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TRAVEL

Sweden ‘fourth best country in the world’

Sweden has been rated as the fourth best destination in the world in a new ranking by the Lonely Planet travel guide, thanks to its emerging pop-culture, it's food, and the fact that the north holds the setting for next year's European Capital of Culture.

Sweden 'fourth best country in the world'

Lonely Planet was impressed by Sweden this year, ranking the northern country as the fourth best travel destination in the world after Brazil, Antarctica, and Scotland.

"Thanks to the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, most people have a sense of what Sweden’s like, even in the far north – cold, beautiful and a bit scary," the travel guide wrote in its annual report.

It went on to praise the Sweden's emerging new pop culture sensation, and the fact that Umeå in the north will be the European Capital of Culture in 2014.

But Lonely Planet was most taken by another side of Sweden, perhaps first made famous by a fictional muppet chef, but which has recently exploded onto international dinner tables around the world – the culinary scene.

"Then there’s the food," Lonely Planet wrote. "The capital has long been a stylish, top-notch destination for serious gourmands and boldly experimental chefs but lately the reputation and influence of Swedish cooking have spread beyond the country’s borders. Considering that Swedish cuisine is so strongly tied to locally sourced ingredients (be it seafood, game, berries, herbs or regional cheeses), it makes perfect sense to go to the source of all this fine food."

Sweden was the only Nordic country to make the top ten, and one of only three European countries. Behind Sweden, Lonely Planet adviser travellers to head for Malawi, Mexico and Seychelles, with the top ten rounded out by Belgium, Macedonia, and Malaysia.

Top placed Brazil ("the Belle of the Ball" according to Lonely Planet) was praised for its beaches, rainforests, and the fact that it will be playing host to the Fifa World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016.

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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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