In every issue, The LINK checks in with an interesting professional from one of our Member companies. This time we caught up with Ami Hovstadius, newly appointed Country Manager for VisitSweden UK who recently moved to London.
Ami Hovstadius has worked with VisitSweden for the past five years, both in Sweden and worldwide, and she recently accepted the position as Country Manager for VisitSweden UK. Stationed here for only a few weeks, she took the opportunity for a quick chat between meetings in her busy schedule, to share her views with The LINK on her work and on Sweden as a top travel destination for Brits.
“There is great potential for Sweden in London in particular” Ami says. According to her there is an attraction in Brand Sweden as well as an interest in experiencing the Swedish lifestyle. The greatest challenge for VisitSweden is to make sure this positive picture of Sweden turns into action so that flights actually are booked by tourists and not just thought of for the future.
Ami started working for VisitSweden as a Global Project Manager for the Swedish Food Communication Strategy, after making a career within International Marketing and Branding at Microsoft. When Ami got the opportunity to re-brand Sweden as a culinary destination on behalf of the former Government she could not say no. The task was to develop Sweden into a top gastronomic destination in the eyes of the rest of the world. This focus has led to the continuous work with VisitSweden UK in London, promoting Sweden’s food culture among Brits.
But what is really so special about Sweden?
Sweden is currently offering what the world is demanding. As a package, Sweden is sustainable, has a great welfare system and is known for providing a well-balanced life style. Sweden is often portrayed as an idyllic country in media and this is what people want to experience.
Sweden generally has a positive image in the UK and is perceived as a beautiful country with a close connection to nature as well as a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. It is also known to be a modern, open and progressive country with new innovative thinking and freedom of speech. Many Swedish brands are well known like IKEA, Volvo and ABBA, also contributing to the positive perception of Sweden.
Despite the idyllic picture generated of Sweden, and the Nordics in general, the darker side also attracts tourism. Nordic Noir and series like ‘Bron’ (The Bridge) attract tourists every year. For those interested to experience the sets and regions that appear in ‘Bron’, there are Swedish fans who are willing to share their best destination to other travelling fans.
You were recently nominated in the British LGBT Awards where Stockholm won as a top destination. Congratulations! Why do you think Stockholm won?
“Thank you! Stockholm was voted ‘Destination of the Year 2015’ and is known as an attractive and interesting destination for LGBT travellers as it is open, gay-welcoming, exciting, cultured, trendy, feminist, social, delicious and fun. The annual Pride celebrations are famous worldwide and also attract a lot of travellers. VisitSweden has worked for three years with this segment, increasing awareness by hosting numerous events which seems to have given results.”
What does the future hold for VisitSweden?
“Our work right now is to focus towards value driven communication. We are forming a strategy to build the image of an attractive lifestyle destination, compared to a traditional travel destination. In the UK we see a huge interest in the way we live in Sweden, our close connection to nature and our open minds for new ideas and creativity. We will promote our lifestyle through people, passion and stories. We will also continue to promote the culinary side of Sweden. And the plan is to increase the number of UK visitors bed nights from today’s number of 667 379. Last year we noted an increase of 11.2% overall.”
The interest for the Swedish life style has led to new concepts of tourism. The concept “A Slice of Sweden” invites tourists to take part in Swedish everyday life by having a dinner in a traditional Swedish summer house with a typical Swedish family or having a ‘fika’ in the home of a trendy urban Swedish couple. The idea of regular tourism is repackaged to fit the perception of Sweden in the eyes of Brits, which is also one of the exciting challenges about the work that VisitSweden is undertaking today.