Skip to main content

Saimaa Canoeing

Introduction of Saimaa Canoeing

This example comes from the Lake Saimaa area of Finland, from the area where the famous thousands of lakes situate. It is one of the most beautiful but also one of the most vulnerable areas the country has to offer. This example demonstrates a simple manner, in which you can promote sustainable or even regenerative tourism in your coastal community in collaboration with your local entrepreneurs.

The Saimaa Canoeing is the trademark of the family business Hanhiniitty Ay, located in Puumala, Finland in the heart of the Saimaa Lake district. It is a local operator and provides customised services in canoeing and kayaking. It also offers accommodation, courses, rentals, and canoeing gifts. The activities rest upon local, versatile, responsible, and sustainable services. In addition to canoeing, its other services are produced responsibly as well. The visitors camp along the routes in renovated old cabins or tents. The operator provides them good guidance on how to paddle safely and responsibly in the area.  

Saimaa Canoeing – an award winning concept

Early in 2023, Hanhiniitty Ay/Saimaa Canoeing wan the Sustainable Travel Competition organised by the Finnish Matka Nordic Travel Fair. The reasons for choosing it as the winner were the multidimensionality of the entire service and its starting point. In the concept, the enterprise engages the landowners as well as the villagers, the municipality, the fishing cooperative and the forest company, and highlights the responsible use of Everyman’s Right for tourism purposes. The legal concept Everyman’s Right means that all people residing in Finland or just visiting it have the right to enjoy nature anywhere in the countryside regardless of land ownership. This right comes with serious responsibilities: above all else, comes the mutual respect for nature, people, and property.

Saimaa Canoeing is an example of well-organised regenerative tourism. It shows how utilizing and restoring the existing infrastructure and enhancing the community spirit will leave the environment even in better condition than before the operation. Saimaa Canoeing demonstrates innovative tourism and can be considered as a trend-setter in the field.

Sustainability of the operation of Saimaa Canoeing

The company values responsible tourism activities. The company guidelines for responsible behaviour and regenerative travel comprise, for example;

  • Restoring of old deserted cabins and former building sites instead of using virgin land for newbuildings in co-operation with the owners.
  • Local landowners are included in the activities, for instance, the needed campsites are leased from them. Camping is not allowed outside these sites and no marks of the campers are left behind.
  • Recycling is in use.
  • Water is saved by using composting toilets.

These practices take the local communities into account as the benefits originating from tourism are more evenly distributed, the environment is restored and the local community enlivened.

Saimaa Canoeing is involved in the Sustainable Travel Finland (STF) programme to further promote responsible tourism.

How to implement regenerative travel in your company?

Regenerative travel (tourism) is related to sustainable tourism but it digs deeper. Regenerative travel aims to restore, renew and enhance natural and cultural resources, and enliven the local communities. Thus, it goes beyond just minimizing negative impacts of tourism.

There are many ways to implement regenerative ideas in your tourism business. The best way to do it is to collaborate with your fellow entrepreneurs and together find solutions to make your community more responsible tourism destination. You and/or your community can, for example:

  • Restore degraded landscapes to their natural state. One example is weeding invasive alien species in the area.
  • Support local communities, for instance, by creating economic opportunities, preserving local traditions, and promoting social wellbeing. This can be achieved, for example, by investing in community-based tourism initiatives, promoting fair-trade practices or using local suppliers.
  • Promote sustainable tourism practices in your enterprise and community and keep your visitors also informed about responsible ways to act to minimize negative impacts. You can, for example, make and hand out responsible travel guidelines for your visitors and help them understand the local way of living and how to hike and enjoy the nature.
  • Engage your visitors in some of your regenerative practices, such as participating in eco-restoration projects. This is likely to offer your visitor authentic experiences and, at the same time, help your community.

Related to topics

  • Green practices for your initiative
  • Case study: Sustainable Travel Finland


Saimaa Canoeing.

Links & sources

Messukeskus. 2023. Matka Nordic Travel Fair was attended in large numbers.

Metsähallitus. Everyman’s Right.

Saimaa Canoeing. Visit Finland. Sustainable Travel Finland.