Tourist visits and spending down

Globally, the number of overnight international visitors has never been higher, but Denmark is failing to cash in

It’s not quite a doom and gloom scenario, but there’s still cause for concern as Denmark struggles to bring in international visitors at a time when worldwide travel is booming.


A recent study by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) reported that there are more international travellers than ever making trips around the globe. While the economic aspect of Danish tourism is holding steady, the nation has seen a drop-off in previous years in terms of the number of visitors making trips. 


In 2012, tourists spent over $6 billion (approximately 33.8 billion kroner) in Denmark – a share of 1.3 percent of the overall dollars spent worldwide. This figure is slightly down from the $6.6 billion tourists spent in Denmark during 2011. 


“The Danish problem is the loss of market share in international tourism,” said Lise Lyck, director for the Centre of Tourism and Culture Management at Copenhagen Business School. “As the amount in dollars in 2012 is close to 2011 and as tourism in general is increasing, the loss of market share is still prevailing.”

This is where Denmark has suffered, according to the UNWTO. From 2010 to 2011, the number of tourists to Denmark fell by 15.8 percent, the sharpest drop-off throughout Europe. 


Meanwhile, the rest of the world is enjoying record growth. The number of international visitors staying abroad overnight topped the one billion mark for the first time in the report’s history, buoyed in particular by a spike in travel to the Asia/Pacific region. 


Even with Denmark’s flatlining visitor numbers, travel to Scandinavia remains healthy as a whole. Sweden topped the UNWTO list for all Nordic countries in terms of visitors and dollars spent and saw a 19 percent increase in the latter category compared to 2011. 


In March, a report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) downgraded Denmark’s attractiveness to visitors, dropping it from 16th worldwide to 21st. The WEF cited a two-pronged problem of high costs and Danish apathy towards tourists. The latter has manifested itself outside Copenhagen and hindered the nation’s efforts to sustain tourism from its largest, and most lucrative, source: Germany. Ten percent of Denmark’s overall tourism funds comes from rented vacation homes. 


“In the other four Danish regions, the tourism development has been unsatisfying with too few tourists and too low incomes from tourism,” Lyck said. “In general, Denmark is still lagging behind, and the lack of German tourists makes the development of coastal tourism problematic.”