UN has declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, highlighting the interconnectedness of tourism and sustainable development. In the UNESCO World Heritage site Suomenlinna the principles of sustainable tourism have been brought to action already.
Suomenlinna, which welcomes annually more than 800 000 tourists, has been an active promoter of sustainable tourism well before the International Year declaration. Suomenlinna participated in the UNESCO’s Nordic-Baltic pilot program, which aimed to develop the management of sustainable tourism in fourteen World Heritage sites from 2012 to 2014. Since 2015, Suomenlinna has implemented its own strategy of sustainable tourism.
UNESCO World Heritage program is an important player in the mainstreaming of sustainable development’s practices. Cultural and natural sites carrying outstanding universal value are often both significant tourist sights and vulnerable to large amounts of visitors. The core challenge of sustainable tourism in the World Heritage sites is thus to find solutions that make the attractions accessible to as many as possible – without compromising the protection and development of the sites. In Suomenlinna’s sustainable tourism strategy conservation and visitor experience are closely linked:
“Visitors are offered various opportunities for concrete participation in Suomenlinna’s conservation, which makes them value the site even more. Participatory activities have also provided local residents and visitors with new opportunities to meet and learn from each other.”
- Sustainable Tourism Strategy for Suomenlinna 2015
While discussing the International Year the United Nations General Conference emphasized the role and significance of international tourism “in fostering better understanding among peoples everywhere, in leading to a greater awareness of the rich heritage of various civilizations and in bringing about a better appreciation of the inherent values of different cultures, thereby contributing to the strengthening of peace in the world”.
The travel industry – covering 10 % of the world GDP – has also the potential to promote broadly inclusive and sustainable economic growth and environmental protection. Diverse tourism is included as a target under three of the Sustainable Development Goals: tourism has a role in marine protection, in the promotion of decent work and economic growth as well as in sustainable consumption.