Scandinavia is renowned for its progressive attitudes so it’s no surprise that Sweden is leading the drive for sustainable travel. Olivia Palamountain reports

Sustainability is at the “forefront of global conscience”, says the Top Countries for Sustainable Tourism report released by global market research company Euromonitor International, with 66.4 per cent of international consumers wanting to have a positive impact on the environment through their daily actions in 2021.

The new report forms part of the Sustainable Travel Index, which assessed 99 destinations in 2020 through the lens of environmental, social and economic sustainability, sustainable tourism demand, transport and lodging, and country risk (in terms of geopolitics, natural disasters, man-made catastrophes and diseases).

In breaking down attitudes and achievements by region, the report finds that Scandinavia is leading by example in its engagement and progress towards sustainable travel, with Sweden ranked first, followed by Finland, Austria, Estonia and Norway.

Top 20 destinations for sustainable tourism in 2020

  1. Sweden
  2. Finland
  3. Austria
  4. Estonia
  5. Norway
  6. Slovakia
  7. Iceland
  8. Latvia
  9. France
  10. Slovenia
  11. Switzerland
  12. Lithuania
  13. Croatia
  14. Czech Republic
  15. Ireland
  16. Germany
  17. Belgium
  18. Denmark
  19. Netherlands
  20. Portugal

“Sweden is a pioneer in lifecycle assessment research which is critical to understand the full impact of consumer behaviour and consumption patterns,” says Caroline Bremner, head of travel at Euromonitor International.

The Euromonitor report states: “Sweden is the birthplace of the flygskam (flight shaming) movement and home to climate strike activist, Greta Thunberg. Focused on devising a sustainable tourism strategy, Sweden is working to promote rural and regional tourism in core cities.

“The country also benefits from efficient transport infrastructure and alternative forms of travel besides air to help appease flight-shaming. For sustainable lodging, Sweden serves as a role model with its award-winning Nordic eco-chic architecture and design.”

In 1995, Sweden became one of the first countries in the world to initiate a carbon tax placed on carbon-intensive fuels such as oil and natural gas, something that cut down Sweden’s dependency on fossil fuels enormously.

The country is also highly engaged with the Sustainable Development Goals and preserves its Arctic ice and permafrost to help stop climate change, aiming to achieve net zero emissions by 2045.

Germany and France also show good progress in sustainable transport and lodging, as do the likes of New Zealand, Bolivia and Canada.

“There is globally a clear change in mindset and resistance in returning to a volume-driven travel and tourism model. Instead, stakeholders are rallying together to ‘build back better’ through value creation from sustainable tourism.

“As momentum grows in the run up to COP26, consumers, travel brands, destination marketing organisations and governments continue to align to avert the climate emergency,” says Bremner.

Top ten countries for environmental sustainability in 2020

  1. Mozambique
  2. Croatia
  3. Tanzania
  4. Cambodia
  5. Cameroon
  6. Costa Rica
  7. Latvia
  8. Austria
  9. Fiji
  10. Colombia

One of many major challenges for the travel industry is making its consumption of resources, such as water, sustainable. The report states: “Tourism is a heavy user of precious resources such as water for bathrooms, pools, golf courses and spas, leading to water supply and management challenges that can lead to conflict with local communities over resources.

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