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Bildt pushes social media diplomacy efforts

The Swedish foreign ministry will extend its reach into social media, with Foreign Minister Carl Bildt saying all embassies will soon have Twitter and Facebook accounts to ease "the consular challenges" posed by travelling Swedes.

Bildt pushes social media diplomacy efforts

“We must be at the absolute cutting edge in digital diplomacy efforts,” Bildt said in his Wednesday address to the Swedish Riksdag.

He promised that all Swedish embassies would be tweeting and sharing information on Facebook by the end of February.

Bildt noted that Swedes travelling abroad was growing ever more frequent. Since 2009, trips abroad had increased by 25 percent – hitting a total in 2012 of 15 million visits to other countries.

He said a digital presence would allow the foreign ministry to master “new tools to meet the growing consular challenge.”

Sweden previously established an embassy in the virtual world Second Life, a move that garnered headlines across the world.

The foreign ministry in Stockholm handles about 2,000 cases a year involving Swedes abroad, he noted, while the missions abroad – embassies and councils – oversee many more.

A central task, he noted, was “to provide efficient and legally secure consular support to people in distress.”

“We want a trip to be a memory for life, not a number in the foreign ministry’s statistics.”

Bildt often addresses the role of the internet. In 2013, Sweden will for the second year in a row host a global conference on freedom of expression online, he noted.

“Sweden is a leader in the fight for all people’s rights and opportunities to communicate freely and securely on the internet,” he claimed.

In his Wednesday speech, he said efforts were under way to make the EU agree on a “common cyber security strategy.”

He said Sweden was also pushing for an agreement in the UN Human Rights Council to ground the same freedoms of press and expression that exist offline to the online world.

He slammed governments that sought to curtail communication.

“In negotiation after negotiation, we stand up against regimes that, for their own survival, seek to prevent freedom of expression in modern communications,” he said.

Ann Törnkvist

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TOURISM

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.

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