Public spending on rural tourism in Sweden
Tourism is an important part of rural policies in European countries. An increased demand for rural amenities is seen as creating a more diversified labour market and contributing to the restructuring of the economy, from primary sectors and manufacturing to a more service-oriented economy, which has been termed a “new rural economy”. As a result, and as often presented in many policy documents, tourism is now seen as a universal tool for rural development. The purpose of this study is to investigate the distribution of public spending on tourism in rural areas in Sweden. It focuses on public spending on the main programme for rural development, the Swedish rural development programme, but also on the regional structural funds programmes, from 2000 to 2013. Another subject of interest is how policy makers understand rural tourism as presented in policy documents since these documents, to a great extent, direct programme spending in terms of projects and their content. This study is based on register data on programme spending, policy documents and programme evaluation reports. Results show that a relatively small amount of total public spending targets tourism – mainly going to accommodation, activities and marketing efforts – indicating that tourism is still not a prioritised area despite policy makers’ understanding of rural tourism as expressed in policy documents. Thus, although public efforts target adequate parts of the tourism industry, they cannot be expected to contribute significantly to the restructuring of the rural economy.
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