu Harju-Myllyaho said.
“They proposed “unplugged” tourism products that take advantage of the lack of electricity, mobile network connections, tap water, old-style buildings and the history of the region. The students realized that the lack of modern comforts can be a market niche in the international tourism markets. Another idea was to exploit old sports camps from the era of the Soviet Union as a nostalgic tourism destination.”
Funding instruments are a requirement for cooperation
For MTI students the intensive course was the third in Russia. The educational cooperation began during BART – Public-Private Partnership in Barents Tourism project in 2010–2013, the aim of which was to strengthen the cross-border cooperation of tourism stakeholders in the Barents region. During the project the tourism students had a chance to take part in product development.
José-Carlos García-Rosell, Senior Lecturer at MTI, University of Lapland, has participated in the cooperation from the beginning. For him this was the third intensive course as a teacher in Russia.
“This kind of educational cooperation is a good way to maintain connections with our partners and also to learn from each other’s”, he says.
The travelling costs of the Finnish students and teachers were funded by the FIRST Programme, the funding instrument of CIMO, which is a tool to promote partnership and collaboration between higher education institutions in Finland and in Northwest Russia.
“These kind of funding instruments are essential if we want to cooperate with other educational institutions in the Barents Region. In Russia personal contacts matter. But without the funding it would be absolutely impossible to organize excursions with the students”, José-Carlos García-Rosell mentions.
“At the moment we don’t have instruments to fund the expenses of Russian students in this kind of cooperation projects and that is problematic. We all have been waiting for the Kolarctic funding instruments to open, which could also open new kind of opportunities for cross-border educational cooperation”, says Anu Harju-Myllyaho.
Text: Johanna Westerlund
Photos: José-Carlos García-Rosell