With its idyllic archipelagos and quiet beaches and its winter wonderland of ski resorts and magical markets, Sweden has plenty to offer tourists. But other factors including its expensive restaurants and sometimes harsh climate have served to put off global visitors.
New figures suggesting that foreign holidaymakers and business travellers spent an extra 10.2 billion ($12.4 million) kronor in 2014 compared to the previous year (an increase of 12.5 percent) will be a welcome boost to the country's tourism industry.
The statistics, released by Tillväxtverket (the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth) also reveal that the number of people employed in the travel sector shot up by 4.9 percent last year. Sweden's total employment rate rose by 1.4 percent over the same period.
Peter Terpstra, a tourism analyst for Tillväxtverket, said on Tuesday that there were a number of reasons Sweden was becoming a more popular destination with foreigners.
“Tourism is increasing globally. More airlines are flying to Sweden and prices are falling. Furthermore, as many seasoned travellers have already visited the major cities in Europe, more are coming to discover Sweden.”
Tourism is now one of Sweden's most important export industries and makes more money for the country than traditional sectors such as iron and steel.
According to Tillväxtverket, the value of the industry has increased by 137.5 percent since 2000, while the total growth in the value of Swedish exports was 66 percent over the same period.
“All indications are that tourism will continue to grow,” said Terpstra.
Sweden is welcoming rising numbers of visitors from the UK and the US in particular this summer because the weak krona means that it is the cheapest time in years for travellers from these countries to visit Sweden.
But the Nordic nation recently tumbled in recent international tourism rankings. Transport links, prices and the quality of Sweden’s hotels were called into question in a global report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which listed the Nordic nation as 23rd in the world for travel and tourism compared to 5th place in 2011.
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