What do Sweden’s new travel guidelines mean for tourism this summer?

What do Sweden's new travel guidelines mean for tourism this summer?
A woman cycles past empty restaurant seating in Visby on the island of Gotland, usually popular with tourists. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg / TT
In mid-June, people in Sweden have the green light to travel around the country – as long as they follow current coronavirus recommendations.

Up until now, the advice has been to avoid all non-essential travel within Sweden, although this was eased slightly in mid-May to allow for journeys of up to two hours by car.

From June 13th, the guideline will be scrapped completely for people who are healthy (not in one of the groups at high risk of serious illness from coronavirus) and symptom-free. Anyone with cold or flu symptoms, however mild, will still be required to stay at home.

And other recommendations remain in place, including maintaining good hand hygiene, keeping distance from others in public, and limiting social contacts.

In some cases this will also mean new guidelines are required to handle the increased numbers, especially in popular tourist areas.

“To avoid the spread of Covid-19 increasing, and to make sure healthcare isn't overburdened in regions, a range of measures need to be introduced quickly,” the Swedish Public Health Agency said in a statement.

In order to ensure physical distancing and prevent crowding, the agency says there should be information campaigns aimed both at local residents and travellers, and guidelines for summer activities.

“It is important for mental and physical health to be able to have a meaningful holiday. This is a decision that makes it easier for people to plan their summer without needing to think about what is or isn't a necessary trip. But I want to stress that it is still of the utmost importance that everyone follows our recommendations to stay at home with the slightest symptoms, wash hands carefully, keep distance from others and avoid crowding,” said the agency's general director Johan Carlson.

At locations like campsites, tourist sights, and restaurants which can expect increased footfall during the summer month, the agency said it expected “strengthened checks” on how the guidelines were working would be needed.

Increased testing and contact tracing across the whole country, but not least tourist hotspots, would also be a crucial part in avoiding a second peak of infection during the summer.

Photo: Anders Wiklund / TT

So what does this mean in practice?

Rail operator SJ has reminded passengers to stay home if at all unwell, keep their distance from fellow passengers, and travel at less busy times of day if possible. The company is also only opening up half their seats for booking at the moment on high speed, InterCity and night trains, a measure currently in place until at least the end of June.

If you need to sit close to your fellow passenger, for example if travelling with children, you can speak to a train attendant after boarding and should be allowed to move.

This doesn't apply to regional trains, where it is not possible to book a seat. Instead, SJ has asked that passengers travelling for leisure avoid rush hour to help ease crowding, and the company has extended the length of rush hour trains.

The Swedish Tourist Association, which operates cabin accommodation along some of Sweden's hiking trails, has made 44 of its cabins in northern Sweden available only to those who book and pay in advance. This is to ensure the company can avoid crowding and have a picture of how many people will visit at any one time.

People staying in tents will only be able to use the kitchens at certain times, guests must bring their own bedsheet and pillow case, and the company will try to ensure that only people from the same party will share rooms.

Hotel chain Scandic has also made changes, using markers to show how to keep distance by reception desks and lifts, reducing the seats in restaurants and public areas, and offering individually packaged breakfasts throughout 2020 rather than the typical buffet. Items such as notepads, pens and other loose objects have also been removed from rooms to reduce the risk of surface transmission.


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