Ecotourism Potentials in Sweden and Norway: An Insider's Perspectives

Ecotourism Potentials in Sweden and Norway: An Insider's Perspectives

Scandinavia Neil Rogers

By Neil Rogers

Sweden and Norway’s Recent Trends in Tourism Development

As a past advisor to Sweden’s Quality Label for Ecotourism, Nature's Best, and as current advisor to VisitSápmi and the Sápmi Experience Quality Label for Sámi indigenous tourism, I’ve seen many positive changes to sustainable tourism in Sweden over the years yet much remains to be done. Tourism to Sweden and Norway is growing quite rapidly with much of the growth focused on mass tourism especially in the Meetings segment of the market. There are currently 20 large (200-2000 rooms) hotels planned or under construction in Sweden.


The meetings industry has been strategically planned from the beginning and the current network of 20 convention bureaus throughout Sweden has emerged organically from the bottom up. Entrepreneurs in towns with universities or specialist industries have been encouraged to develop conference style hotels and facilities and this has led to Sweden becoming a market leader. Hotel groups such as Scandic are world leaders in environmental initiatives related to hotel design and operations and this helps make the meetings industry in Sweden more sustainable and gives it a competitive advantage.

Challenges for Small-Scale Ecotourism Entrepreneurs

The situation for small-scale ecotourism and experiential travel providers couldn’t be more different. They are faced with some of the most expensive wage, social benefits, transport and value added tax components in the world. This is a real challenge in a price sensitive market when competing against niche thematic products from eastern and southern Europe, especially for wildlife observation.


On the other hand, Sweden and Norway have world-class assets for active outdoor and experiential travel and have enviable reputations for image, safety, security, health, hard and soft infrastructure. The question that Sweden and Norway has to address is how to make more of this competitive advantage so that small-scale entrepreneurs can thrive in the same way that the Meetings industry has. This will require a small group of influential individuals to emerge and champion small-scale sustainable tourism so that network building and strategic planning is properly addressed while being encouraged and fully supported at governmental level.


Sweden and Norway have tremendous potential in the fields of active cultural adventures, nature observation and indigenous tourism yet the lack of long term strategic planning and financial support for this market segment leaves small entrepreneurs struggling to find a market. Traditionally tourism infrastructure in smaller Swedish and Norwegian destinations is rarely integrated and thus there are often logistical and planning issues when combing hard and soft infrastructure. There is a lack of small scale strategically located adventure and thematically oriented lodges as many rural based hotels focus on the conference market and subsequently have lost their charm for leisure tourism.


To compound this there are still few specialist ground operators and little planning has taken place to tap high growth markets such as the self-guided inn-to-inn hike and bike segment. This is compounded by a general lack of investment in segment specific strategic destination development, management and marketing, leaving many high value destinations virtually invisible to the international traveler. Even when the investment in sales and marketing is exceptional, as in the case of Norway, the national strategy often breaks down through a lack of product development and strategic planning for sustainable travel at the regional and community level.

"Hidden" Ecotourism Treasures in Scandinavia Waiting to Be Discovered

Education is also a key strategy in widening the market for Sweden and Norway. I’d wager that few potential tourists can name more than a handful of Swedish or Norwegian cities or that they could name more than one of two well-known destinations or regions. Has anyone heard of any globally known signature walking, kayaking or cycling trails or routes in Sweden or Norway?


Few potential eco-tourists know that Sweden has some of Europe's largest populations of European Brown Bear, wolf, wolverine, lynx and Arctic Fox. Even moose watching remains little developed because moose are so common that the locals often don’t see the value in them. Sweden and Norway combined offer one of the most magnificent landscapes in the world spanning thousands of spectacular kilometers: Boreal Forests, glaciers, fjords, lakes, Arctic mountains and tundra and stunning archipelagos. Scandinavia is home to the country of Sápmi and its fascinating indigenous Sámi reindeer herding culture.


The cuisine is rich and diverse with ingredients seasonally sourced from field, forest, lake and sea. The population is friendly, educated and multi-lingual and the roads and countryside are mostly empty. Combine these hidden elements and there is a world-class sustainable tourism product waiting to be discovered.


Photographer and Reindeer






Photo 1 (top): Sami community members and tourism leaders, Idre Sameby, Sweden (Photo copyright: Neil Rogers 2011)


Photo 2: Photographer and Reindeer in mountains above Idre, Sameby, Sweden (Photo copyright: Neil Rogers 2011)


Photo 3 & 4: Reindeer in Idre Sameby, Sweden (Photo copyright: Neil Rogers 2011)


About the Author: Neil Rogers

Neil RogersMy journey into travel consulting started back in the early 1980’s with a 12-month overland bus trip from Mexico City to Tierra del Fuego. I consequently fell in love with the region and worked as a tour guide for the next four years exploring the remotest corners of the continent and soon graduated to the position of tours manager of Journey Latin America in London. In 1989 I moved to Belize to manage the award winning Lodge at Chaa Creek and by 1991 I was helping plan the Caribbean’s first Ecotourism Conference held in Belize City. It was in Belize that I first started working for International Expeditions Inc., initially handling their small group inbound operations in Belize and then as Director of Latin American Development in their US office. Being married to a Swede it was inevitable that at some point the call of home would beckon and in 1997 we settled in Stockholm. Consultancy offers soon followed both at home and abroad involving the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East, Iwokrama in Guyana, the Baltic region, Sweden and Norway. I now split my time between consulting work, serving on the Finalist Selection Committee of the WTTC's Tourism for Tomorrow Awards and working as Director of Sales & Marketing for Francis Ford Coppola Resorts.


For more information, see Neil’s bio here, or contact him at:[at]

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