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Why Brits and Germans can’t get enough of northern Sweden

The number of British tourists travelling to Sweden's northernmost county has doubled since 2010, according to the regional tourist board. And it's not the only nationality on the increase.

Why Brits and Germans can't get enough of northern Sweden
Northern Lights in Sweden. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

Northern Lights. Skiing. Winter. Midnight Sun. Icehotel.

There's no shortage of tourist attractions in northern Sweden. And it looks like the world has caught on, with an increasing number of international tourists travelling to the northernmost county, Norrbotten, every year.

“We have seen an incredible development in the past few years,” Erica Mattsson, CEO of hospitality organization Swedish Lapland Visitors Board, told the TT newswire on Tuesday.

Two thirds of Norrbotten visitors are from other parts of Sweden, but the number of foreign tourists is growing at a faster rate than Swedish tourists thanks to a series of international marketing campaigns.

The number of Brits visiting the county has doubled since 2010, and German tourists have increased by 50 percent in the same period. In 2016 alone, British tourists increased by 20 percent, according to Swedish Lapland Visitors Board. A spokesperson told newspaper NSD that it was the biggest increase of the year.

Mattsson told TT that the region has developed its international marketing strategy together with Norway, Finland and Iceland in recent years to target tourists wanting to experience life in the Arctic region.

“It is like an entire package of Arctic winter experiences. But what really has developed in these years is Aurora tourism,” she said, listing for example dog sleigh tours and photography courses specifically focusing on northern Scandinavia's dazzling Northern Lights phenomenon.

“We have had a clear focus on Europe, mainly Great Britain and Germany. We are now also starting to expand the market to more European countries, but also the US. And we are also looking at Asia,” said Mattsson.

READ ALSO: Seven stunning Northern Lights snaps from Sweden

Northern Sweden is not the only region welcoming more and more international tourists. The success of hit TV shows The Bridge and Wallander among other things in 2015 saw the number of Brits travelling to southern region Skåne rise by 29 percent in just one year.

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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