Tourism is a significant contributor to the Danish economy. The direct contribution of tourism was 2.5% of GVA and 4.1% of employment in 2019. Tourism GVA fell by 37.2% to DKK 31.5 billion in 2020, representing 1.6% of total GVA.

In 2019, tourists spent DKK 139.2 billion in Denmark. Inbound tourists spent DKK 61.5 billion, representing 44% of total tourism expenditure, and 4.4% of all Danish exports. Total tourism spending fell to DKK 103.7 billion in 2020, driven by a 59.8% decline in international tourists, falling to 5.9 million international overnight visitors.

Preliminary estimates suggest that tourism began to recover in 2021, with tourism expenditure increasing to DKK 115.8 billion. Domestic tourism, which continued to grow through the pandemic, contributed DKK 86.9 billion or 75% of total tourist spending in 2021. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, domestic nights increased by 4.7% in 2020, and 20.5% in 2021 to reach 34.3 million nights in tourism-related accommodation.

Denmark is projecting a return of inbound tourism to pre-pandemic levels already by 2022, primarily driven by the German and Dutch tourist markets. Other important tourist markets are still below 2019 levels.

The Danish Tourism Law, which came into effect in 2015, regulates the structure, governance and responsibilities of public agencies at the national and local levels. The Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs is responsible for tourism, but also co-operates with several other ministries on issues relating to tourism, including those with responsibilities for foreign affairs, culture, environment and transport. VisitDenmark manages international branding and marketing and is also responsible for market research and monitoring trends and activity.

The national tourism administration consists of the Danish National Tourism Forum, the Danish Tourism Advisory Board and four national tourism development organisations: VisitDenmark; Danish Coastal and Nature Tourism; Wonderful Copenhagen (including the tourism development organisation Danish City Tourism); and Danish Business and Conferencing Tourism.

Between 2018 and 2020, as part of an agreement with Local Government Denmark, the number of regional destination management organisations (DMOs) was reduced from 80 to 19 to ensure more consistency between organisations. The role of the 19 decentralised DMOs is to organise, co-ordinate and operate strategic local business-supporting activities, developing geographic areas in Denmark into strong and coherent tourist destinations. The tasks range from developing international marketing activities in collaboration with VisitDenmark to facilitating strategic tourism development projects, which bolster the existing local product and tourist experiences.

The Danish National Tourism Forum was established to strengthen and co-ordinate collaboration within the tourism sector in Denmark. The Forum is chaired by the State Secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs and has representatives from VisitDenmark, Danish Coastal and Nature Tourism and Wonderful Copenhagen, Local Government Denmark, the tourism industry and academia. The Forum is also responsible for drafting national tourism strategies and reporting on the national state of Danish tourism.

The Danish Tourism Advisory Board advises the Danish National Tourism Forum on opportunities and challenges to Danish tourism. It is chaired by the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs and has additional members from other ministries, industry representatives and civil society.

To promote recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future shocks, Denmark has provided compensation to tourism businesses, totalling more than DKK 19.8 billion. Additional measures were introduced to prevent the bankruptcy of tourism businesses. These included a special focus on hotels, restaurants and conference centres to initiate sustainable initiatives or necessary renovations. Denmark also promoted summer packages in 2020-21 to help hard-hit sectors while creating great holiday experiences for tourists.

In 2022, Denmark launched its new National Strategy for Sustainable Growth in Danish Tourism. It is the guiding strategic framework for the development of Danish tourism towards 2030. The Strategy sets out a common direction for the work of the national tourism organisations and relevant stakeholders by highlighting opportunities and challenges for sustainable tourism, digitalisation trends, international competition and a resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Strategy also incorporates many green and sustainable initiatives, including a partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Box 3.12).

Starting from a common vision, the strategy sets out three goals that balance environmental, economic and social sustainability towards 2030:

  • Pursuing green and sustainable solutions with low environmental and climate footprints.

  • Attracting more tourists and larger tourism consumption in Denmark.

  • Ensuring that tourists, citizens and employees are satisfied.

These goals are measured with nine indicators. Based on the goals and indicators, the strategy puts forward a set of initiatives to strengthen Danish tourism within five development tracks towards 2030:

  • Returning international tourism to Denmark as soon as possible.

  • Ensuring the recovery of urban tourism is sustainable.

  • Establishing Denmark as an attractive destination for business and conferencing tourism.

  • Taking advantage of new potentials and opportunities.

  • Following and adapting to the changing preferences of tourists.

With regards to urban tourism, Comeback Copenhagen 2023, a recovery plan for the capital’s tourism and cultural life, was launched as part of a collaboration between Wonderful Copenhagen, Copenhagen Municipality and the Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs. The plan contains several initiatives to prepare the tourism industry in Copenhagen for international competition and to strengthen sustainability initiatives.

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