Sustainable tourism in Verla

According to the Unesco definition, sustainable tourism takes into consideration its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, while focusing on the needs of visitors, the economy, the environment and host communities – United Nation’s World Tourism Organization UNWTO.

Principles of sustainable tourism
Verla is committed to the shared principles of sustainable tourism that were drawn up for the Parks & Wildlife Finland unit of Metsähallitus and the UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in Finland in 2016. These principles are taken into consideration in all activities and co-operation with tourism entrepreneurs.

  1. We support the preservation of valuable features at the sites and promote their protection
  2. We minimise the burden on the environment
  3. We strengthen local areas
  4. We promote use of the sites to improve health and wellbeing
  5. We promote growth and job creation in the local economy
  6. We communicate together the values and services of the site

The site-specific sustainable tourism indicators and a model for monitoring from 2019–2020 have been developed in collaboration with the Association of World Heritage Sites in Finland. The indicators are based on the shared principles of sustainable tourism. A visitor survey from 2018 forms the knowledge-base for this.

Preserving valuable features at the sites and promoting their protection
The first principle of sustainable tourism affects everything we do. Verla is very well protected. Thirty buildings are already protected by law and the protection of newer buildings will be covered in the component master plan, which should still become legally valid during 2020. In Verla, the owner of the site has aimed to actively ensure that the protection of the site is at a level that befits a world heritage site: UPM has submitted protection proposals for the buildings at the site and a local plan is also being drawn up on UPM’s initiative. The site is also protected in practice. UPM has made multiple significant investments to support the long-lasting preservation of the site: key buildings have been fireproofed, a protective wall was built by the Verlankoski rapids to protect the mill from water in 2015 and the heating system was restored in the mill buildings in 2018. Buildings, structures and the environment are maintained systematically and on a long-term basis.

Verla is located far away from main roads and is only partially accessible by public transport, so many people visit the site by car. This is why a KSS Energia charging station for electric vehicles was built on the Verla car park in the summer of 2018.

We have also improved virtual accessibility of the site by creating the Skyview app in 2015. The site can be visited fairly extensively through the app with the help of aerial and 360° photographs. There is also a tour map of the worker’s residence area that can be downloaded and printed from the website (unfortunately at the moment only in Finnish). This way the site can be accessed independently and for free all year round. In addition, visitors are encouraged to explore the site independently via the guided history trail all year round.

Ecological sustainability
Our aim is to use energy with the lowest possible amount of emissions. The mill museum’s heating system uses wood pellets and, in 2020, we started using clean hydropower from the Verla hydropower plant. Pressure relief valves have been installed on the water main to reduce water consumption. Due to the remote location, the level of recycling at Verla is insufficient. We are currently looking for a solution to this problem.

Visitor wellbeing
According to a lot of feedback, people appreciate the silence and peacefulness of Verla, so the remote location is not just a drawback. At the cultural site, wellbeing is also supported by the chance to experience things. At Verla, people can connect with past generations and their own origins. At the centre of our operations, with the aim of providing intangible cultural wellbeing, are the mill museum guides that are available in many languages and the routes of the world heritage site that can be explored independently. The beautiful environment and nature at the site also have a very important role in improving wellbeing.

We encourage our visitors to enjoy the forest at Verla, which is also important from a cultural and historical perspective. The Verla Forest trail introduces visitors to the responsible forestry of today, while providing a peaceful environment.


Significance for the local economy
Verla impacts the local economy greatly: the site employs approximately 20 people during the season. In addition, the maintenance and repair work at the site employ multiple people every year. The impacts of tourism on the local economy include visitor spend at and around the site and the direct, indirect and multiplicative impacts of the money spent. The Association of World Heritage Sites in Finland coordinated a research project consisting of a visitor survey of Finnish World Heritage Sites in 2018 and a survey on the local economy impact in 2018. According to the survey, the  gross income effect is € 2.5 million/year and the employment effect is 24 man-years. This is the first time that a local economic survey of Verla has been conducted.

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