The Archipelago National Park was established in 1983 and is administrated by Metsähallitus. Contrary to other national parks in Finland, the aims of the Archipelago National Park are not only to preserve the area’s nature but also its cultural values and to safeguard the traditional utilisation of the nature and maintain an inhabited archipelago. Traditional livelihoods have a less significant economic impact nowadays but on the other hand service and tourism companies are being established. All of these livelihoods support each other and add to the region’s attractiveness. The strategy for nature tourism presented here is of the utmost importance to preserve the archipelago environment with its significant natural value and biodiversity as well as to maintain the area’s cultural values, while enabling tourists to visit the area on a sustainable basis. This strategy is also part of the verification process for membership in the PAN Parks network (www.panparks.org).
The Archipelago National Park is the core subject in this strategy and has the potential to function as a drawing card for nature tourism in the region. The national park is uninhabited and therefore the more expanded Archipelago Sea Biosphere Reserve is also taken into account in this strategy. A large number of businesses are already registered within the Biosphere Reserve. To ensure the diversity and sustainability of both local businesses and the product offering, planning is needed in addition to monitoring of the impacts of tourism. Follow-up is also required to protect the nature and the area’s biodiversity. By continually conducting e.g. visitor and market surveys, potential new customer groups can be found and their expectations for visiting the area can be assessed.
At the moment, most visitors arrive at the national park in their own boats, mainly in July. The Archipelago Trail runs through the Biosphere Reserve and has brought in the largest number of visitors, so the road will undoubtedly continue to have great significance for regional tourism. To allow visitors to experience sustainable, high-class nature tourism, a joint quality management system is required for local businesses, and interest groups need to arrange training for tourism operators and guides. Tourism will continue to be small-scaled also in future.
Local businesses which offer visitors nature tourism experiences and related services in the archipelago region (in and outside the national park) and meet a number of criteria defined in this strategy, can become PAN Parks Business Partners, i.e. benefit from the international PAN Parks marketing services. Applications will be verified by the Local PAN Parks Co-operation Group which also monitors continued adherence to the defined standard of certified business partners.
Several improvements are required for the Archipelago National Park to be profiled as an international PAN Park: for example, updated information such as maps and nature trails, especially in English. Marketing and visibility can be improved e.g. through websites together with co-operation businesses, the Town of Väståboland, Kimitoön Municipality and Metsähallitus. The Local PAN Parks Co-operation Group, which has drafted this strategy, will be responsible for updating it. The strategy shall be reviewed and updated in 2011 and then again at regular intervals.