Record number of tourists flock to Sweden

The number of foreign tourists visiting Sweden climbed 3.3 percent in 2009, a new record high bucking the recession and a declining European trend, new statistics from the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket) show.

Record number of tourists flock to Sweden

The fact that Sweden has managed to benefit from the global recession results from a combination of four factors, Peter Terpstra, an analyst at the agency told The Local on Wednesday.

“Firstly, the recession has meant that people are continuing to travel but they are not travelling as far, the same thing change that occurred after 9/11.”

“Secondly, Sweden’s currency has been weak in relation to the euro and this has benefited tourism during the downturn.”

Peter Terpstra underlines that these factors are fleeting and are not something on which to base a long term tourism strategy, but he added that the adoption of specific measures has also boosted Sweden as a tourist destination.

“Tourist infrastructure has improved in Sweden. I am primarily referring to improved flight connections to Europe, the largest tourist market in the world.”

“Finally, Visit Sweden – the Swedish tourist board – was able to react quickly to the onset of recession and direct its efforts at our neighbouring countries.”

In total, 5.8 million overnight stays were recorded in Sweden in 2009, an increase of 3.3 percent on 2008. According to UN World Tourism Organization statistics for 2010, travel to and within Europe declined by 5 percent as a whole.

The number of Danes visiting Sweden climbed by 20 percent on an annualized basis and this is, at least in part, a result of the tourist board’s efforts, Peter Terpstra says.

“We have a lot of people close to our borders who like to travel a lot. The Norwegians especially respond to the favourable exchange rate.”

The report indicates that the recession has impacted the nature of tourism, with business traveller numbers down, and lower cost alternatives more popular.

Sweden’s camp sites recorded a 6.1 percent increase in overnight stays while hotel numbers remained at 2008 levels, with revenues dropping by 5.2 percent.

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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.