Having been a tourist guide in Tampere for over 20 years, I consider myself quite the expert when it comes to site visits to our city. I can point out the (minutest) little details about the frescoes in Tampere Cathedral, and tell numerous stories about the Finlayson factory area (which is in my opinion the heart of our history in Tampere and one of many good places to host a conference dinner or a get-together). I know how many people can fit into Scandic Rosendahl for a congress dinner and I know exactly how many rooms there are in Solo Sokos Hotel Tammer.
But are these the thing that impress our future congress organisers and later their guests the most? These questions arose after I had the opportunity to go on a benchmarking trip to Reykjavik, Iceland.
On our trip, I put myself in the position of a congress organiser, looking for my next destination. First on my checklist was of course a suitable venue (check: Harpa was very nice and seemed functional).
Secondly hotels: Are there enough and are they of suitable standard and price? Well, here I only know of the one we stayed in, but it was fine.
Thirdly: Would that be the social programme possibilities? At this point I stopped analysing as I was already on my way to the Blue Lagoon. In my mind I mourned all the other activities I missed because there was too little time to see it all.
Things we take for granted
Were there lots of locals with me at the Blue Lagoon? No. Were there lots of locals admiring and photographing the geysirs? No. Why not? Because they are so used to all that. But for me (as well as many other fellow visitors) these were magical.
Hence the question: do we have something similar in Finland that foreign visitors would go nuts about, which we locals tend to forget exists? Absolutely!
What’s special in Finland?
When I stop to think about it, there are lots of things that are unique in Tampere and Finland:
1. Fresh lakes – we actually have very clean lakes that are pleasant to swim in without having to be afraid of catching cholera or being eaten by a shark.
2. Frozen lakes – yes, in winter our lakes are frozen. So frozen in fact, that one can walk (or even drive) on them. Surprisingly few people in the world have actually “walked on water”.
3. Forests with free entry for all. Something I take for granted, but which is quite rare in the world. Although forests in Finland are mostly privately owned, we have something called the public right of access, which means that everyone has the right to go into the forest – any forest – and pick mushrooms, berries, and so on. When was the last time you picked blueberries?
4. Vast spaces where there is no-one in sight. Finland is big. Really big. Almost the size of Germany, or the state of California. But with just under 5,5 million inhabitants.
5. Trees, trees and more trees. 74,2% of Finland is covered with forests. That’s a lot of trees to roam amidst. Hence lots of fresh air.
Don’t venues and hotels matter?
With all these natural wonders we have, should we just forget about the hotels, venues and restaurants? Absolutely not! They are among the most important reasons people organise congresses in Finland (the first being our excellent professors, researchers and other local hosts). Without our conference venues (visit our home page to see the choice for Tampere) and itheir professional staff we would not have a place to hold our conferences. And without our high level of hotels (read my posting on hotels in Tampere), guests would not want to come here.
But like Iceland, also we have something not many other destination have. Something unique, that can’t be built or bought. Lucky us.