When I need to answer the question “why I became a tour guide”, I always choose the most straightforward answer; I love Helsinki, the beautiful city that I live in. I believe that you cannot be a successful tour guide if you don’t have passion for your locality.
I think Helsinki is still an underdog among European capitals, waiting to be discovered. It is still an exotic place for many and its potential is now being understood by millions of people around the world.
Its sheer beauty, proximity to nature, architectural gems, coupled with the fact that it is one of safest and cleanest capitals (and don’t forget the happiest!) in the world proves that Helsinki has so much to offer. The beauty of snowy winters, the green explosion in spring, white nights in summer and those autumn colours, the Ruska! Helsinki is such a silent, calm, compact and functional, colourful and yet humble and modest city.
I’m a city planner who is interested in urbanisation patterns, urban history, and the future of cities. I wanted to combine my love and admiration for Helsinki with my knowledge and research about its history, culture, planning and architecture. So I decided to go ahead and establish my company Ataman Tours and design tours to show Helsinki to people from all over the world with an unbiased and informed view. I basically provide the opportunity to my guests, to discover Helsinki with an expert.
And that is the story of how I became an authorised Helsinki guide and established the #1 ranked tour operator in Helsinki.
I think private tours are one of the best ways to learn about a locality, a city, when you don’t have much time, like days and weeks, to spend there. I understood early on that my guests enjoyed the tailor made private tours I designed for them so much, they were literally sad at the end of our tours and kept asking for more.
In a private tour, your preferences and interests are taken into consideration; the attractions, the route, the pace, all are designed to suit your needs. You won’t get lost in the crowds, you will get precise answers to your questions, you won’t get bored with a prescription narrative. The days of the pandemic took this one step further. Now being with only your group on a tour is much more important because of the safety issues.
Private tours are not only enjoyable from the guest perspective, but also from the guide’s perspective. The connections I make, the atmosphere that I create, the personal stories I share; these are either not possible or simply do not have the same effect in a crowded public tour or a bus tour.
I am a professional city planner with a bachelor’s degree in City and Regional Planning. I have a master’s degree in Urban Policy Studies. Hopefully I’ll finish my PhD soon, in the Urban Studies Program of the University of Helsinki. I have worked in various positions as a city planner, both in public and private sectors, before becoming an entrepreneur and establishing my company.
I still continue to lecture in the University of Helsinki; I teach in Urban Studies Reading Seminar, Social Justice and The City and Introduction to Urban Studies courses. I also do presentations and lectures for Perho Tourism and Business College in Helsinki and plan on starting similar ones in Varia Vocational College in Vantaa.