Sweden at a glance

With the ninth-highest per capita personal disposable income in the world and 25 legislated annual leave days per year (at least), Sweden is considered an attractive tourism market for long-haul travel.

Sweden ranks among the top 20 outbound markets and long-haul markets in the world. Nearly three-quarters of the Swedish population go on vacation every year, with 18% of their trips to development countries. In 2011, the number of Swedish outbound trips with overnight stays grew by 12% compared to the previous year, reaching a total of 14.6-million trips for business and leisure combined.

Sweden is ranked among the top 10 long-haul markets to South Africa, reaching 40 856 arrivals in 2012, an increase of 5.4% on 2011. Six in 10 Swedish travellers visit South Africa primarily for leisure, with business travel being the next most common and fastest-growing purpose (20%). December and October are the most popular months for travel to long-haul destinations.

Visiting natural attractions and safari/wildlife experiences are the most common activities of Swedish leisure visitors to South Africa. When asked about the main reasons for satisfaction with their visit, a majority mentioned specifically the scenic beauty, followed by wildlife and safari, and the friendly and hospitable people. From a demand point of view, these positive experiences link up with the good value for money offered for Swedes (the exchange rate of the Swedish krona to the South African rand is currently very favourable) as well as the pleasant weather/climate at the destination, which is the most important reason why Swedes choose to travel abroad.

Accessibility is the primary barrier for tourism growth out of Sweden due to the fact that there are no direct flights to South Africa out of Sweden or Scandinavia. This limits accessibility and leads to a comparative disadvantage vis-à-vis the main competitors. Another barrier is the issues of security and the perception of crime, linked to an often biased media coverage and general prejudice about Africa. This is exacerbated by a general lack of knowledge about South Africa as a tourist destination among both consumers and tour operators – also possibly limiting growth, as they play an important role in holidaymakers' choice of destinations.

Internet usage in Sweden is among the highest in the world. The booking of tourism services via the Internet is becoming more and more popular, especially for short-haul travel, as travellers are becoming increasingly confident and are used to booking their trips online.

Today, a majority (62%) of all trips in Sweden are booked on the Internet, according to Swedish consumer travel magazine Vagabond (Vagabond Resebarometer, 2012) and it is likely that the share will continue to grow. For countries such as South Africa, the complexity of the destination should mean that the expertise and support of tour operators will continue to be in demand. Long-term, however, there may be some change as consumers become more familiar with the destination and we start seeing more repeat visitors.

Fairtrade consumption reached record levels in 2012, with total sales of Fairtrade-certified goods reaching 1.5-billion SEK (ca €180-million), an increase of 28% on 2011 (Fairtrade Sverige, 2013). This can be attributed to the fact that there have been dedicated information campaigns that have resulted in a high degree of consumer awareness around ethical products and the concept of sustainability, and demand is growing among consumers.

Concurrent with this development in general demand, Swedish holidaymakers are becoming increasingly interested in the concept of sustainable tourism. They perceive this as a way to actively limit the impact of their travel on both the environment and local people, and the market stands out when looked at in the global context.

Key factors

Price

Price is one of the main reasons why consumers end up opting for a non-sustainable holiday over a sustainable one. Sustainability is not a primary driver in the booking decision, but rather a secondary one, when it is ranked against for example price and value for money. Forty-one percent of Swedish holidaymakers say that sustainable holidays should cost more or less the same as conventional holidays, whereas only one in four state that they would be prepared to pay more.

If the price is higher for a sustainable option, it is important for suppliers to be transparent about the reasons for the higher price and that they inform clients of the benefits of booking a sustainable package.

Quality

It is important to clearly convey to the consumer that by choosing a sustainable tourism option, the level of quality will not be compromised. By offering a quality-assured sustainable package at a competitive price, consumers may be encouraged to choose the sustainable option over the conventional one.

Availability

It is important to make the sustainable option easily available by listing it in the main brochure and on the website together with a clear indication that the product is sustainable, rather than listing it separately from the conventional offering. As an example, the number of Fairtrade-certified products in Sweden increased by 22% in 2012, and sales are increasing rapidly as a result. It is clear that retailers have started making Fairtrade products easily available and displayed next to the regular options, rather than placing them on separate shelves.

