Sweden tops Scandinavia tourism ranking

While visitor numbers to Sweden continue to climb and the country is the most visited among the Nordic nations, Swedes elect to retreat to their country cottages for their holidays, new figures from two tourist organisations show.

Sweden tops Scandinavia tourism ranking

“Sweden is not competing with the large holiday destinations but we are creating a niche as a modern country with a strong connection to nature and tradition,” said Thomas Brühl, CEO of VisitSweden, in a statement.

When VisitSweden mapped out the recent travel habits of 18,000 internet-savvy and well-travelled holidaymakers, Sweden comes in ninth on the list of the favourite holiday destinations in the world.

According to Brühl, the exotic nature experiences in combination with a modern lifestyle that is piquing people’s interest.

Though Denmark is almost as popular as Sweden, making up place eleven, Sweden far outstripped other Nordic destinations.

Although countries like Spain and France are still top of the list, the survey shows that Sweden has recently been a more popular spot for tourists than Ireland and Portugal.

The report is based on an internet survey carried out on holidaymakers from Norway, Denmark, Finland, Russia, Germany, Netherlands, UK, France, Spain and Italy.

While the tourist hordes may be arriving on Swedish shores, fresh figures show that 81 percent of Swedes themselves prefer to spend their holidays in a rented country cottage, preferably on the west coast of Sweden.

“The dream of your own red cottage is deeply rooted in the Swedish spirit,” said Lars Isacson, CEO of Sveriges Camping Riksorganisation (SCR), Sweden’s trade and marketing organization for camping and cottage entrepreneurs.

Top of the list for Swedes of cottage must-haves was comfortable beds, which received 30 percent of the votes. Only one percent saw a functioning TV set as the highest priority.

And when it comes to stocking the fridge, 52 percent of Swedes agreed that meat for the barbecue is their highest priority.

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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.