Refugee accommodation leaves hotels short of beds

The future of a large number of hotels currently being used by the Swedish Migration Agency (Migrationsverket) is clouded in uncertainty, with a large number of contracts to rent the empty hotels being extended into the high season and 80,000 beds being procured by the agency.

Refugee accommodation leaves hotels short of beds
Småland is one of the regions where tourism could be affected. Photo: Florian Plag/Flickr

With tourism season fast approaching, the industry says it is not currently informed of the government’s plans regarding the large number of facilities that have been transformed into asylum accommodations, according to a report by Svenska Dagbladet.

Neither Migrationsverket, Visit Sweden or the hotel and restaurant industry’s trade association Visita are able to provide specific information about the loss of facilities, and tourism organisations are in the dark as to the capacity they will be operating at this year.

“Some municipalities have no beds at all – clearly, tourism is going to be affected,” Lena Larsson, CEO at Småland Tourism, told Svenska Dagbladet.

For example, major attraction Astrid Lindgren World is expected to be without quality facilities, with both its guesthouse and hostel expected to continue to be used as asylum facilities in the summer.

Last November, the theme park even opened its doors out-of-season to allow refugee children to come and play for a day.

But voices within the tourism industry are now unsure what Migrationsverket's use of hotels and similar accommodation will mean for them in the long term.

“Hotels are the engine of tourism. If we don’t have them, we lose all other tourist revenues,” Lars-Eric Fällt of Södra Bohusläns Tourism told Svenska Dagbladet.

Fällt said that he believed many tourist facilities – particularly those in remote parts of the country – that are now being used by the state are unlikely to be returned.

Some facilities have also been taken over by new companies who intend to rent them to the state. Turning tourist accommodation into asylum accommodation is reported to increase its turnover, but does not take into account effects on the tourist industry.

“Many of us in Österlen have gone over to this [renting to the government],” hostel owner Maria Karlsson told Svenska Dagbladet. “It is basically the same type of business, but with better remuneration. I have a contract for six months at a time with revenue similar to the high season.”

Migrationsverket states that it currently has 370 different asylum shelters across the country of which the ‘vast majority’ are former hotels and hostels. But the agency told Svenska Dagbladet that it does not consider it within its remit to provide information on exactly which tourism businesses are being affected.

With Migrationsverket last week announcing the renewal of contracts for up to 60,000 beds, the long-term consequences for Sweden’s tourism remain unclear.