Our stay in Kuusamo was brief but wonderful. We were kept busy from the moment we arrived at Ruka, a beautiful holiday/ski resort located just over 20 km from the town of Kuusamo. Here we met with Ville Aho, director of marketing and sales for the family-owned resort. We were impressed with their customer-centric strategies, from the quality of accommodations to services provided to guests, and the fact that everything (including the ski hill) is within easy walking distance. We couldn’t believe that Ruka has up to 250 ski days in a year!
Like many of the places we’ve visited tourism is a major economic driver, contributing to about 20% of local business. It was clear that our host, Pentti Raivio, was very proud of his community and passionate about what the Kuusamo region has to offer. He arranged for our team to stay at a charming 19th century country home called Pohjolan Pirtti where we had fabulous saunas and even better meals. Thank you for the amazing hospitality!
In Kuusamo forestry is also an important contributor to local industry. We visited a sawmill belonging to Pölkky Oy, the largest privately owned wood company in northern Finland (yes, colleagues, I took lots of notes! – Kat). What makes this sawmill quite unique is the diverse range of pre-cut products it develops for customers throughout Europe, northern Africa and Japan, continually adapting to meet consumer needs.
We also visited a related company, Kuusamo Hirsitalot Oy, producer of log houses and villas. These homes are gorgeous (check our their website), and what’s really interesting is that their production line only has two staff: the entire process is automated. Every piece is programmed to be cut precisely to each home’s design plan, which buyers can customize. We all kind of want one now…
The following day we met with Jari and Seija at Naturpolis, an economic development organization for the Kuusamo area. We had some great discussions about local business and the challenges of managing a growing tourism industry while trying to attract youth back from larger cities. The same theme carried through our morning and our meeting with Kuusamo Mayor Timo Halonen and several city managers. Again we saw true passion for their community and genuine desire to apply innovative strategies to serve a changing population. Very inspiring visit!
In the afternoon we each again had excellent vocational visits in areas ranging from healthcare, tourism, foster care, marketing, banking and natural resource management. We capped the evening off with a wonderful dinner and presentation at Pohjolan Pirtti with the Kuusamo Rotary Club. AND we had a visit from Santa Claus later that evening…again! How does he do it?! He must be a big fan of this team.
Thank you again to Pentti and the Kuusamo Rotary Club. We had a great visit! Now on to Oulu. Hard to believe we are more than halfway through our trip! Our luggage certainly isn’t getting any smaller…