Tourism and recreation

For the part of tourism and recreation, the Maritime Spatial Plan focuses on areas important in terms of regional development, both nationally and regionally. Recreation includes recreational fishing and hunting. These areas feature underwater values and those found above the surface, including cultural values. Several data sets have been used to identify potential areas for tourism and recreation. 

When developing tourism and recreation, it is important to promote the operating preconditions of the sector, accessibility, and the forming of functional entities that can be used to guide the environmental pressures caused by the sector. In the development of tourism and recreation, it is vital to take the sustainability of the activities into account.

The plan also identifies potential tourism and recreation connections.

The plan for developing tourism and recreational activities seeks to promote the operating preconditions for maritime tourism and the forming of functional entities, also by supporting existing and planned activities. By forming strong entities, the plan aims to control the environmental pressures created by tourism. In terms of further planning, the promotion of accessibility has been highlighted. The aims of developing connections related to tourism and recreation entered in the plan also include promoting the formation of functional entities. The plan highlights key services for tourism and recreation associated with land-sea interactions: infrastructure connections, electricity, water and telecommunications; logistics connections, guest marinas, ports, accommodation capacity and services on islands and in coastal areas.

Vision developed for tourism and recreation: 

Local actors will develop the recreational use of marine areas, tourism services and their accessibility sustainably and taking regional special features into account. The special pull factors will include nature, experiences and authenticity.


A clean and diverse marine environment plays the key role when planning to increase tourism, and identifying its values and sensitivity to disturbances should be the starting point for developing the sector. Any negative environmental impacts of tourism and recreation will be caused by the consumption of natural resources and increase in emissions and waste. Tourism and recreational activities may cause wear and tear on nature, impair ecological values and have a negative impact on species. On the other hand, a good status of the marine environment is a prerequisite and pull factor for tourism and recreation, and the activities can themselves create preconditions for improving the environment and maintaining its good status through both economic factors and increased awareness. Sufficient and comprehensive nature conservation is also vital for preserving ecological values in a situation where wear and tear and pressure build up in marine environments as tourism increases. In terms of tourism and recreational activities on the coast and in the archipelago, good water quality is a key prerequisite. In this respect, the implementation of the plan must be based on development which does not risk the good status of the waters. 

One of the sector’s objectives is improving the accessibility of marine areas and coastal tourist and recreational destinations for larger numbers of users. Heavier use of such areas leads to wear and tear; this can be influenced by directing the tourist flows, for example through maritime spatial planning. Depending on the destination, the plan makes centralised management of the tourist flows possible, ensuring that the potential impacts caused by wear and tear as well as disturbance are concentrated in certain areas only, where they can also be prepared for better. In addition, an overall plan provides better opportunities for minimising the impacts of an increasing noise risk. It is likely that the greatest impacts of growing tourist flows will affect the most the easily accessible areas in the inner archipelago, which are located close to the most significant tourist destinations and cities of the coast that are within the easiest reach for international tourists.

The impacts of recreational activities are largely uncontrollable, as individuals are difficult to direct. By spreading information and supporting desirable activities (guest marina services), however, it is also possible to influence them. Mobility needs related to tourism and recreation are one of the most significant causes of impacts in the sector. The impacts of pleasure boating on the environment are relatively minor, the season is mainly short, and the impacts mostly focus on certain routes. The impacts may include emissions of wastewater, chemicals and engine oil into the water system, interference with the seabed caused by anchoring, disruption of bird nesting, noise, and possibly littering. These impacts can be influenced by offering a good service level at guest marinas and by raising awareness among boaters. A great deal of this work has already been carried out in Finland. The increase in boating may result in a need for dredging and disposal of spoils. While the impacts of this may be minor locally, even small-scale dredging and disposal may have significant negative combined impacts on the underwater environment as an extensive whole.

An increase in cruise tourism may have negative impacts on the environment.[1]  For example, a cruiser with 3,000 passengers produces a significant volume of waste in a week. A prohibition on discharging wastewaters into the sea will enter into force in the Baltic Sea in 2021, and a significant proportion of vessels already use waste disposal facilities. However, the risk of chemicals and waste from ships entering the water system, either intentionally or unintentionally, cannot be excluded. Cruise traffic also causes air pollution, and this pollution is predicted to increase further at the EU level as cruise tourism grows. Cruisers further increase the risk of shore erosion, and the stirring up of the seabed may have a negative impact on the spawning of the Baltic herring. The route taken by the cruisers plays a role in the way the environmental impacts are directed. 

The risk of significant negative environmental impacts caused by recreational fishing and hunting is not expected to realise in Finland, as these activities are well regulated. As possible significant environmental impacts of recreational fishing, Lewin et al. (2019) identified in their study[2]  the potential direct and indirect impacts of large-scale selective fishing on fish populations, biodiversity and ecological resilience. The risks also include the impacts of live bait obtained in other water bodies on biodiversity and environmental pollution caused by fishing gear containing lead. On the other hand, these impacts on the marine areas can be influenced by regulating fishing tourism and recreational fishing and by raising awareness. The impacts of hunting and hunting tourism on the marine environment follow similar impact pathways, and combining hunting tourism with population management is possible. The bird populations in the archipelago, in particular, are sensitive. Monitoring them is important and can be supported by hunting small carnivores. As hunting is subject to a licence and the season is of a limited length, this helps to monitor the impacts of increased hunting and fishing and to combat any negative impacts. These measures can also support biodiversity.

