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Poor Promotion of Climate-Smart Travel

The number of international visitors to Sweden is increasing, and many come from Germany. The vast majority of these choose to travel to Sweden by car or air, and rail travel is almost negligible in the statistics. A survey by the Ecotourism Society of Sweden shows that climate-smart travel is rare, and marketing of Sweden does little to stimulate it.

Hundreds of thousands of Germans are currently planning their summer trips to Sweden. Germany is currently Sweden’s second biggest international market and over 2.5 million German guest nights were recorded in 2009. Much of Sweden is very accessible by train from cities such as Berlin and Hamburg in northern Germany. For example, a night train runs between Berlin and Malmö, and visitors can travel from Berlin all the way up to Östersund in Jämtland in less than 24 hours.

The Ecotourism Society of Sweden asked two German-speakers to independently review ten major regional and national travel sites for southern and central Sweden whose marketing activities include a focus on German visitors. The aim was to assess how the websites provide information about travel options to Sweden, and which options are emphasised with links and clear information. Another aim was to assess the extent to which there is information and ideas that would encourage German visitors to choose climate-smart options when travelling to Sweden.

The survey showed that three of the ten websites translated into German completely lacked information about how to travel to Sweden. Five sites gave general information about rail travel to Sweden, four also linked to German websites where train tickets could be booked, while only two websites gave information about the night train from Berlin or some other railway option from Germany. None of the reviewed websites were felt to actively promote climate-smart options, such as by emphasising rail travel or presenting the climate impact of various modes of travel.

“We can just about approve VisitSweden and Västsvenska Turistrådet. Eight other regional tourism organisations fall well short of the mark,” commented Per Jiborn of the Ecotourism Society of Sweden.

“These are tourism operators that are largely financed by taxes and at a time when sustainability is one of the tourism industry’s key concepts. Only half of the websites give any information about the option of travelling to Sweden by train, and no website demonstrates a clear information strategy about how our international visitors can travel to Sweden. This is, quite simply, very poor indeed.”

By 2020, Swedish tourism aims to double today’s sales to SEK 500 billion. A recent trend analysis published by the Swedish Travel and Tourist Industry Federation (RTS) indicates that most of the growth will stem from an increased number of international visitors. The analysis highlights a number of bottlenecks hampering development, such as a shortage of hotels in the large cities, shortage of products for an international market outside the high seasons, and the need for more direct flights from Europe. Greater use of trains is rejected with the argument that few international tourists choose that option today.

“Air travel in Europe has a lot of advantages over train. It’s faster and nearly always cheaper, sometimes much cheaper than train travel. At the same time, rail and air travel don’t compete on a level playing field – there’s no VAT levied on international air travel and there’s no fuel tax. While budget airlines are often praised, very little is being done to develop rail travel in Europe. That’s why it’s worrying when organisations like RTS ignore the climate threat, and instead choose to just mechanically increase the figures on the basis of trends in the past ten years,” said Jiborn.

Source: Nature's Best

Photo: Staffan Widstrand/Swedish Ecotourism Society