Sweden Sweden Sweden Sweden

Tourism Sweden

Tourism in numbers - Europe

Europe is the most important tourist region in the world. According to UNWTO, in 2006 nearly 55% of all international tourist arrivals (461 million) were on the “old continent”.Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region are the favourite holiday destinations in Europe. According to UNWTO, in 2006 about 165 million tourists visited these regions (6).

At present, the predominant summer tourist flows in Europe are from north to south, to the coastal zone. However, coastal and mountain tourism are the segments that are most vulnerable to climate change, and the Mediterranean region is the world's most popular holiday region: it attracts some 120 million visitors from northern Europe each year, the largest international flow of tourists on the globe, and their spending is in excess of EUR 100 billion (4).

Tourism in numbers - Sweden

The tourism industry is an important and growing sector in Sweden. In 2006, the combined turnover was around SEK 215 billion, almost 3% of GNP in total sales. This was almost 11% more than the year before and 90% more than in 1995 at current prices. Bathing and skiing tourism are responsible for a significant volume in Sweden (1). Others report that tourism in Sweden generates 6% of GDP (6).

The fact that tourism is a relatively fragmented industry with many small players means that few of these have succeeded so far in building up knowledge and acting strategically ahead of future climate changes. Small and locally-based companies also have limited opportunities to steer their investments towards other areas. Larger companies generally have different opportunities to take changes in the climate into account when making investment decisions, and can allocate investments to areas and activities that they believe will benefit from climate change (1).

Vulnerabilities – In general

There are four broad categories of climate change impacts that will affect tourism destinations, their competitiveness and sustainability (5):

  • Direct climatic impacts
  • Indirect environmental change impacts. Changes in water availability, biodiversity loss, reduced landscape aesthetic, altered agricultural production (e.g., wine tourism), increased natural hazards, coastal erosion and inundation, damage to infrastructure and the increasing incidence of vector-borne diseases will all impact tourism to varying degrees.
  • Impacts of mitigation policies on tourist mobility. Policies that seek to reduce GHG emissions will lead to an increase in transport costs and may foster environmental attitudes that lead tourists to change their travel patterns.
  • Indirect societal change impacts. Climate change is thought to pose a risk to future economic growth and to the political stability of some nations. Climate change is considered a national and international security risk that will steadily intensify, particularly under greater warming scenarios. Tourists, particularly international tourists, are averse to political instability and social unrest.

Vulnerabilities in Sweden – Winter tourism

The significant increase in winter temperature that is predicted in the climate scenarios will entail major changes in winter dynamics, including in the mountains. By 2020, the average temperature will have risen by around 2–3 °C throughout basically the whole of the winter season (November–March). By the 2050s, the temperature will increase by between 2.5–4 °C during November–March. In a normal year, the duration of the snow cover in the mountain chain will fall from today’s 6–8 months to 3–6 months by the end of the century. The maximum snow depth will decrease from 80–130 cm during the period 1961–90 to 20–80 cm in the 2080s (1).

The skiing season in Åre up until 2039 may decrease by up to 5 weeks, but this is not expected to entail any major changes for Åre as a tourist destination. Instead it is asserted that, in a 30 year perspective, Åre may be a winner, when other destinations in Europe are affected more by climate change. Relatively speaking, the changes at Sweden’s alpine destinations are smaller compared to many other places in Europe, and this will probably contribute to maintaining the competitiveness of most Swedish alpine skiing destinations(1). Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling will be affected in particular, however, as it is not possible to produce artificial snow for these activities (2).

Towards the end of the century it is likely that the problems will be on the increase. According to the study for Fjällmistra (3), the shortened skiing seasons at the end of the century will entail significantly reduced earnings for the Swedish skiing industry. With linear trends regarding turnover in the skiing industry, the loss by the end of the century could amount to between SEK 0.9–1.8 billion annually. The combined loss through until the end of the century could therefore amount to approximately SEK 20 billion, assuming that the changes start to become noticeable in around 2050. This estimate does not take the possibility of producing artificial snow into consideration, however. At the same time, summer tourism can be expected to increase.

