Foreign tourists boost Swedish retail sales

Last year was a bumper year for tourism in Sweden, with foreign tourists spending more money in Sweden than Swedish tourists spent overseas, according from retail group Svensk Handel.

Foreign tourists boost Swedish retail sales

Foreign visitors spent 93.6 billion kronor ($12.56 billion) on consumption in Sweden in 2009, meaning that the export value of tourism is higher than the total value of iron, steel and Swedish private cars.

Despite the fact that global travel declined during 2009 as a result of the financial crisis and recession, the number of overnight stays by foreigners in Sweden increased by 3 percent in 2009.

“It is primarily our Nordic neighbours, Germans and Poles who have come here,” said Yvonne Ingman, Svensk Handel vice CEO.

“In Sweden there is the Kingdom of Crystal (Glasriket), the Kingdom of Furniture (Möbelriket) and the Kingdom of Cloth (Tygriket) for example. Souvenirs are no longer crystal vases and Dala horses,” Ingman said.

Svensk Handel distinguishes between a “shopping tourist” and “tourist shopping”. In the first category shopping is the primary purpose of the trip, for example a trip to cut-price superstore Gekås in Ullared. But not in the other case although once there the tourist goes shopping anyway.

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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.

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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.