Saimaa Geopark has been granted UNESCO Global Geopark (UGG) status by the UNESCO Governing Body. The matter was announced today, Thursday, April 22, 2021 at 3 pm (Finnish time) in Paris.
Jouni Riihelä, Chairman of the Board of Saimaa Geopark ry, is delighted with the result, which has been a long-term working process.
- Unesco status is a very important international recognition for the region and its actors. Geopark meets the tough international criteria. We are now equal with other major nature tourism destinations in the world. The status process has been challenging and long. Municipalities and entrepreneurs in the tourism industry have done a lot of work for gaining this huge recognition, carried their cards into the pile commendably. A warm thank you for your cooperation to all organizations and entrepreneurs, Riihelä rejoices.
- The status recognition came with a good timing because we are living a golden age of nature tourism. Recognition and Unesco status will bring a lot of new visitors to Saimaa Geopark-sites already during this summer.
Recognition of the status will continue the development work of Saimaa Geopark, focusing on international nature tourism and bringing the vitality to the region, as well as strengthening environmental education with a stakeholders in the region. The vitality has been also strengthened by cooperating with entrepreneurs in different projectsand creating a Saimaa Geopark Partner network. All the activities of the network is based on principles of sustainable development and the United Nations Agenda 2030 goals.
Cooperation with the Saimaa Geopark Partner network has increased quickly and it has almost 80 enterpreneurs and communities as a members. Year around tourism has also been increased by the enterpreneurs when they offered over 30 products during the winter time.
The findability of partners and services has been improved with the help of the international outdoor tourism portal Outdoor Active. The outdoor tourism portal displays the region’s hiking routes and destinations, Saimaa Geopark’s geo, nature and cultural sites, as well as the products and services of the region’s entrepreneurs. The data has been collected from the portal.
- In 2020, all our data has appeared more than 2.6 million times on Internet channels and search results. Searches do not include Google search engine usage. This year we are getting even higher numbers because the same number is already over 1,1 million, says Saimaa Geopark’s Executive Director Heli Rautanen.
Cooperation with entrepreneurs has also been carried out through projects financed by the EU Rural Development Fund and with the assistance of the ELY centers in Southern Savonia and South-Eastern Finland. With the help of funding, entrepreneurs in the area have received educational training, webinars, productization and, most importantly, got to know each other through networking. Raija ja Ossi Tuuliaisen Säätiö Foundation and Etelä-Karjalan Säästöpankki säätiö Foundation have financed the self-financing contributions of entrepreneur cooperation projects.
The status does not change the existing situation from a land use or conservation point of view. Restrictions or new conservation programs will not be introduced and land use will not be restricted. Natura 2000 sites played an important role in achieving the status of the area. A significant document has also been the Lake Finland Charter, which was signed in Mikkeli in the summer of 2019 by more than forty municipalities, regional associations and state regional administrations.
- International nature tourism grows from our clean and unique lakeland area. In the Lake Finland Charter, we promised to leave the Saimaa area in slightly better condition for the next generation than we got it ourselves. This will be done by education, research, technological and vitality development. This development in accordance with the Charter and the good practices of organizations in practice are shared in the region at the annual Finnish Lakeland Forum. The next FLF will be held in autumn 2021 in Lappeenranta as part of the Green Leaf year.
Unesco Global Geopark status is always granted for four years at a time. The next assessment is in 2025. Saimaa Geopark is already looking for the continuity of the status obtained in its operations. The goal is that in four years, Saimaa UNESCO Global Geopark will be recognized internationally, nationally and especially locally.
- The principle is that local people take over the operations of Saimaa Geopark. They know that they live as part of a unique geological area and can also tell guests what Saimaa Geopark is, promises Rautanen.
Jouni Riihelä Chairman of the Board tel. +358 44 794 2515
Heli Rautanen Executive Director tel. +358405720797
Members of the Board:
Samuli Kakko, varapuheenjohtaja, tekninen johtaja, Taipalsaaren kunta tel. +358 40 774 9252
Markku Heinonen, kehitysjohtaja, Lappeenrannan kaupunki tel. +358 40 581 1998
Matias Hilden, va. kunnanjohtaja, Ruokolahden kunta tel. +358 44 4491 201
Kimmo Kainulainen, kunnanjohtaja, Savitaipaleen kunta tel. +358 40 736 6053
Antti Kinnunen, hallintojohtaja, Juvan kunta tel. 358 40 012 1261
Tea Laitimo, yhteysjohtaja, Imatran kaupunki tel.. +358 400 156 677
Kaisa Ralli, kunnanhallituksen puheenjohtaja, Sulkavan kunta tel. +358 400845925
Tuula Vainikka, markkinointipäällikkö, Puumalan kunta tel. +358 505620706
Saimaa Geopark is a unified area of nine member states located in the region of South Karelia and South Savo, which has a special geological value and includes geologically and internationally significant geological landscapes and attractions. There may also be sites of archaeological, ecological, historical or cultural importance in the area. The member municipalities are Mikkeli, Juva, Sulkava, Puumala, Ruokolahti, Imatra, Lappeenranta, Taipalsaari and Savitaipale. UNESCO Global Geoparks (UGGs) are comparable to national parks and UNESCO World Heritage and Biosphere Reserves. There are now 169 geoparks with a Unesco status in 44 different countries. In Finland, the status is at Rokua Geopark, at Lauhavuori-Hämeenkangas Geopark and at Saimaa Geopark. The task of Saimaa Geopark is to preserve the geological heritage of the area, to act in accordance with the principles of sustainable development and to bring vitality to the rural area. www.saimaageopark.fi, Saimaa Geopark in Outdoor Active