Jyväskylä Region’s ‘Tourism Award’ 2022 has been awarded to Tavolo Bianco Oy operating in Säynätsalo, Jyväskylä. The award was presented to its recipient on Thursday evening, 29 September in harbour restaurant Viilu, where the evening event of Suoma Association’s 30th anniversary seminar for tourism professionals took place. The award is presented annually by Visit Jyväskylä Region, which is the regional organisation for tourism in the Jyväskylä Region. The goal of the award presented is to highlight persons, operators or events that, through their own activities, contribute to the development of tourism in the Jyväskylä Region and promote tourism cooperation in the region.
– This year, there was also a special emphasis on the work done for sustainability. Tavolo Bianco Oy, piloted by Harri Taskinen and operating in the premises of Säynätsalo Town Hall, an architectural landmark of Alvar Aalto, has developed the tourist attraction of the significant international and national cultural heritage site ambitiously, with high standards and, above all, in accordance with the principles of sustainable tourism, Visit Jyväskylä Region’s Tourism Director Susanne Rasmus justifies the choice.
In addition, Visit Jyväskylä Region’s justifications state that Taskinen has always systematically completed the initiated development and cooperation projects and has made use of the Covid-19 period in an exemplary way, as evidenced by the well-earned Sustainable Travel Finland label, the Welcome Cyclists label, the international Biosphere environmental certificate and certificate of autism friendliness.
Sustainability is strongly reflected in the operations of Tavolo Bianco Oy
Harri Taskinen’s career as a tourism entrepreneur started by chance, when Taskinen moved from Helsinki to the neighbourhood of Säynätsalo Town Hall, and inquired from the City of Jyväskylä about the possibility of renting a studio in the Town Hall, which was closed at the time. At the same time, he promised to open the doors to occasional visitors. The Town Hall, one of Alvar Aalto’s most significant works, attracted so much interest that already in the first summer many guests arrived, and little by little it was time to establish a business around the operation. Nowadays, Taskinen is the sole owner of Tavolo Bianco Oy, which employs several workers in the summer and one in the winter.
Tavolo Bianco Oy offers guided tours and accommodation at the Town Hall, and in addition, there is a café and an antique book shop on the premises. Sustainability has been a natural part of the company’s operations, and various trainings have helped the company to stay on the right track from the start. For the sake of the certificates, it has therefore not been necessary to actually change the operation, but to document and communicate to others what is done and how.
– And there is also commercial logic in the background. For example, the We Speak Gay label provides information and is a statement that anyone can come here safely as themselves, Taskinen emphasises.
It is important to Taskinen that the Town Hall is open to everyone and purposefully part of the community, not just a destination for tourists. Cooperation with local entrepreneurs has worked well, and all employees live on the island. The sustainability aspect is also emphasised in how Taskinen hopes visitors will experience the place.
– Tourists should be left with such an experience of their visit that they have made the place a little better: they have used local services, made people happy, understood something new. With their own actions, they can carry forward the idea that has been planted here.
Training is important in tourism businesses
The Covid-19 pandemic was not easy for Tavolo Bianco Oy, but on the other hand it provided a possibility to invest in the development of the company. All of the company’s products are now available online, and the Covid-19 pandemic also made it possible to focus on, for example, the acquisition of the Sustainable Travel Finland label and the Biosphere certificate. Taskinen emphasizes the importance of training in tourism businesses.
– It’s challenging, but it’s worth justifying to yourself why you should spend time on training.
Regarding the company’s situation, Taskinen sees that the operation is at an appropriate level in relation to the number of visitors and the needs of the visitors. International clients are often architecture professionals or students in the field and are there because of Alvar Aalto. As for domestic visitors, the Covid-19 pandemic changed the visitor profile: now the visitors are often ordinary families traveling in Finland.
– If the location becomes a UNESCO world heritage site and an actor in the biosphere reserve in the future, business and organisation must be developed further, Taskinen ponders.
Two honourable mentions
In addition to the Tourism Award, two honourable mentions were awarded at the event. Iris Mäkinen, CEO of Keurusselkä Hotels Oy, was awarded an honourable mention for her constructive and encouraging way of cooperating and for her active and successful participation in the development of tourism industry locally and nationally. The second honourable mention was awarded to the Himos-Jämsä tourism area and its key actors, who have made a substantial contribution over the past year and thereby significantly increased the recognition and competitiveness of the Jyväskylä Region.
Tavolo Bianco Oy
tel. +358 40 197 1091, firstname.lastname@example.org
Susanne Rasmus, Tourism Director
Visit Jyväskylä Region
tel. +358 400 885 786, email@example.com