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TOURISM

Åland considers setting clocks to Swedish time

A member of Åland’s parliament has proposed that the islands, technically an autonomous part of Finland, adopt the same time zone as Sweden.

Åland considers setting clocks to Swedish time

Like Finland, the islands currently set their clocks according to eastern European time (GMT +2).

But last week independent member of parliament Danne Sundman put forward a legislative proposal that the islands, located roughly midway between mainland Sweden and Finland in the middle of the Baltic Sea, should abandon Finnish time for the central European time zone used by Sweden (GMT +1).

“There are several reasons why it makes sense for Åland to be on Swedish time,” Sundman told The Local.

Besides Åland’s geographic proximity to parts of Europe using central European time, Sundman also pointed out that Åland’s primarily Swedish speaking population follow television broadcasts from Sweden.

“Being on Finnish time means that everything on TV here runs an hour later. It may not sound like a big deal, but there are a lot of people who complain about television times being too late,” he said.

Equally important, according to Sundman, is the need for Åland to better cater to the needs of Swedish ferry boat tourists, which are an important part of the islands’ economy.

“It can be hard for them to keep track of whether they are one hour ahead or one hour behind,” he said.

“Things can get rather confusing for them if they are only coming here on a day trip.”

Sundman is not the first person to propose the idea of adopting Swedish time, but his legislative motion has gotten Åland’s residents to seriously consider the question.

And support for the change appears to be growing.

A poll on the website of the Ålandstidningen newspaper shows a majority of respondents favour the change.

“More and more people are thinking like me,” said Sundman.

Critics of the switch from Finnish time to Swedish time fear that the move would create a barrier with Finland, and that it would result in the sun setting even earlier.

To those worried about dark afternoons, Sundman responds that the time would be made up by sunnier mornings.

As to the relationship between Åland and Finland, Sundman is frank.

“Mentally, I think we are closer to Sweden,” he said.

However, Sundman was careful not to overplay the significance of the time zone switch as an embrace of Sweden at the expense the islands’ ties with Finland.

“Of course the change would have some symbolic significance, but it’s more for practical reasons than anything else,” he said.

If Sundman’s proposal is approved by Åland’s parliament, Åland residents must then petition authorities in Finland, who would represent Åland’s case internationally.

If all goes well, according to Sundman, in about a year’s time Swedes disembarking from ferry boats in Åland’s harbours would be able to forget about resetting their watches.

TOURISM

Sweden launches bid to become world’s top tourism destination by 2030

Forget the pyramids, the canals of Venice or the Eiffel Tower – the Swedish government has presented a plan to make Sweden the world's most attractive tourism destination by 2030 – but it's not yet clear how.

Sweden launches bid to become world's top tourism destination by 2030
Many tourists are attracted to Sweden because of its nature. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

In a press conference on Monday, Sweden’s Minister for Business, Industry and Innovation Ibrahim Baylan outlined the new strategy, which aims to make Sweden “the world’s most sustainable and attractive tourism destination built on innovation” by 2030.

Baylan referred to Sweden as a country which “is usually ranked as one of the world’s most innovative countries”, which he argued can “create value for the tourism industry”.

According to Baylan, the strategy builds on “sustainability’s three dimensions – it has to be environmentally, socially and economically sustainable”. The strategy will also “tie into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030”, he said.

Topics covered by the new tourism strategy include the climate impact of tourism, equality and inclusion in the tourism industry and the importance of preserving shared resources such as national parks and sustainable nature tourism such as fishing and hunting.

The press release highlights the importance of natural tourism, explaining that the pandemic has led to people visiting natural and cultural environments “to a greater extent than before”, increasing wear and tear to natural areas.

DISCOVER SWEDEN: The Local’s guide to Sweden’s top destinations and hidden gems

Tourism is an important industry for Sweden, providing employment in both urban and rural areas, as well as generating wealth – before the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism industry represented on average 2.7 percent of Sweden’s GDP per year. The tourism industry also employs a high amount of people from foreign backgrounds – making up over a third (34 percent) of all employees in the industry.

During the pandemic, overnight stays declined in almost every Swedish municipality, with the biggest declines seen in Sweden’s larger cities and border municipalitites.

The government’s plans also include a focus on jobs and skill development, so that workers have the right qualifications for the industry – this reflects issues currently faced by the restaurant and hotel industry in finding skilled workers in the wake of the pandemic. 

There are currently no details as to how the government will achieve this strategy, or indeed how it will measure success. But Sweden is aiming high if it wants to be the world’s most attractive tourist destination by 2030. In 2019, it was ranked the 54th top tourist destination in the world by the UN World Tourism Organisation.

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