Flygskam: Are Swedes really going green and swapping overseas travel for ‘staycations’?

Swedish tourism boards and travel agencies have invested in promoting domestic travel in response to a growing interest in sustainable travel. But has it really convinced Swedes to ditch air travel and opt for a staycation?

Flygskam: Are Swedes really going green and swapping overseas travel for 'staycations'?
File photo of tourists biking through Småland: Patrik Svedberg/

Last year saw a reduction in Swedes' overseas travel, breaking a years-long trend with adults carrying out half a million fewer overseas journeys than the year before.

The much-discussed concept of flygskam, meaning 'shame linked to flying', was touted as one possible reason for the change, but 2018 also saw an exceptionally weak krona and a weeks-long record heatwave, two further factors encouraging Swedish residents to stay at home for the summer. 

So after a colder than usual start to July this year, with some spots experiencing their lowest summer temperatures in decades, will people in Sweden remain willing to sacrifice their summer sun?

Many travel agencies have reported a sharp increase in last-minute package holiday bookings abroad.

Travel agent Tui told the TT news agency that more than 50 percent as many trips had been booked at the start of July compared to the same period the previous year, and they said they had almost sold out of trips to southern Europe.

And competitor Ving reported a 40 percent increase in trips sold in the first week of July compared to that period in 2018, with package trips to Cyprus and Mallorca proving particularly popular.

Apollo, another travel company, had a slow start to the season which staff put down to Swedes hoping for a repeat of last year's heatwave. 

“But from May, it's increased steadily,” the company's head of communications, Ann-Sofie Olsson, said. “It's increased by 20 percent compared to last year. In summer, it's very clear that weather has an effect.” 

There's still momentum in the move towards sustainable travel. The Swedish government has announced investment into alternatives to flying, while national rail company SJ is working to make it easier to book international train travel and hopes to adjust its timetables so that cross-border journeys are more convenient.

This appears to mirror consumer preferences too: a Facebook group dedicated to planning train travel has grown to nearly 100,000 members, and its organizers have said their long term goal is to to allow travellers to book train trips via their site. 

Travel agent Ving launched 'package holidays by train' this year, including train and hiking trips to Davos and Engelberg in Switzerland. And local train operators including Stockholm's SL and Skånetrafiken in the south have also invested in promoting the concept of hemester (staycation) through cheap, flexible tickets that allow locals to explore their region by train over summer.






A post shared by Visit Dalarna (@visitdalarnasweden) on Jul 13, 2019 at 11:01am PDT

These developments have been watched around the world with interest, and one Guardian headline proclaimed 'Swedes turn to trains amid climate 'flight shame'.

The figures for domestic holiday bookings at the start of the summer appeared to support that trend, and in the first week of July, the Swedish Tourism Association (STF) reported that holidays within Sweden were proving even more popular than the previous year.

“It's been bubbling for several years, but now we can see it black and white; people are proud to stay home on holiday in a different way than before,” said STF head of communications Jenny Engström, speaking to Svenska Dagbladet.

Engström reported an 11 percent increase in bookings, while the country's largest campsite company, Nordic Camping-First Camp, had seen 35 percent more bookings for July and August 2019 than the year before. Meanwhile, thousands of posts with the hashtag '#hemester' have been posted to Instagram.

So while the majority of people in Sweden might not be quite ready to give up their week in the sun yet, there's certainly an appetite for alternative ways to get there, and a willingness to explore their own backyards in the meantime.

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


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