Thousand of Swedish charter tourists stranded

At least 10,000 Swedish charter travellers have been stranded in far-flung destinations with no hope of returning home until Sunday at the earliest as a cloud of volcanic ash paralyses air traffic across Europe.

Thousand of Swedish charter tourists stranded
Lottie Knutson

Tour operator Fritidsresor said it was seeking alternative modes of transport to bring its customers back to Sweden after a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland forced airspace closures across much of Europe, with Scandinavia especially hard hit.

“Fritidsresor alone has 4,000 passengers who are stranded, and it’s fairly evenly spread among the other travel operators,” said Fritidsresor’s communications director Lottie Knutson.

“Nor is there any sign of the situation improving over the weekend. The number of people stranded is growing day by day.”

She added that the figure of 10,000 stranded charter tourists was a rough estimate based on the market share held by the respective Swedish operators.

A number of Fritidsresor’s customers travelling home from Thailand are now stuck in Cyprus, while tourists returning from Cape Verde, off the west coast of Africa, have come no further than Majorca.

“In order to help them we are of course looking at boat transportation. We have also rented and bought almost thirty buses which are standing at the ready, mainly in Athens.

“We’re also looking at trying to get flight clearance from Cyprus to Athens, or Trieste in northern Italy. From there we can then take those stranded back to the Nordic region in convoys of buses.”

Fritidsresor was also exploring the possibility of flying routes around the section of airspace that had been shut down.

“That’s only something a long distance machine can manage,” said Knutson.

She stressed however that no firm decisions had yet been taken as to how to bring charter travellers back to Sweden. She predicted that customers would be notified on Saturday afternoon at the earliest.

“No decisions have been made yet but, if required, the actual transportation will not happen until tomorrow [Sunday]. We’ll continue to work on the practicalities over the course of the day,” said Knutson.

Fritidsresor also calculated that around 10,000 people who had booked charter trips would not now be able to leave Sweden for their destinations.

“This in itself entails a lot of frustration and disappointment, especially since people are aware that trips are cheap now and they won’t get the same holiday for the same amount of money in high season.”

Knutson said it was difficult to calculate the financial cost for charter operators until the cloud has dispersed and normal service resumes.

“But at a rough estimate it is costing each major tour operator up to around 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) per day.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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.