Sweden crashes in global tourism rankings

Sweden crashes in global tourism rankings
Boat houses in west Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Broman/Image Bank Sweden
Transport links, prices and the quality of Sweden’s hotels have been called into question in a global report that has ranked the Nordic nation 23rd in the world for travel and tourism compared to 5th place in 2011.

Five years after Sweden was listed among the top five places on the planet for travel and tourism by the World Economic Forum (WEF) it has slipped out of the top 20.

The biennial WEF Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report ranks 141 countries across 14 separate dimensions, revealing how well countries conduct their travel and tourism sectors.

The WEF’s last report in 2013 ranked Sweden ninth, but the country has continued to tumble in the rankings due to poor ratings on transport (including air travel to and from the region), price competitiveness and international openness, defined as “how open a country is to global people, travel and services”.

Despite a global reputation as one of Europe’s top hubs for start-ups and being home of huge brands including Volvo, Ikea and H&M, Sweden’s limited conference and cultural facilities for business and leisure travellers have also been singled out in the report.

On this pillar, the Scandinavian nation scored just 2.9 out of a maximum 7.0 points that could be awarded to countries analysed for the survey.

Spain heads the WEF’s index for the first time ever in 2015 thanks to its cultural resources, growing infrastructure and adaptation to digital consumption habits.

Traditional strong travel and tourism destinations such as France, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Japan and Canada also feature in top 10. 

Sweden was also beaten by its neighbours Norway, Iceland and Finland, while Denmark ranked 27th.

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The WEF report nevertheless highly scores Sweden’s approach to travel and tourism in several areas including safety and security, health and hygiene and access to communications technologies such as wifi and satellite television.

It is also ranked among the top 10 countries for protecting its natural environment for tourists.

While the results of the study look likely to fuel ongoing debates about Sweden’s accessibility for tourists – particularly with regard to limited air travel connections – they come as the Nordic nation prepares to welcome growing numbers of tourists this summer. 

An industry report released last month predicted that foreign tourists are expected to spend a total of 115 billion kronor ($13.3 billion) this year.

Sweden is welcoming rising numbers of visitors from the UK and the US because the weak krona means that it is the cheapest time in years for travellers from these countries to visit Sweden.