Swedish charter operator cancels all Tunisia trips

Swedish tour operator Apollo said Monday it had cancelled all its trips to Tunisia until the beginning of May due to political unrest following the ouster of the country's president.

Swedish charter operator cancels all Tunisia trips
Soldiers stand guard next to their tank in the center of Tunis on Sunday

A total of four planned trips from Sweden at the start of the Tunisian tourism season, between April 15 and May 6, had been cancelled, affecting some 300 tourists, said Apollo, a Swedish subsidiary of Swiss travel giant Kuoni.

“For trips after May 6, Apollo will wait a few more weeks before making its decision” on whether they should be cancelled, the tour operator said in a statement.

“It is difficult to evaluate how the situation will develop going forward. We hope the situation will stabilise and that the trips can go ahead as usual,” Apollo’s communications chief Kajsa Moström said.

Tunisia is one of Apollo’s top summer destinations, with some 30,000 tourists traveling with the operator last year to the Sousse and the Gulf of Hammamet regions south of Tunis.

Sweden’s foreign ministry tightened its travel recommendations to Tunisia Sunday, cautioning against all travel to the country.

Some 300 Swedish tourists are currently in Tunisia, while some 600 Swedes are residents in the country.

A group of 12 Swedish wild boar hunters, who had traveled to Tunisia nearly two weeks ago with another operator, were on Sunday caught up in the violence wracking the country following the ouster of strongman leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali late last week.

The Swedish hunters were in three separate taxis heading towards the airport when they were stopped at a checkpoint, dragged out of the vehicles by an angry mob and beaten, one of them said.

“They searched the vehicles. They found our rifles and everything degenerated,” Ove Oberg told reporters at the Africa hotel after the ordeal Sunday.

“They dragged us out of the cars, treated us like foreign terrorists. We were kicked and beaten,” he said.

The Swedish foreign ministry said Monday that all the men had been accounted for and were in safety at their hotel where they were waiting to be flown home.

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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.