Regenerative travel – How a Finnish eco resort takes sustainability to the next level
How can we travel better, more meaningfully, and with a lighter footprint? A family-owned Hawkhill Cottage Resort outside Helsinki is a pioneer in planet-positive travel.
While it’s one thing to understand the concept of regenerative travel, it’s another to put it into practice. Thanks to a trio of innovative entrepreneurs who walk the talk, the philosophy is quickly gaining speed.
“The idea is to give back more than you take — leaving the destination better than you found it,” explains Annu Huotari, who runs the luxury Hawkhill Cottage Resort together with her two siblings, Kaisa Ala-Outinen and Matti Ala-Outinen.
“We as business owners do all we can, but those who stay with us can do their part, too. Taking care of the environment is a job we do together,” says Huotari.
Surrounded by wilderness, just a short distance from Helsinki, Hawkhill overlooks Nuuksio National Park, a destination famous for its many lakes, green forests, and steep cliffs. The resort was founded by the owners’ grandfather Eino Ala-Outinen, who built five modest cabins for busy city dwellers to come and unwind in a peaceful sanctuary.
The original cabins have since been replaced by four luxury log cabins suitable for year-round living. Three cabins handcrafted by the owners’ father, Teuvo, are still in place, all beautifully renovated to meet the discerning standards of today’s guests. The interiors retain the cosy feel of a traditional Finnish cottage.
“People come here to enjoy the art of slow living. For the past twelve years, we have been focusing on delivering quality through Finnish design, local handicraft, and modern luxury. International guests have been especially impressed by the silence and the total immersion in nature — things we Finns might take for granted,” says Huotari.
Collaboration with the local community
Everything at the resort is designed to have a positive impact on the environment and the community. The cottages are powered by fossil-free electricity, and disposable tableware is banned. Guests are encouraged to save water and recycle waste, and they are invited to take part in eliminating invasive species and building insect hotels. With help from experts, Hawkhill has rehabilitated a six-hectare peatland to compensate their emissions. The peatland is an efficient carbon sink and important for biodiversity.
Collaboration with the local community is a big part of the regenerative mindset. Working together with a local water protection association, Hawkhill helps to eliminate unwanted fish species and is looking into ways of getting guests involved.
“We rent and share. There’s no point in purchasing something we only need occasionally, or building a new kitchen if we can use an existing one. That’s why we use the catering kitchen at the village hall. It’s a win-win situation,” says Huotari.
A regenerative travel experience is a competitive advantage
Hawkhill is one of the first Finnish tourism enterprises to calculate its carbon footprint, which has helped the owners plan actions to further reduce their footprint. Emissions are compensated annually through certified programmes.
Acting responsibly begins with transparency. Hawkhill is open about its good practices — as well as its failings — to inspire and educate others. The open policy seems to be getting noticed.
“A growing number of luxury accommodation enterprises are making a committed effort to offer a regenerative travel experience. It’s a competitive advantage for everybody, and it’s also what our guests want. Modern luxury can be sustainable,” says Huotari.
Annu Huotari, Kaisa Ala-Outinen, and Matti Ala-Outinen
Founders of Hawkhill Cottage Resort
- Our inspiration: our grandfather’s legacy. We are carrying on his pioneering work in the cottage business.
- What we have learned: the best things in life are simple — blueberry picking, sitting by the fire, or rowing on a misty lake early in the morning.
- Our boldest move: we have managed to grow financially while minimising our carbon footprint.
"Everything at the resort is designed to have a positive impact on the environment and the community."
Photos by Laura Iisalo and Hawkhill Cottage Resort