Company from Tampere developed a Lapland survival course for tourists
What started off as a group of students organizing trips to fellow students, Aikamatkat Oy or Timetravels, has developed into a company that brings thousands of Chinese tourist to Finland annually.
"I have always been inspired by challenges. If there is something that is considered as difficult to do, I decide to show them I can do it" says Mikko Koistinen, the CEO of Tampere born company, Timetravels.
One of these challenges was to move to Russia to study the Russian language at the beginning of the 90's regardless of the resistance from friends and family.
"After working as an interpreter, I realized that the essence of an interpreter is not only to translate the words but to act as a consultant between cultures and to diminish stereotypes and prejudice."
Today this realization has been carried out to offer tours to other target groups than just students.
"Coming from the University world, no profit calculations were conducted or course, Koistinen laughs. "We just wanted to show what Russia really is like."
Round zero as a marketing budget, word-of-mouth was the only promotion but yet effective. The tours became so popular that some of the exchange students even chose the University of Tampere as their place of study, based on the opportunity to participate in the tours.
In 2008 Timetravels decided to add a tour to Lapland as there was an increasing demand for it. During the tour, one of the travellers was so excited about building an igloo that he stated it to be "the best day of his life!"
This inspired Koistinen to develop the Lapland tour even further. Together with the Lappish locals, a survival course was developed that included extreme winter experiences like ice fishing, building a snow shelter, snowshoe trekking and classic Finnish cross-country skiing. A day tour to the Arctic Ocean was added to the mix and a tour that was selling like hot cakes as born. Not long after, the Lapland tour became even more popular than the tours to Russia.
"As the number of travellers from China increased swiftly, we decided to translate our brochures into Chinese. The demand for tours to the Nordics was on the rise. The travellers wanted quality service and new experiences."
The project was kicked-off in 2013 and by fall 2016 Timetravels founded a subsidiary, Timetravels Incoming Ltd, to Helsinki to meet the increased demand from the Chinese market.
"Our aim to offer our Chinese travellers the experience of pure nature, the beauty of silence and give them the sense of respect for nature that the Finns possess naturally."
Timetravels' product portfolio also includes sports tours to World Championship games and tailor-made tours for companies and associations. Group travel industry to Russia has suffered from recent political changes and the Ukrainian crisis but still has the appeal to attract thousands of travellers annually.
Over 20,000 tourists travel with Timetravels annually and the number is expected to double in the near future.
"We aim for 10% yearly profit, which in the travel industry is considered as exceptional."
Many of the Timetravels' company employees are the former study mates of Koistinen and have been onboard since the very beginning. Timetravels is looking to hire 10 more employees in the near future.
"Staff is the backbone of the company. The best accomplishments have been a product of joint efforts, innovation and training of staff. We are more invested in the quality of service and less interested in tracking working hours and clocking in-and-out. The bonus system is also built on customer feedback. Quality service creates happy customers that are happy to recommend us."
"Customer satisfaction walks hand-in-hand with profitability."