Finnboat: Navigating the Finnish Boat Industry’s Success
The world of boating is a way of life in Finland, with Finnboat at its heart. We spoke with Jarkko Pajusalo, CEO of Finnboat, to uncover the association’s pivotal role in Finland’s boating industry. Discover Finnboat’s strategies for sustainability, growth, and innovation in this Q&A. Pajusalo also highlights their initiatives in the digital era and their commitment to environmental stewardship. Explore how Finnboat steers the Finnish boat industry towards excellence and responsible boating in this insightful conversation.
Finnboat plays a central role in Finland’s boat industry. Can you elaborate on the key responsibilities and initiatives undertaken by Finnboat to support and promote the industry?
Finnboat is the marine industry association representing recreational marine industries in Finland. Hence, our main task is to ensure the boating industry’s voice gets heard when the powers that be are making big decisions. We are also the voice to promote safe and responsible boating, and we cooperate closely with other associations and NGOs to find solutions that drive boating forward in a sustainable way. We have two boat shows in Finland – Helsinki International boat show opens the boating business season already in February, and Helsinki Boat-Afloat show is our in-water show in August. Boat shows are great for new product launches, but also a platform to bring the industry’s message to the general public, as quite often boating can be seen mostly in a negative light – either as a hobby for only the rich or as a hobby that is dangerous due to the few, but highly visible boating accidents each year. Both perceptions are misleading. We have over 20 boats per 100 people in Finland, which proves that boating is for everyone regardless of the size of the bank account. 99% of the boats made each year are below 9m, and the long lifespan of boats makes pre-owned boats reachable for everyone regardless of income level. Boating accidents in Finland are at their lowest ever – in 2023, only 22 people lost their lives while boating. Every life lost is a tragedy, but the number has to be put into perspective – during the eighties, the figure was over 100. Zero lives lost at sea or inland waters is a good goal, but we cannot change the behaviour of all people. The deadly accidents take place while using very small craft around the summer houses, of which we have hundreds of thousands in Finland.
As Finland is also home to internationally oriented boat manufacturers, we keep evaluating various boat shows outside Finland, and in some selected ones, we organise areas that group the Finnish manufacturers into a visibly “Finnish” boat show area. This promotes the Finnish boating industry brand awareness among boat enthusiasts in our key markets. We also organise the legendary Finnboat Floating Show, which has had a misleading name since the 70s. Contrary to the name, it is not a show, and the tens of boats participating in the event are not just floating – they are driven and tested hard in the gorgeous Finnish archipelago by tens of journalists from all over the world. As far as we know, this is the only multi-brand and multi-company boat test driving event in the world, so we are very proud of it.
With Finnboat’s membership accounting for nearly 100% of the domestic turnover in the boat industry, what strategies do you employ to ensure the growth and sustainability of the industry in Finland?
It all boils down to the value we offer our members. Our media channels, training programs, boat show activity at home and abroad, boat testing days for the public and media, and the lobbying work we do together with our partners – everything is for the benefit of our members. We succeed only if our members succeed.
Your website, www.suomiveneilee.fi, serves as a comprehensive platform for boat enthusiasts. How do you ensure that the platform remains up-to-date and relevant for your audience?
Our Finnish consumer-oriented website, www.suomiveneilee.fi, is a platform that has served us well over the years, and it is time to renew it. During recent years, we have put much more emphasis on social media by developing the suomiveneilee.fi Facebook and Instagram channels to help our member companies gain a wider audience.
How do you decide on the content and themes for “Finnboat News”? Can you share some insights into the process behind its creation and distribution?
Finnboat News is our B2B channel to reach our members and stakeholders. We have staff meetings several times a year to decide on the ideas for the articles as well as for the columns. We have standing columns, like EBI’s Philip Easthill reporting the latest from Brussels, and we also have a rotating column, which is meant for personal views by key people from the industry or close to the industry. As the only B2B magazine of this industry in Finland, we like to reserve some space for our member companies by writing articles about our member companies and giving them room for industry news.
With active engagement on platforms like podcasts and social media, what are Finnboat’s primary objectives in reaching out to its audience in these ways?
Our raison d’être is to serve our members. Our social media channels offer several tools for our members already, and our target is to develop this toolbox further to the next level. We use both in-house and external resources, which is a must since we have a very limited staff. With good long-term partnerships, one doesn’t have to do everything in-house.
Given the increasing global emphasis on environmental conservation, what steps is Finnboat taking towards environmental stewardship in the boat industry?
Sustainability of the industry is key to its survival in the long run. In the past few years, our focus has been on the recycling of GRP. We knew that there were ways to recycle the material, and we had our first recycling initiatives already around ten years ago, but they didn’t fly due to a very simple reason – there aren’t enough boats to be recycled. Lifecycle estimates have underestimated time after time the lifespan of a modern well-made recreational boat. We are now talking about a lifespan of 100 years instead of 30 years, which changes the game completely. This is the reason why we joined forces with other composite industries and, as a result, we have today a functioning route to recycle GRP boat materials into cement clinker. It is the only industrial-scale way to recycle today, but in the future, there will be more as the upcoming technologies develop into industrial-scale processes.
Are there any upcoming projects, events, or initiatives that Finnboat is particularly excited about? How do these align with the organisation’s long-term vision?
We are currently renewing our Finnboat Quality Certificate, which is a program we have offered to our member companies for over 10 years. Being a member of an industry association is already a sign that the company is trustworthy and in the boating business for the long run, but achieving the quality certificate is proof that the company management takes its business and customer service seriously. Personally, I am very excited about our Finnboat Quality Certificate 2.0 and believe that it is one of the best tools to promote responsible boating business in Finland.
How does Finnboat emphasise the importance of training and skill development within the industry? Are there any specific programs or partnerships in place to aid this?
We group all our skills training under the umbrella of “Finnboat Academy”. For example, we have one-day sessions throughout the year tailored to develop the skills of management and employees. Today we have two forums for company management and two forums for employees. We also cooperate with the vocational schools offering boating industry schooling in Finland, as they offer the right resources to keep the factories and the boat yards running also in the future.