The Kingdom of Sweden

  • Sweden is the fourth largest country in Europe covering an area of 450,000 square kilometres; about seven times the size of Ireland.  It stretches 1,000 miles from top to bottom, and in fact if you hung Sweden from Stockholm, the southern tip of the country, it would reach the toe of Italy.  (Hopefully that’s the only piece of useless information you will get in this message).

    Its population is just 9 million, and 2 million of those live in the Stockholm metropolitan area.

  • Last year just about 96,000 visited Ireland, which was almost double the numbers of 4 years ago.  To put some perspective on that some three quarters of a million visited Britain (79,000 making their way to Scotland).
  • Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, and King Carl Gustaf is head of state, but performs largely official and ceremonial duties.  The EIU lists Sweden in first place in its index of democracy out of 167 countries.
  • In 1971 the Riksdag became a single-chamber Parliament.  Its 349 members are elected on the basis of proportional representation for a four-year term.  The Parliament set a new “world record” recently, with 47% of its elected members being women.
  • The Social Democrats have dominated the Parliament for most of the 20th century, being in power for 65 of the past 75 years.  However, they lost out in the 2006 elections when the Alliance, made up of the Moderates, Liberals, Center and Christian Democrats, were successful in the polls.  (Obviously its citizens are conscientious about voting with a poll of 80%+ in the last election.)
  • The current government has had something of a rocky start in its first year in office with the resignations of two female Ministers over scandals.
  • A bursting real estate bubble caused by inadequate controls on lending, combined with an international recession and a policy switch from anti-unemployment policies to anti-inflationary policies resulted in a fiscal crisis in the early 1990s.  Sweden’s GDP declined by around 5%.  In 1992 there was a run on the currency, the central bank briefly jacking up interest rates to 500% in an unsuccessful effort to defend the currency’s fixed exchange rate.  Total employment fell by almost 10% during the crisis.  The response of the government was to cut spending and institute a multitude of reforms to improve Sweden’s competitiveness, among them reducing the welfare state and privatising public services and goods.
  • Sweden joined the EU in 1995 but has demurred at joining the Euro currency, and since their economic performance has exceeded that of the Eurozone in almost every year since, who is to say they were wrong.
  • Although an impressive market economy, Sweden has high taxes and redistributes its wealth to a greater degree than most other countries, protecting its citizens from cradle to grave, so to speak.  It is a model that is the envy of many countries and while a tougher economic climate puts increased strain on this model the essential features are likely to remain intact for the foreseeable future.
  • It is hard to comprehend how a country with just a population of 9 million has produced so many successful global brands such as Volvo, Saab, Ericsson, ABB Electrolux, Ikea to name but a few, as well as leading athletes, tennis players, golfers and top names in many other aspects of life, not to mention ABBA.  Swedes played a pioneering role in the development of cinema, and produced such icons as Ingmar Bergman, Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman and Anita Ekberg.
  • The EIU rates Sweden number three out of 70 countries in terms of its e-readiness, after the USA and Hong Kong.
  • Currently Sweden’s energy sources are more or less equally divided between nuclear power and hydropower, but it’s seeking to phase out nuclear power by 2020 and, at the same time, become the world’s first oil free economy.
  • Lack of direct air access has been an issue in exploiting the real potential of this market.  This has improved somewhat in recent times and currently Ryanair serves Ireland with services from Stockholm and Gothenburg to Dublin, and also SAS from Stockholm to Dublin.
  • Sweden and the adjoining Nordic countries represent less than 10% of our visitors from Continental Europe.  While these countries represent fairly good prospects for growth because of their high per capita wealth and spending power, it is improbable that they will increase that share of European visitors any time soon.  The Nordic countries consist of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland.
  • Last year there was good growth in visitor numbers from these Nordic states with Norway producing 61,000 visitors, Denmark 55,000 and Finland 38,000.
  • Along with the UK, Spain is a big destination for Swedish travellers with about three quarters of a million trips, followed closely by Germany with just under that amount, Italy with 362,000, Denmark with 345,000 and Greece with 316,000.
  • 77% of Nordic visitors come here to explore Ireland’s sights and find out about the culture.
  • The good news is that 93% said the holiday matched or exceeded their expectations, while just 4% were unhappy.  87% would recommend Ireland to a friend, and a further 11% would do so with reservations.
  • For a whole lot of further detailed information on the Nordic markets, click here for the Tourism Ireland site.
  • Next up – Australia.
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