Tourism in the Nordic region: The industry of the future, facing many challenges

Thematic conference: Representatives from Nordic Union of Hotel, Restaurant, Catering and Tourism workers and its member organizations will gather in Malmö during the 4-5th of October to discuss various important issues concerning the sector and develop strategies to improve the working conditions in the sector and how to strengthen the member organizations influence at the international level. On the 4th of October we will be organizing a short conference on the Nordic tourism industry and the challenges it faces for the future.

Several reports suggest that the tourist industry will continue to grow rapidly over the next few years. Global economic growth, urbanization, lifestyle changes and an expanding middle class have resulted in an increase in international travel. We also see that people are spending money on experiences instead of capital goods and that interest in food and beverages has rocketed in recent years. In addition, an increasing number of people – especially from the Far East – are visiting the Nordic countries.

Tourism is becoming increasingly important for growth in the Nordic economies and is now one of the primary industries in the region. The tourist industry generates many new jobs, not only in the industry itself but also in other sectors. Over the next ten years, the labor force in the industry in the Nordic region is likely to grow by nearly 100,000, but the industry will remain characterized by high staff turnover.

Favorable outlook for the industry, especially for the hotel and restaurant industry in the Nordic region. The tourist industry sees particularly strong growth in Iceland and Sweden, but is also doing well in Norway, Denmark and Finland. The Nordic region has great potential to develop further as a tourist destination, but in the global perspective it faces fierce competition. The Nordic tourist industry should not seek to compete on price and volume, but should focus on adding value in order to be able to justify high prices. At the same time, it must be a world leader as regards quality, experience and competence.

Despite the positive outlook, the industry is clearly facing many new and old challenges. They must be addressed jointly by the two sides of the industry and relevant public authorities.

Tourism in the Nordic region …

  • still suffers from a poor reputation because of poor working conditions continually fighting to attract and retain skilled and qualified manpower in a scenario where only a few young people enroll in vocational training and work practice programs 
  • is characterized by high staff turnover and a limited number of people wanting to make a career in the industry 
  • is faced with an increasingly digitalized world that makes demands on the industry, for example in the form of changed product and service offerings coupled with guest and visitor demands that will change in the future 
  • must be able to meet demands in the fields of sustainable development and environmental impact 


Introductory presentations

  1. Increasing the status of and interest in vocational training - Tommy Hellström, WorldSkills Sweden 
  2. Working conditions in the tourism industry - Dimitri Ioannides & Kristina Zampoukos, ETOUR Mid Sweden University 
  3. The e-generation – tourism of the future -  Åsa Wallström, Luleå University

Panel discussions:

Malin Ackholt, President, Swedish Hotel and Restaurant Workers’ Union (HRF) 
Eva Östling, President, Visita, Sweden 
Tommy Hellström, Chair of the steering committee of EuroSkills 2016 (WorldSkills Sweden) 
Harald Wiedenhofer, General Secretary, EFFAT 
Åsa Wallström, Professor, Luleå University 
Dimitri Ioannides, Professor, Mid Sweden University, ETOUR


Tina M Madsen, President of the Nordic Union – HRCT 
Benny Wiklund, Chair of Nordic Forum


Nordisk Union
C/o 3F
Kampmannsgade 4
1790 København V

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+45 88 92 13 63
+45 88 92 13 54
[email protected]


The Nordic Union for Hotel, Restaurant, Catering and Tourism sector, is an association of unions in Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, all of which unionise workers of the HRCT industry. The member unions have all made collective agreements with employers organizations and companies in the NU HRCT.

All in all NU HRCT covers seven unions with a total of about 115,000 members.