By: Daisy Silvennoinen & Timo Hokkanen – North Karelia Biosphere Reserve
Can you imagine a “slow” triathlon? Where the goal is enjoying nature and culture, stress free and with no time pressure. That is what our partners in North Karelia BR have developed as part of the SHAPE project. There is of course local food and a sauna at the end of the day!
Koitajoki NATURE TRIATHLON combines the best parts of enjoying and getting acquainted with pristine nature and stress-free physical exercise.
It promotes the use of “muscle power” for outdoor activities, and the activities are multiple; for example, “Hiking- Canoeing- Cycling” or “Hiking- Rafting- Swimming and Sauna”. The aim differentiates it from a regular triathlon. The main idea is slowness and relaxation, enjoying the activities, which include nature and cultural experiences in span of days, with no pressure of time, nor need for extreme physical fitness.
The triathlon connects the versatile nature and culture values of the unique area with many-sided visitor services based on moving with muscle power (e.g. hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing), eating tasty Karelian food, learning the rich cultural heritage of the region, and resting in the local guesthouses or out in the wild – You choose!
Adding value to sustainable tourism in the region
KTN will add value to the region’s tourism sector and will also be an important nature tourism networking effort. It is focused on non-destructive tourism uses of the river and other nature objects. It also maintains many typical, local cultural features. Ilomantsi tourism association with its members (tens of small tourism enterprises) and local associations are in cooperation with SHAPE partners and North Karelia BR.
Most of the participants already belong to North Karelia BR network of sustainability partnerships. These previously existing commitments to sustainability principles are already benefiting the region. They will also be a cornerstone in the new, regional sustainability approach, which is being developed together with the provincial tourism agency.
KNT and eSERVICE as key results helping all SHAPE areas
The triathlon has been developed under the SHAPE NPA project and is an important measure of the project outputs. Networking and co-governance are key work packages in SHAPE, and KNT’s design is based on these attributes. The success of the initiative is an achievement for the project. The triathlon’s approaches will be available and discussed in the project eSERVICE electronic forums. eSERVICE will be a crucial element in making most of all project efforts throughout the rest of the project and is planned to be the tool for future co-operation and development efforts.
How to make it better?
The development of the Koitajoki initiative is continuing towards sustainability. For success, there is a need for continued support from closely related projects and regional support, such as funding. At the same time, the actions of the tourism package providers are most important as co-governance of environments, and networking to provide the quality services is essential. Networking with other destinations is also important and the SHAPE eSERVICE is designed to support this.
Experience Koitajoki Nature Triathlon during Learning Journey to North Karelia
During the learning journey to North Karelia, the visiting partners and stakeholders will have a chance to test some of these offers. The feedback collected will help develop the product, but you may also be inspired to try something similar yourself.
SHAPE is a three-year Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme (NPA) project promoting the development of ecotourism initiatives. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter.