Introducing sauna traditions to the world with a modern twist

Varjola auditointi_61Sauna from Finland has accepted a chal­lenge. It wants to bring the true Finnish sauna experience to the world and help companies commercialise it.

Finns have enjoyed bathing in the sauna for a thousand years. Our saunas are known around the world, but despite this, they have not been turned into successful business. Saunas do not really promote the Finnish brand. The Sauna from Finland association has been operating for six years and wishes to change the situation. Executive Manager Carita Harju has taken the challenge head on since the founding of the association. She has been diligently leading the strategic work to promote the business formed around the sauna theme. Her tools include conducting research that supports corporate activities. At the moment, research is ongoing for as­sessing the combined turnover of the entire sauna industry. The goal is to also further im­prove the image of the Finnish sauna.

A quality certificate for saunas

”The brand of the Finnish sauna is stuffy. It needs to be renewed,” Harju snaps. ”Think about the visual image of the sauna that’s been given so far. The traditional images of old smoke saunas, birch branches and la­dles are atmospheric, sure, but these alone won’t promote the commercialisation of our saunas. We shouldn’t forget our sauna tra­ditions, but we must modernise them and their representations,” she says.

The work for improving the sauna brand has be­gun with the introduction of specific tools, such as the Authentic Finnish Sauna Experience quality certificate. It is awarded to sauna servic­es companies whose activities fulfil the criteria of an authentic Finnish sauna experience laid out in Sauna from Finland’s quality manual.

“An authentic Finnish sauna is a holistic and multisensory experience. It’s comprised of recognisable and high-quality elements and the core values of bathing in a sauna,” Har­ju says. These core values are authenticity, multi-sensuality, presence, relaxation, clean­liness and wellbeing. The quality certificate can be used in different sauna environments, for example in travel destinations, public sau­nas for pre-booked customers, spas, swim­ming pools and hotels. The quality certificate lets the company’s customers know that their sauna services are top-of-the-line.

Joining the wellbeing business

Harju specifically believes in the possibilities of the sauna as a provider of wellbeing, and wants the sauna to be a part of the wellbeing market. “Saunas provide the possibility for holistic relax­ation and release from stress. These are prom­ises that speak to today’s customers.” However, one must be careful when talking about health benefits. Most claims need to be backed up with research knowledge. Sauna from Finland is currently collecting all the health research on saunas into one archive. For example, research has shown that when done correctly, bathing in a sauna can improve the quality of sleep. The most recent medical research that has been conducted in Finland even notes that going to a sauna 4-7 times a week can decrease cardio­vascular mortality. “Modern technology is con­stantly creating new possibilities for both new research and deepening existing knowledge. In addition, the market for monitoring one’s own health is growing. The connection between monitoring personal health and saunas could create lots of opportunities,” Harju notes.

Collaboration is seen as added value

Originally, the association only included a few founding companies. Now it has over a hun­dred members. Harju believes that by the end of this year, there will be 200 member companies. The association wants to attract strong multidis­ciplinary Finnish companies who feel that the sauna theme could be a part of their marketing. “It’s great to see that companies are now more willing to collaborate. Before, marketing saunas was really held back by the unwillingness of the companies in this sector to work together. Now there’s a new generation that understands the added value that collaborations bring.”

Author: Minna Juti

Originally published: Ministry of Employment and Economy

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Carita Harju

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