As new variants of COVID-19 emerge, recovery for the travel and tourism industry becomes less linear.
Travel bans, restrictions and new health protocols still pose challenges and the pandemic unveiled flaws and limitations in volume-driven tourism models. Instead, social and environmental values will be at the core of new strategies. As destinations around the world slowly begin to reopen while protecting local communities and preserve livelihoods, there is a growing awareness among consumers, businesses and governments for the need to prioritise not only profit but people and the planet.

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Euromonitor International developed a Sustainable Travel Index to help destinations and travel
businesses shift to more sustainable and purpose-driven tourism models. Each country was analysed across seven key pillars which make up sustainable tourism.

66.4% of consumers globally want to have a positive impact on the environment through their daily actions in 2021, according to a new report ’ Top Countries for Sustainable Tourism ’, released by global market research company Euromonitor International at ITB Berlin today.

According to the report, Scandinavia is leading by example in its engagement and progress towards sustainable travel, with Sweden ranked first, followed by Finland, Austria, Estonia, and Norway. These findings extracted from the new Sustainable Travel Index, developed by Euromonitor International, assess 99 country destinations through the lens of environmental, social and economic sustainability, country risk as well as sustainable tourism demand, transport and lodging.

Sweden is a pioneer in lifecycle assessment research which is critical to understand the full impact of consumer behaviour and consumption patterns,” analyses Caroline Bremner, head of travel at Euromonitor International. The country is highly engaged with the Sustainable Development Goals and preserves the Arctic ice and permafrost to help stop climate change, aiming to achieve net zero emissions by 2045.

Other countries also show good progress in sustainable transport and lodging. Just outside the top 20 – featuring other European countries for the most part, such as Germany and France – we find New Zealand, Bolivia and Canada.

global sustainable tourism

“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,” concludes Bremner.

Case study: Sweden — Eco-chic to perfection

Sweden tops the Sustainable Travel Index in 2020 and proves sustainability can enhance the travel experience. The country has focused on generating higher levels of value derived from tourism which has helped its economy, environment and society, leading to improvements across many pillars. The government established the framework critical to Sweden’s success to achieve the 17 SDGs, especially regarding climate action, conserving biodiversity in the Arctic and moving to a carbon-free circular economy.
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.

There is a clear change in mindset to resist 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 their desires to avert the climate emergency.
Embracing environmental and social initiatives, giving back to local communities and spearheading positive outcomes must be championed and integrated into the visitor experience to create shared value, pride, trust and loyalty. Sustainability will differentiate and elevate the experience for consumers, while driving competitive advantage and agility to guarantee long term success.


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