“When it comes to countries in Europe, Sweden has vast, sparsely populated forest areas that can offer a range of unique experiences for tourists,” agriculture and rural affairs minister Eskil Erlandsson told The Local.
Erlandsson explained that Sweden's forests already play a vital role in the country's economy, with the forestry sector responsible for employing 100,000 people and giving rise to 129 billion kronor ($18.7 billion) in exports such as paper, furniture, and packaging products.
However, he believes Sweden can do more to attract tourists, both from abroad and within Sweden, to the country's forests and in so doing, provide an economic boost to many rural areas where job creation is a continual challenge.
“We want to create jobs in all parts of the country,” he explained.
“When people visit somewhere, they have to eat somewhere, and that creates jobs; they have to stay somewhere, and that creates jobs.”
In an effort to give Sweden's tree-covered landscapes more prominence in tourism and economic development efforts, Erlandsson will unveil plans on Thursday which give the Swedish Forest Agency (Skogsstyrelsen) a seat at the tourism promotion table.
“We want forests included in efforts to attract and increase the number of tourists in Sweden,” said Erlandsson.
By having the Forest Agency, which has primary responsibility for managing Sweden's forests, work together with VisitSweden, the country's main tourism promotion agency, and the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket), Erlandsson hopes to add expertise to discussions about tourism development projects centred on Sweden's natural beauty.
“The Forest Agency has unique knowledge of which forested areas have a special value,” he said.
The government has also earmarked 80 million kronor to be spent on achieving a vision dubbed “The Forest Kingdom” designed to help use Sweden's in a sustainable manner to create more jobs and help with rural economic development.
Erlandsson explained that much of the inspiration for the forestry tourism push stemmed from efforts he launched in 2008 to turn Sweden into a global leader in haute cuisine.
The initiative has, according to Erlandsson, had a noticeable effect in boosting the profile of Swedish cuisine abroad, and also helped create jobs back in Sweden.
He hopes that putting Sweden's forests front and centre in tourism and branding efforts will have a similar effect.
According to Erlandsson, there are no shortage of activities to attract tourists to Sweden's woodlands.
“There are a wealth of experiences to be had in the woods, from hunting and fishing, to recreation, berry and mushroom picking as well as bird watching,” he said.
“You can wander around for a whole day without seeing another person.”
A fan of spending time in the forests himself, Erlandsson looks to Swedish woodland as his “source for recreation, relaxation, and recovery”.
“There's also plenty of beautiful natural scenery as well as lots of wildlife...with a little luck, you might even come face to face with an elk.”