Why people in Sweden are breaking a steady trend and travelling less

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Why people in Sweden are breaking a steady trend and travelling less
There are several reasons why people in Sweden flew less last year. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

People in Sweden carried out half a million fewer journeys in 2018 than the year before, breaking a steady trend of growing travel.


In total, people in Sweden went on 11.2 million overseas trips last year, which is still more than one per person in the country of 10.2 million.

But it was a considerable decrease from the 11.7 million trips carried out in 2017, according to Vagabond magazine's annual Travel Barometer, which it has published annually since 2010. And it represented a break in a trend which has seen Swedes travel overseas more and more since the global financial crisis in 2008.

The figures only related to overseas trips made for leisure lasting at least one night and carried out by adults. Including children, the total number of trips taken rose to 13.8 million, and with overseas business trips counted too, the total was 16.6 million.

And 35 percent of those questioned for the survey said they were planning to further reduce overseas travel the following year, and almost the same proportion saying that the reason was concern for the climate.

At the end of 2018, the word flygskam or 'shame linked to flying' was named as one of 33 words that entered the Swedish language and defined Swedish society that year. It came after studies showed that while Swedes may be more climate-aware than many other nationalities, they fly far more often and further than average; meanwhile, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg was a leader in widespread calls to reduce air travel. 

READ ALSO: 12 things you must do in Sweden in 2019

But aeroplanes were still the most used mode of overseas travel, and there are other reasons besides climate awareness that Swedes' travel habits may be changing.

The country experienced a record heatwave, which prompted many people living in Sweden to take a staycation and travel to the coast or countryside rather than head abroad. Many travel agencies reported a drop in the number of people booking last-minute holidays abroad.

What's more, the Swedish krona tumbled in value early last summer, which would have made an overseas trip less attractive or even less feasible for many households, due to less favourable exchange rates than previous years. The Swedish krona remains at its worst rate since 2002, weak against the Danish and Norwegian kroner and against the euro, which is at its strongest level in almost a decade.

When it came to destinations, Spain was most popular of all, with nine of the ten most popular holiday spots and 90 percent of all trips taken in Europe, while the USA was the tenth most popular destination on the list.

Denmark was the second top destination and experienced a 25 percent year-on-year increase in popularity, potentially linked to the warm Scandinavian summer. Germany, Greece and the UK were also in the top five travel destinations.

Despite media coverage of the flygskam phenomenon, air travel still accounted for almost two thirds (65 percent) of overseas leisure travel while just three percent of such trips were made by train. This was the same proportion as in 2017, but a quarter of respondents said they hoped to travel more by train in 2019, while the Swedish government has pledged investment in overseas rail travel.

In total, 3,382 people in Sweden were questioned for the survey.

READ ALSO: The Local's ultimate guide to exploring Sweden by train


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