After letting locals run the Twitter account, VisitSweden now wants visitors to meet them
Each week a new individual would be handed the controls of @Sweden to tell the world how they felt about the country, things they were doing, tips for places to go.
The project was not without controversy, especially when one individual started sharing what most would consider to be deeply offensive views.
But, if nothing else, the project got the country lots of attention (and spawned countless copycat projects around the world).
A few months later and an American travel writer, Doug Lansky, has worked alongside tourism officials to develop Visit-A-Swede, a platform so tourists can connect with locals in the country.
Users can find a relevant local who has made their accommodation available (via Tripping/Couchsurfing) or organising an event, such as a cultural meeting or sports activity.
Lansky has created a engine (known as Travelosfy) to aggregate the results and allows users to find people or events based on their preferences for a trip, in any location around Sweden.
When a particular activity, service or individual is selected, users are sent off to the original site to either make an accommodation booking, sign up for an event, etc.
“What does every destination have that’s truly unique? The people. 150 years ago, you couldn’t travel without interacting with people.
“Now (with tourist information offices, better signage, helpful apps, etc) you barely need to interact with anyone. It’s as if the travel industry has inadvertently pulled us away from the cultural exchange that travel is supposed to have at its core.”
VisitSweden (which part-funded the site) and Lansky hope Visit-A-Swede will go some way to bringing visitors and tourists together, an inherent part of the travel experience.
“You might make dinner together, go for a jog, go birdwatching, fencing at a local fencing club, whatever it is you enjoy. It’s bound to be a more organic connection if you have at least something in common.”
It is not the first time a local tourism board has tried to tap in to the growing peer-to-peer marketplace between visitors and locals (TripBod and VisitBritain in late-2010, for example), but perhaps one of the first to develop a standalone service.
Kevin May is editor and a co-founder of Tnooz. He was previously editor of UK-based magazine Travolution for nearly four years and web editor of Media Week UK from 2003 to 2005.
He has also worked in regional newspapers (Essex Enquirer) and started his career in journalism at the Police Gazette at New Scotland Yard in London. He has a degree in criminology and a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism.