Nordic countries lead the way in sustainable tourism

Sweden ranked number one in latest global sustainability study

Nordic countries continue to lead the charge in the move to global sustainable tourism, with Sweden the number one ranked nation based on its engagement and progress in the space, according to a new report.

The ‘Top Countries for Sustainable Tourism – Embracing a Green Transformation for Travel Recovery’ study by Euromonitor International assessed 99 countries around the globe on 57 data indicators, across seven pillars;

  • Environmental Sustainability
  • Social Sustainability
  • Economic Sustainability
  • Risk
  • Sustainable Demand
  • Sustainable Transport, and
  • Sustainable Lodging

Three Nordic countries were in the top five – Sweden, Finland (2nd) and Norway (5th), while Iceland was ranked 7th and Denmark further down the list in 18th place.

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Lysekil, Sweden | credit: Daniel Moqvist/Unsplash

Austria and Estonia were in 3rd and 4th place respectively. (Austria was also the most improved country for Environmental Sustainability in 2020, and retained its number one rank for Social Sustainability).

“Sweden is a pioneer in lifecycle assessment research which is critical to understand the full impact of consumer behaviour and consumption patterns,” said 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.

Europe dominated the top 20 places in the Sustainable Travel Index Rankings for 2020, with other countries including Slovakia, Latvia, France, Slovenia, Switzerland, Lithunaia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Portugal.

Bolivia was the first country outside of Western Europe and Scandinavia regions, with the South American nation ranked 22nd. Bolivia was followed by New Zealand and then Canada – countries that have made good progress in the sustainable transport and lodging pillars.

Australia was ranked 29th, behind the likes of Belarus, Hungary and Romania.

The USA was 35th, the UK 40th, South Africa 46th, Japan 53rd, Hong Kong 77th and Indonesia 92nd, with India and Pakistan at the tail end of the rankings.

Saudia Arabia was the highest-ranked country for Risk in the Sustainable Travel Index, followed by Sweden, Finland, Norway and Canada. Australia was ranked 10th in this field, the same place it was positioned between 2015-2020.

Euromonitor International's 2020 Top Countries for Sustainable Tourism report
Suonenjoki, Finland | credit: Miikka Luotio/Unsplash

Australia also slipped from its number one spot for Sustainable Tourism Demand in 2020, overtaken by Iceland. Similarly, New Zealand fell to 4th, with Norway nudging ahead to 3rd.

“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,” Bremner said.

Euromonitor International’s study found that just over half of travel businesses implemented some sustainability strategy in 2020 compared to 70% of consumer packaged goods industries.

There’s also been an increase in travel companies becoming B Corporation certified.

Download the report here.

Lead image: Sisjön, Askim, Sweden | credit: Joacim Bohlander/Unsplash

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