Tourism-related expenditure was SEK 337 billion in 2018, up 6% on 2017. The value added generated by this expenditure contributed 2.6% to Sweden’s GDP. Overseas tourists spent SEK 144 billion making a 6.4% contribution to total exports. The industry employed 172 000 people an increase of 1.7% over 2017 but slightly below national employment growth at 1.9%. In 2018, tourism directly contributed to 3.4% of total employment. Over the last decade, however, tourism related employment has generally grown much faster than the wider economy. Travel exports represented 20.1% of total service exports in 2018.

In 2018, there were 65.2 million nights, an increase of 3.1% when compared with 2017. The total number of nights by international tourists was up 7.0% to 17.3 million. The main markets are Norway, Germany and Denmark with the United States also showing strong growth of 10% against 2017. Overall, trends include a strong increase in foreign visitors, higher concentrations visiting the major cities and an increase in the number of independent leisure visitors. Almost half of visitor nights were spent in the major cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö but tourism also remains an important catalyst for regional growth and employment. Over the past four years, there has been a 22% increase in the volume of tourism during the winter, which has shown strong growth relative to the more traditional summer holiday period.

In 2018, there were 35.7 million domestic tourists, a decrease of 4.4% over 2017. For domestic tourism, the number of nights in accommodation increased by 1.8%, from 47.0 million to 47.9 million in 2018.

The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth, Tillväxtverket, is responsible for developing tourism at national level, while Visit Sweden markets Sweden as a tourism destination internationally. Both organisations report to the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation. Tillväxtverket develops, implements and supports knowledge-based initiatives to promote tourism development, entrepreneurship, and SMEs competitiveness. The Agency is responsible for official tourism statistics, the production and dissemination of economic knowledge on tourism as well as collaboration with other government agencies. Tillväxtverket also supports the regions in their work to develop and implement action plans for sustainable regional development as tourism is a priority for many. It has a regional structure and a role in disbursing EU funds. Visit Sweden is a company owned by the government which promotes Sweden as a tourist destination abroad. In previous years, Visit Sweden has focused on emerging markets, such as India and China, promoted sustainable nature and ecotourism in rural areas and worked to extend the length of stay of international visitors.

Collaboration between national agencies has recently been strengthened. In autumn 2018 and spring 2019, two high level meetings between 16 national agencies with interests in tourism were held to agree strategic priorities and joint work opportunities (See Box). The Minister for Enterprise and Innovation also holds a national tourism forum twice a year to identify common challenges. The Forum promotes dialogue with public and private actors in the tourism industry, including unions and regional representatives.

As regards regional and local arrangements, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions has recently increased its tourism partnership work providing a helpful network to share knowledge and connect various interests.

The central allocation for Visit Sweden is SEK 105 million per year. Related programmes, such as the marketing of Swedish design and fashion, can also contribute further funds, in this instance SEK 28 million in the 3 year period to 2019. The budget at Tillväxtverket for tourism statistics and development totals around SEK 25 million.

Generally, UN Sustainable Development Goals guide Swedish policy. One related objective of the current government is that Sweden will be the first fossil-free state by 2045. The major challenges for Swedish tourism are connectivity and transportation, small enterprise profitability, destination and product development, digitalisation, seasonality and sustainability.

Transportation is crucial and at the same time challenging because of Sweden’s geography and location, combined with a relatively small population and sparsely populated areas. These circumstances also make rural tourism development and the installation of high speed internet access challenging. Seasonality has always been an issue but a positive trend has seen recent growth in winter tourism, which is helping spread demand. Sustainability and how to integrate its principles at all levels will remain a major challenge from the perspectives of both public and private sectors.

These challenges are now being considered in the context of a new national tourism strategy for completion in 2020. The policy priority is to develop a long-term strategy to run until 2030 that promotes sustainable tourism development and provides a platform to implement actions that meets both national and global challenges. A major input for the strategy was the 2017 public inquiry. It received many contributions and ideas from a wide range of interests relating to tourism growth, entrepreneurship and employment, and encouraged actors to mobilise their combined efforts for the benefit of the tourism and hospitality sector.

A variety of other initiatives will also inform the strategy. Developed from an earlier Sustainable Destination Development initiative, the HPU programme (Sustainable Product Programme) seeks to stimulate product development in seven tourism destinations aiming to develop sustainable nature and/or culture based tourism offers. The programme targets support towards a selection of usually small and micro tourism businesses, encouraging innovation in sustainable tourism and developing ways that it can be practically implemented, both by individual companies and within destinations. Work undertaken by Visita, the industry employer’s organisation representing some 7 000 hotels and restaurants, has also provided a basis for best practice in the management of sustainable and inclusive tourism growth.

As well as promoting sustainability, the Government has been proactive in reducing the regulatory burden for tourism businesses which due to their size often find it difficult to understand or meet regulations, especially given differing requirements at a number of levels. In some cases, processes and demands can differ among Sweden’s 290 municipalities. In line with the government’s goals for simplified regulation and its Digital by Default principle, a cross-agency project entitled Serverat has taken on tourism companies’ data delivery responsibilities and contacts with public authorities. Within the project, digital information services and guidance are developed based on a company's circumstances and needs. Simplification of permits and similar procedures that companies must complete in order to start or develop their business are the current focus of the programme. At present, 37 municipalities are fully linked to the project and more are working towards becoming integrated. The website verksamt.se provides additional support to businesses with information drawn from several government agencies relating to preparing, starting and developing a successful business.

During 2019 Tillväxtverket also has a government assignment to carry out case studies for collaboration between manufacturing industry and tourism sector. The purpose is to investigate the conditions for strengthening the tourism sector and the manufacturing industry. The goal is to promote stakeholder interaction between enterprises, business organisations, tourism organisations and civil society, within and between municipalities and regions. The method aims to strengthen regional and local attractiveness and the development of attractive tourist destinations.

With regard to future-proofing tourism policies, the Visit the Future project will inform the development of the new tourism strategy. This is a joint project between Tillväxtverket and the trade organisation Svensk Turism focusing on innovative and cross-sectoral business development in Swedish tourism destinations. The project has analysed how changes in society and consumer trends can affect tourism development, how other sectors can also be affected, and how as a result of these changes added value can be created for the tourism sector. Recently, two regional pilot projects have begun, one on the theme of robotics and the other on the theme of smart lodging and food.

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