Indeed, nature is the bedrock of VisitSweden’s headline grabbing campaign: the jaw-droppingly beautiful nature of the country and the hospitable nature of the Swedes, thanks to their freedom to roam policy.
Listing the whole country on Airbnb and inviting the world to grab a tent and camp anywhere sums up Sweden’s attitude. Of course, VisitSweden doesn’t expect everyone to rock up with a tent and stay on the borders of civilization for their whole trip, but it’s a brilliant marketing hook that encapsulates what the country has to offer.
Charged with finding a brand identity to differentiate Sweden, advertising agency Forsman & Bodenfors came up with the idea of focusing on allemansrätten. Protected by Swedish law, allemansrätten – literally, everyman’s right – is the right to access and roam freely in the Swedish countryside.
“Sustainability is a natural part of Swedes way of life,” says Jenny Kaiser, president of VisitSweden USA. Indeed, the country has even run out of rubbish, its recycling system is so efficient.
“We’re investing heavily in ecotourism, so when the agency came up with the idea to place allemansrätten on Airbnb, with Sweden as the host, we thought it was a brilliant way to differentiate Sweden on the global market, at the same time mirroring what Sweden is all about for global travellers.”
Partnering with Airbnb’s global creative team in San Francisco, California, the initiative is primarily aimed at engaging American travellers, although VisitSweden does hope to get a global response, including with its domestic market.
The campaign urges people to use the lakes as infinity pools, mountain tops as terraces and forage for mushrooms and berries. “Feel free to take a morning jog, or a bike ride across open fields or challenging mountain terrain. Should you want an upgrade, no need to ask anyone, just find the place and surroundings which suit you.”
But could this magnanimous offer end up backfiring? People may take advantage of the free to stay and roam aspect, but they may not have the same respect for the environment as the Swedes do. Could this initiative end up damaging the environment they are so proud of?
Kaiser isn’t concerned about this. VisitSweden expects its guests to be respectful, visit for five to seven days and divide their time between the cities and a guided nature experience, such as a day hike or an archipelago cruise.
“Travellers visiting Sweden are internationally experienced ones; they usually combine a big city trip with a few days or a week in nature,” explains Kaiser. “Usually they go on guided tours, or if they are really passionate about a certain activity, such as hiking, they prepare themselves and plan their trips in detail. What we hope to accomplish is to attract more travellers over time and to encourage them to leave the big city rim and visit nature.”
Kaiser adds that the campaign urges people to be respectful: “With great freedom comes responsibility. The general rule for spending time in nature is do not disturb and do not destroy, just like in any other home.”
On the Bucket list
Although the Airbnb campaign plays up the “stay for free” aspect of wild camping, Kaiser expects most visitors will stay in tourist accommodation.
“If they choose to camp for a couple of days, they are welcome. But the campaign is not aimed at free visits, but attracting new visitors and getting Sweden on people’s bucket lists.”
The campaign is part of a drive from the Swedish government and Svensk Turism, to double the value of foreign visitors spending between 2010 and 2020 and to make Sweden a first choice for a prioritised target group.
The campaign caught the media’s attention, with 550 publications writing about it, including Fortune, Condé Naste Traveler and the New York Post. It spread widely on social media.
“This initiative is one of many more to come regarding our ecotourism offer and freedom to roam,” says Kaiser. “We believe more people deserve to experience our unique country and connect with the people living here.
“Spending time in nature is good for you. As long as we treat it – and all the creatures living in it – with respect, the freedom to roam will remain and the countryside will remain accessible for future generations to enjoy.”