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Sustainable Gateways

Introduction of Sustainable Gateways

The Sustainable Gateways project developed small boat harbours located in national parks and nature reserves in the Finnish (4 harbours) and Swedish (3 harbours) outer archipelagos. The project helped these harbours to become more sustainable and attractive gateways destinations for boaters. Channelling travellers to these well-maintained archipelago hubs helps to preserve the sensitive marine and coastal environment in a more effective way. The project was led by Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife, Finland. The partners were the Stockholm Archipelago Foundation in Sweden and University of Turku in Finland.

The project focused on environmental sustainability, customer satisfaction, harbour operator´s business knowledge, and increased regional nature-tourism. The investments were targeted to improve the accessibility and safety. This was achieved by increasing pier capacity and improving the harbour planning. In addition, environmental protection equipment, such as waste water treatment and waste management facilities were updated. Also new service facilities were built for visitors, for instance, saunas and service buildings. Additionally, the Sustainable Gateways focused on enhancing managerial skills of the harbour operators by, for example, encouraging them to offer new services in their enterprises. The means to achieve this were joint training, exchange of experiences, and harbour-specific business development. Effort was also put to joint marketing to increase visibility of the networked harbours. The harbours taking part in the project were in Finland Katanpää Fortress Island in the Bothnian Sea National Park, Bodö guest harbour and Örö Fortress Island in the Archipelago National Park, and Jussarö guest harbour in the Ekenäs Archipelago National Park. In Sweden, the involved harbours were Grinda, Utö and Nåttarö guest harbours.

Feasible sustainability tips for your business enterprise

The project produced Guidelines for sustainable harbour development written by Veijo Pönni, University of Turku. Some of the guidelines work well also in other type of tourism businesses. The following tips and many more are described in the publication. The link can be found at the end of this section.

Green economy & financial savvy

According to United Nations Environment Programme UNEP, green economy is an economy that is low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive. Economic sustainability is about improving human wellbeing and social equity while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. Nowadays, it is acknowledged that sustainable practices in a business initiative can offer various opportunities, such as better risk-management, increased efficiency due to reducing waste and used resources, better product differentiation, or enhanced brand image. It will be worth your time to take a look at your practices and perhaps implement some if not all of these examples.

The Sustainable Gateways highlights that usually competition is beneficial for the markets. However, in the case of outer archipelago guest harbours, the harbours usually locate far away from each other, thus the price level can be rather fixed. So, instead of competition, it may prove to be more beneficial to seek for co-operation with your fellow entrepreneurs to attract visitors.

Improving social responsibility

We all agree that a socially sustainable society is a place where all of its members are treated fairly, everyone’s participation is valued, and the sense of community reinforced. Simply, it is about putting people first. However, in a small business with a remote location, it is important to optimise the number of employees as well as business activities, especially when there are economic limitations due to remoteness, seasonality or just weather. So, it is vital that your skilled personnel is committed to your company and will want to return for the next season as well. Remember to take care of your employees’ wellbeing as it will, in addition, reflect directly to your customer satisfaction.

It is also important make your business part of the community. One way of enhancing this is to use local suppliers, hire local staff or offer jobs for the youth.

Marketing and sustainability communication

It is worth taking time and building your websites and social media channels in an appealing way showing inviting pictures and interesting stories. In any case, remember to keep all your information updated at all times. Social media works when it is actively used and has stories that interest your clientele. It works even better if you have happy visitors and content employees that will gladly post about your business in their social media channels. The news will travel fast but sometimes bad news will travel even faster.

Today’s traveller is aware of responsibility in tourism and is more likely to base decisions on your company’s sustainability profile. Thus, it may pay off to communicate openly your sustainability goals and practices.

Related to topics

  • Green practices for your initiative
  • Financial savvy
  • Team management and staff
  • Digital marketing and online presence

Links & publications

Central Baltic Programme. 2020. Sustainable Gateways: Small ports – sustainable gateways to coastal national parks. Central Baltic Programme 2014–2020 project database.

Metsähallitus. 2021. Sustainable Gateways.

UNEP. Green economy.

University of Turku. 2020. Guidelines for sustainable harbour development. Sustainable Gateways project. Interreg Central Baltic programme. Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland. 2010. Socially sustainable Finland 2020.