The objective of forming strong functional entities stated in the plan is a prerequisite for significantly increasing international tourism. Improved accessibility and tourism infrastructure could lead to the realisation of tourism potential and an increase in tourist numbers, even rapidly. Export and tax revenue from commercial activities has a positive impact on local economies and employment and enable infrastructure investments. Increased tourism and recreational activities may create new business opportunities and give existing ones a boost. Tourism or recreational use directed to the areas, such as holiday houses, may also provide local residents with extra incomes, or be an important part of year-round business activities alongside other sources of income. Tourist flows can enable the provision of services and infrastructure for the local population at significant tourism destinations which the needs of the local population alone could not justify.

Interlinked connections in coastal areas and connections to neighbouring countries, including to such entities as Swedish tourism and recreational activities in the north, would probably increase these areas’ attraction to tourists, for example from the viewpoint of touring, if the tourism offer and its service level meet the demand. Such connections may increase boating and cruiser traffic as well as tourist numbers, and thus also the need for services and infrastructure. Considering the negative impacts of cruisers, the benefits of cruise tourism for local economies have been questioned.[3]  The positive or negative impacts of cruise tourism on the environment and the local economy largely depend on the size, nature and service level of the destination and the level of tourism management.[4]

The wilderness industry[5] refers to business activities based on hunting, recreational fishing, and observing and photographing large carnivores, and the plan creates a framework for the growth of these activities. The value of a caught fish is roughly 40 times greater in fishing tourism than in commercial fishing[6], and the demand for fishing guide services in the planning areas may increase. The increase in hunting tourism and recreational hunting is regulated by the current permit processes. A Finnish hunting card is needed to hunt in Finland. Unless you are a landowner, you also need a hunting permit, which you can obtain by applying for membership in a hunting club, renting a visitor’s card from a club, or buying a permit from Metsähallitus. The economic impacts of the wilderness industry are created through the turnover of wilderness tourism enterprises, the employment impact, and equipment manufacturing and sales, and its importance for the regional economy is emphasised in sparsely populated areas. Seal hunting is one of the traditional maritime livelihoods of the coast, and it can be regarded as having a positive economic impact on local fishing as it mitigates the damage caused by seals.

The most significant impacts of the plan in terms of regional and urban structure come from the need to increase the provision of accommodation services and holiday houses in the planning areas if the goal is set at increasing the number of tourists and recreational visitors. The need to improve or establish transport connections to the mainland will also increase. Promoting tourism and recreational use in the planning areas will improve their infrastructure and accessibility. In archipelago villages and towns, tourism may have a significant impact on land use and functions, and it may be of major importance for the regional economy or livelihoods in individual villages and destinations. The impacts, and whether they will be positive or negative, will depend on comprehensive, long-term planning and achieving high-quality solutions, in which different aspects of sustainability are taken into account throughout the life cycle of the plan. The impacts on cityscapes and landscapes will be enduring.

The forming of strong functional entities as presented in the plan may have a positive impact on the preservation of cultural heritage, ensuring respect for the spirit and history of archipelago and fishing villages, holiday villa areas and coastal towns. Tourism and recreational activities in the planning areas may provide better preconditions for protecting and restoring sites that are significant in terms of their cultural history or ecological values as a result of their increased use, as well as for maintaining the local culture of arts and crafts. Fishing and hunting are also an important part of the coastal culture. Especially in southern Finland, the public waters of the maritime and coastal areas provide the most easily accessible hunting and fishing grounds that are not under private ownership. Increased recreational use also has significant impacts on both physical and mental health.

The potential negative impacts of increasing tourism and recreational activities include congestion at the destinations, a deterioration in the experienced or actual safety, and noise. Increased tourist numbers may also lead to price distortions or higher price levels, especially during the peak season. These factors may result in conflicts with the local community, in addition to potential environmental harms. Increased cruise tourism with large tourist volumes may have negative impacts on local communities.[7]  International cruisers are ‘floating cities’ and typically cause short spells of congestion in the local community as tourists land on the destination for a day or a few hours.


[1] Caric, Hrvoje & Mackelworth, Peter. 2014. Cruise tourism environmental impacts – The perspective from the Adriatic Sea. Ocean & Coastal Management, Volume 102, pp. 350-363.

[2] Lewin, Wolf-Christian; Weltersbach, Marc Simon; Ferter, Keno; Hyder, Kieran; Mugerza, Estanis & Prellezo, Raul. 2019. Potential Environmental Impacts of Recreational Fishing on Marine Fish Stocks and Ecosystems. Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture, Volume 27, Issue 3.

[3] Visit Faroe Islands. 2019. Join The Preservolution! A sustainable tourism development strategy for the Faroe Islands towards 2025.

[4] Urbanyi-Popiolek, Ilona. 2019. Cruise industry in the Baltic Sea Region, the challenges for ports in the context of sustainable logistics and ecological aspects. Transportation Research Procedia 39, pp. 544-553.

[5] Pohja-Mykrä, Mari; Matilainen, Anne; Kujala, Susanna; Hakala, Outi; Harvio, Viktor; Törmä, Hannu & Kurki, Sami. 2018. Erätalouteen liittyvän yritystoiminnan nykytila ja kehittämisedellytykset (Current status and preconditions for the development of fishing and hunting enterprising). Publications of the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities 40/2018.

[6] WWF. 2015. All hands on deck – setting course towards a sustainable blue economy. WWF Baltic Ecoregion Programme.
[7] Urbanyi-Popiolek, Ilona. 2019. Cruise industry in the Baltic Sea Region, the challenges for ports in the context of sustainable logistics and ecological aspects. Transportation Research Procedia 39, pp. 544-553.