I came to Finland this week to be there for the Press and Governmental announcement of the first ever permanent Tentsile Village. Finland has long been a country that the rest of us keep an eye on, as they are often leaders in good practice, education, healthcare and sustainable industry.  After 20 years of state funded research, it is now well documented that forests are good for us, relieving stress, lowering blood pressure and clearing the mind. Finland has started making moves towards a new 21st century model of tourism with wilderness and nature at it's heart, and this event was the culmination of phase one of the action plan. They call it, Finland - Stop Over!

Located at the National Headquarters of Finland's flagship National park (Nuuksio) and headquarters The Haltia Museum located 30 mins NW Helsinki. This state sanctioned eco-campsite really is a coup for Tentsile and only made possible by the tireless efforts of our man on the ground in Finland, Tony Tavi - AKA Leader of Tentsile Finland.

Not only has Tony managed to get local and national government officials to listen to his vision of 21st Century camping in Finland, but he has shown that the Tentsile prospect is as close to a Leave No Trace camping solution as there has ever been in the outdoors industry. This has been backed up by a personal trial and testimonial from the man himself - head of all national parks in Finland and creator of the world's most sustainable, fully renewable powered Museum and home to the National Parks team, Timo Kukko and Tom Selänniemi head of Haltia National park hub.

The press release to which I was invited was not just a Tentsile affair. I was amazed at the event I attended and the calibre of the other attendees. Minister for Forests and Parks, Head of Coastal National Parks, CEO of Finland's premier tourist agencies, local business owners and also local entrepreneurs all there to galvanise a movement to make Finland more open and attractive to longer stay international visitors. The gathering of the great and the good as 2016 marks a new era in Finland's accessibility and push to stamp its brand of sustainable, local-global tourism on the world map. Helsinki is set to become the world's “green capital”, with 4 National parks and 2 Unesco Heritage sites all within 40km radius of down town!

The event was impressive. A true team effort from the top tiers of government, heads of tourism and local business owners, all pulling together and initiating real change - together! After the presentations were over, and the cakes were eaten and the teas and coffees had been drunk, the hall and foyers were full of excited banter and cross-talk between all the different factions that were keen to come together and start on the details!  While this was happening, I stayed behind in the auditorium and watched as the local business owners, who had presented their concepts for local sustainable businesses that form part of the larger package that the Finnish governance and people are creating, were presented with certificates and flowers. It was explained to me that locals had been given the opportunity to take part in a sustainable business initiative, guided and mentored by the Centre of entrepreneurship and the Haltia Centre itself.

Each business owner had to create a sustainable business opportunity, researching not only how to make it work, but also to present this event to the press, to the heads of tourist industry and to the government. Once the event was over, they each received a certificate from the Entrepreneurship Centre in recognition of their efforts and to reward them for learning new business skills, as well as celebrating their becoming part of this movement. I was even more astonished when the lady representing the centre, announced, as she handed out the certificates, that she had been so inspired by this group of local businesses entrepreneurs that she had decided to give up her job at the centre to become a forest guide and follow in their footsteps! What a result!

Now for me, this afternoon at the Haltia Centre was just the first Half of my Finnish Stop Over.... That night, a group of us went back to the forest house we had rented and I got a taste of the true Finnish way. The Sauna and Ice Lake Dunk... But that's another story..... Read more about the Tentsile experience Finland.

Alex Shirley-Smith