The Community of Sweden was founded in 2007, and up until now remains the only online community created by a National Tourist Board. Sweden Lovers from around the world can become members of the community in order to share images, videos and stories with others, and various forums and groups provide space for discussions and the exchange of memories and ideas for future Swedish holidays.
Earlier this year, Visit Sweden announced the permanent closing down of the community, effective April 30th, 2013. Alongside the statement, members were advised to download and save all their images and information in time.
THE COMMUNITY IN FIGURES
The Community started out as a digital channel to market Sweden as a destination in a cost-effective manner to foreign travellers. Soon after its inception, it was celebrated as a great achievement and success within the tourism industry. The community gained over 50,000 members, contributing 2,113 stories, 28,436 photos and 179 groups. Visit Sweden managed to build lasting relationships with travellers worldwide and showcased a best practice way of providing spaces for travellers to share real experiences and engage with one another. A lot of the user-generated content from within the Community was also used by Visit Sweden within their website.
THE END OF A SUCCESS STORY
The decision to close down the Community of Sweden was taken by Visit Sweden as the tourist board feels that their focus should move towards social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. So far, Sweden has more than thirty sites in 10 different languages on different networks. This move is certainly proof of the power of social networks. However, it also raises the question of whether tourist boards should have communities or spaces for interactions with travellers on their websites.
The concept of having a community such as the Community of Sweden certainly was quite unique in the tourism industry. With its end, it is without doubt important to have a look at other communities and look for other industry examples of sharing and engagement sites provided by tourist boards. Can social networking sites be a replacement to communities? Should destinations stick to their social networking sites or do they need to think outside of the box and come up with something new and unique? We will certainly need to keep a close eye on future developments.
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