How to get to the most beautiful archipelago in the world?

Pauliina Forsman,
Turku Chamber of Commerce,

Southwest Finland and the City of Turku pamper tourists and visitors with food, culture, and an amazingly beautiful nature. The real crown jewel – the Turku Archipelago – is absolutely worth visiting but getting there can sometimes be rather challenging.

A hidden diamond 

The River Aura runs very deep in the identity of the City of Turku. Even the Swedish name of Turku, Åbo, refers to a settlement by a riverside. Nevertheless, it is the Baltic Sea that has brought livelihood to people living in the Turku Region for centuries, from medieval Hansa merchants to modern shipyard operators. Turku is well-known for its significant maritime cluster. However, travel business is equally a very important line of business: it brings annually circa 800 million euros worth of revenue to the Turku region, and creates employment for more than 4 000 man-years worth. And there’s a reason for it: Southwest Finland is a gateway to the most beautiful archipelago in the world.

The Turku Archipelago and the Archipelago Sea provide us with peace of nature, versatile experiences and activities, excellent local food, adventures, stunning scenery, and individual accommodations among many other things. Provided that you manage to get there. The Archipelago consists of several autonomous municipalities with their own visit organizations and websites. Some places are accessible with public transport or even by bicycle but occasionally you might need your own car. And where can one find a ferry timetable when the road ends? There are 20 000 islands and finding the right one can be difficult even for locals, let alone tourists. The core of the problem is fragmented information.

Digital solutions for practical problems 

Visit Finland, a national expert organization that is responsible for promoting travel from abroad to Finland, launched four digital pilot projects in the end of year 2018. The digital pilots were part of Visit Finland’s digital roadmap whose main target is to make Finland an intelligent destination and provide travelers a smooth digital path all the way from dreaming to the actual trip.

Turku was one of the four pilot areas due to the activity and initiatives of Visit Turku and the Tourism Committee of Turku Chamber of Commerce. The objective here was to define a map-based digital solution to make the Archipelago more accessible and to make purchasing different kinds of travel services easier.

There have certainly been earlier attempts to tackle the problem of scattered information but this time a very large group of actors engaged in the common project. With the help of Turku Science Park and Turku Chamber of Commerce the local companies operating in travel industry were widely involved in the pilot. Thanks to several training sessions and workshops organized by Visit Finland, these companies and entrepreneurs gained a large amount of useful digital know-how during the pilot.

The work continues

The pilot was followed by two simultaneous development projects: the improvement of the business model and online store of Visit Turku and, secondly, a project called Archipelago Access. The latter focuses on creating a digital service to make the Archipelago more accessible as the name suggests.

Archipelago Access continues furthering the same objectives as the digital pilot but in cooperation with the Stockholm Archipelago Foundation. The Stockholm Archipelago is a cluster of some 30 000 islands, and the challenges are very similar to us: a large geographic area and information that is scattered to dozens of channels. With the help of digital services and two physical exhibitions – one in Turku and the other in the Stockholm Archipelago – we want travelers to first and foremost to find our beautiful Archipelago and, secondly, find their way to the Archipelago.

The ideal final result is reached when both the locals and tourists find in an easy and quick manner what they are looking for. Some of us want to travel to the most far away and bare islets and feel the roughness of nature and enjoy the isolation. But for a tourist living for example in an Asian metropolis a two-hour trip to the Island of Ruissalo (in Turku) might be the most exotic and marine experience of one´s life. There are countless ways to experience the Archipelago. One thing is for sure: it must always happen in an ecologically and etchically sustainable way. For the unique Archipelago Sea is Finland’s most important natural equity.


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