Awareness

According to Fairtrade Sweden, 74% of Swedish consumers consider independent certifications to be the most reliable way to verify the social and environmental guarantees of a product. However, only 6% of Swedes are aware of the concept of sustainable tourism, and 28% are vaguely aware. Relevant communication and the fine-tuning of the message to the consumer group is crucial to the process. Informing travellers about how they can make positive contributions also plays an essential role in helping to increase the demand for responsible tourism.

Giving concrete examples of the way sustainable tourism has made a difference in people’s lives, makes it less abstract and more tangible for the consumer. It is important to reinforce a positive message rather than playing on guilt, which could have the opposite effect and push consumers away. Booking a holiday should be a positive experience and it is imperative to inspire consumers. Humour can be a useful tool in the messaging, as can the use of celebrities or other ambassadors/spokespersons.

Willingness to switch

We have seen from the experiences of the Fairtrade label that consumers are increasingly starting to choose a Fairtrade option over a non-labelled alternative when the one is available alongside the other. This reinforces the importance of listing sustainable tourism products as main brochure offerings, where they are easily available and comparable to non-sustainable options. Travellers can be expected to switch to sustainable offers provided that these products are not substantially more expensive than the non-sustainable or less sustainable products of the competitors Swedish long-haul travellers are often interested in active holidays, authentic experiences and interacting with locals. All of these interests are key elements in the Fair Tourism offering. 

This provides good prospect for responsible tourism products, provided that it can be shown that travellers can experience the product at good value, secure in the knowledge that the premium paid is going to the right people on the ground.

The Responsible Travellers

Sustainable Beginners

Familiar with green issues and ethically produced goods. Care about their own consumption and are likely to be home recyclers who act with the environment in mind. This is a passive segment that will not go out of their way to find fair and sustainable options. Barriers to selecting a sustainable holiday are quality and price. They have difficulty in changing their habits, so any offering has to fit into their lifestyle. Influenced by peers to change and do something. Travel is a reward and they don't want to feel guilty about it. They would consider a sustainable travel product if it met all their needs and came with no premium pricing. They buy their holidays on the Internet and through travel agents; are influenced by peers, popular brands and celebrity spokespeople on travel websites, travel supplements and magazines.

To reach this segment, show them that other people are acting and that their actions have impacts. Be transparent about where the money goes and explain in detail what the benefits are. Guilt does not work – information must be clear, positive and motivational.

Active Sustainable Consumers

Sustainability-aware and open-minded segment that actively look for environmentally friendly options when consuming. Would choose a sustainable product if there was a choice between a non-sustainable and a sustainable one. A majority would like to do more to improve their ethical behaviour. Travel is part of their life; they are concerned about flying long haul and will consider using a carbon offsetting programme. Likely to continue with green behaviour on holiday. Aware and sensitive to the responsible treatment of staff in developing countries. The main barrier is availability of sustainable products that meet their needs.

Money is less of a barrier. The destination is the most important factor when making a travel choice. They buy their holidays via travel agents and the Internet; are influenced by editorials and global labels of endorsement in mainstream newspapers, travel supplements and specialist magazines.

To reach this segment, engage them emotionally and give examples of worthy causes to support. Promoting a variety of offerings to suit their lifestyle would easily convert them.

Sustainable Pioneers

High level of sustainability awareness. Well-informed and knowledgeable on environmental issues and will ensure that the majority of their consumption is sustainable. They will actively look for good causes to support and will generally emphasise ensuring a low-impact lifestyle. Always interested in improving their green lifestyle and becoming even more environmentally friendly. Most likely to choose a sustainable option over a non-sustainable one, when available. Travel is a fundamental part of life for this segment and serves a purpose to broaden their horizons, learn about the world and expand their knowledge.

They seek an educational experience where they are exposed to new things and new frontiers  Barriers for this segment are availability and quality of environmentally friendly or sustainable options. Buy their holidays through specialist tour operators; are influenced by peers, global endorsement labels, word of mouth, and academic research in mainstream and business newspapers and specialised magazines.

To reach this segment, make information available to facilitate becoming opinion leaders and influencers for their surroundings. Avoid greenwashing and provide information about certification labels where possible.