Benefits in Sweden – Summer tourism

Potential conditions for outdoor, non-winter rural tourism activity have been assessed for the Nordic region (Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) (8). This has been done for three future time periods compared with the reference period 1961–1990: 2010–2039 (the 2020s), 2040–2069 (the 2050s), 2070–2099 (the 2080s). The assessment is based on one Global Circulation Model and two climate change scenarios that span a plausible range of speeds and intensities of climate change (medium scenario B1A and high-end scenario A1F). By the 2020s, the main beneficiary of the warming climate appears to be Finland, where the number of good months is projected to rise by one month across most of the country. By the 2050s, the length of good conditions across Denmark, southern Sweden, the Swedish coastline, and southern Finland is projected to visibly increase, up to four or five months of good conditions possible according to the high-end A1F scenario. The same trend prevails into the 2080s. According to this assessment, good conditions fail to materialise for any extended period across Greenland, Iceland or Norway (8).

Overall, Norway, Sweden and Finland are very similar as tourist destinations. In the important summer months, the countries in northern Europe could enjoy growing incomes from tourism in future, due to the longer season. All in all, therefore, these countries are amongst the gainers (6).

The rapidly growing tourism industry can achieve even greater potential in a changed climate, with warmer summers and higher bathing temperatures. Water resources and quality will be key issues, however (1).

Towards the end of the century, the water temperature in the Baltic Sea in the summer (June–August) will be 2–4 °C higher than at present. In the summer, both the amount of precipitation and the number of days on which precipitation occurs will fall in southern Sweden, while the number of hours of sunshine is expected to increase somewhat. This should benefit bathing-related tourism and outdoor activities linked to the sea and lakes. One area of worry is the increasing risk of erosion, primarily along the coasts of southern Sweden, which can result in the destruction of beaches that are currently popular (1).

If just a small proportion of those people who currently travel to Mediterranean countries come to Scandinavia instead, this will entail a significant increase in visitor pressure in Sweden. In a sample calculation in which 1 percent of Mediterranean tourism shifts to Sweden, the number of overnight stays increases by 10 million, equivalent to approximately a doubling of the total number of overnight stays throughout the year in the whole of Sweden. Calculated on today’s income level for accommodation, this would be equivalent to almost SEK 30 billion/year in today’s monetary value, excluding everything apart from accommodation (1).

Climate change may have a net positive effect on the overall European potential for tourism: up to 59 million bed nights more or some 8% of the total of 777 million nights registered for 2005 in a study on 29 countries (7). Additional potential revenues could be in the order of 4–18 billion euros.

The changes are likely to be unequally spread across Europe, however. The year-round potential for tourism increases most in the northern parts of Europe, including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, and in Austria. In the southern countries, there is evidence for a net loss of potential, although improvements in the spring and autumn seasons are likely to offset a significant share of the deteriorations in summer. In particular Austria and the UK enjoy significant gains in relative terms, whereas Italy and Spain face the largest losses (7).

Adaptation strategies – In general

Climate change is slowly entering into decision-making of a range of tourism stakeholders (e.g., investors, insurance companies, tourism enterprises, governments, and tourists); studies that have examined the climate change risk appraisal of local tourism officials and operators have consistently found relatively low levels of concern and little evidence of long-term strategic planning in anticipation of future changes in climate (5).

There is also some evidence that local tourism operators may be overestimating their adaptive capacity (e.g., capacity to make snow under the warmest scenarios). The incorporation of adaptation to climate change into the collective minds of private and public sector tourism decision-makers (‘mainstreaming’) remains several steps away (5).

The capacity of the tourism sector to adapt to climate change is thought to be relatively high due to its dynamic nature and therefore there will be important opportunities for tourism to reduce the vulnerability of communities to climate change (5).

Adaptation strategies in Sweden – Winter tourism

Adaptation measures carried out to date at alpine skiing locations, along with continued measures, are judged to be sufficient to retain a considerable portion of the winter season at most mountain destinations through until at least the 2020s (1).

In addition to adaptation measures in the form of increased production of artificial snow, increased diversification of operations at the mountain destinations can be an important adaptation method. After the year 2040, the situation for winter tourism looks more serious. The high season weeks around Christmas and New Year, as well as Easter, will be ‘green’ to an increasing extent. This trend may increase towards the end of the century (1). A structural shift of winter tourism towards areas that are more assured of having snow in the northernmost parts of the country may then become necessary.


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Sweden.

  1. Swedish Commission on Climate and Vulnerability (2007)
  2. Ministry of the Environment of Sweden (2009)
  3. Moen et al. (2007), in: Swedish Commission on Climate and Vulnerability (2007)
  4. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  5. UNWTO, UNEP and WHO (2008)
  6. Deutsche Bank Research (2008)
  7. Amelung and Moreno (2012)
  8. Nicholls and Amelung (2015)