The Helsinki Declaration 2.0, signed by many Finnish companies at the Matka Nordic Travel Fair 2020 Matka Business Forum in the Helsinki Expo and Convention Center on Thursday, is a commitment to responsible tourism.

Company leaders gather at the Matka Business Forum to discuss sustainable tourism and to sign the Helsinki Declaration 2.0 at the Helsinki Expo and Convention Center on Thursday, January 16, 2020. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Companies, operators and organizations were invited to voluntarily sign the renewed commitment, which when presented for the first time in 2009, gathered 100 signatures. The purpose of updating the declaration is to help to monitor responsible tourism within the industry and to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability.

The declaration is open for signatures during the weekend over the course of the travel fair.

The declaration does not impose entry requirements to be met at the time of signing, but it does require a commitment to developing the company’s operations in a sustainable way— respecting people and the planet.

A step closer to official certification

The Helsinki Declaration could be the first step toward an official responsible tourism program or certification. Currently, the declaration has been signed by more than a hundred tourist industry operators including domestic and international air, land and sea travel companies, tour operators, travel agencies as well as organizations, associations and educational institutions.

This move toward sustainability is also reflected in the 2020 tourism survey conducted by the Nordic Travel Fair. The results show that responsibility and sustainability are more relevant than before in Finns’ travel decisions: the majority favor local service providers, such as hotels and restaurants.

In addition, Finns generally respect local cultures and appreciate acceptable levels of equality, human rights and biodiversity preservation. Environmental concerns like CO2 emissions were not a big problem for Finns, and 11 percent of survey respondents answered that responsibility didn’t play a role in their travel decisions.

Nevertheless, respondents mentioned emissions, pollution and littering as the negative aspects of travel.