Support Skift’s Independent JournalismMake a Contribution Now
Sweden is known for many things: IKEA. Vikings. H&M. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. ABBA. And now this: the world’s very first country telephone number.
To celebrate the country’s 250th anniversary of abolishing censorship, making it the first country to do so, Sweden and the Swedish Tourist Association debuted “The Swedish Number.” Now anyone around the world can call +46771 793 336 (+46771 Sweden) and speak to a local Swede about pretty much anything, ranging from the Northern Lights to how to put together your IKEA furniture, and everything else in between.
Since the launch of The Swedish Number on April 6, a little more than 2,300 calls have been made, and the top five countries calling in to speak to a local Swede are: Turkey (68 percent); the U.S. (20 percent); U.K. (6 percent); Germany (2 percent); and Austria (2 percent).
How It Works
Basically, anyone with a phone can dial the number and will be connected to a random Swede who has signed up to be a part of this program. It’s an easy, and more personable way for potential visitors to Sweden to speak with actual locals who will act as country ambassadors, introducing callers to Swedish culture and customs. Think of it as a sort of Chat Roulette, except that you’re connected to a random Swedish local and you’re chatting by phone instead of online.
To pull this off, the Swedish Tourist Association created one of the world’s largest switchboards to support any and all incoming calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Local ambassadors can register on a cloud-based contact center that connects all the calls, and the switchboard was designed to randomly choose one of the locals for each call that comes in. Calls, however, may not go through to anyone at times when local Swedes are generally asleep. All calls that come in are also charged as international calls unless you use a provided local number, and thanks to the cloud-based call center, all numbers will remain private.
If you reside in the U.S., U.K., Denmark, Poland, Brazil, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Finland, and Norway, you can use a different local number to connect to The Swedish Number without incurring international call charges.
A Clever Tourism Marketing Approach
Positioning locals as tourism ambassadors is a smart move by the Swedish Tourist Association and it comes at a time when many countries, especially those in Europe, are considering tightening their borders, given the recent terrorist attacks that have taken place in Paris, Brussels, and throughout Turkey. As a marketing campaign, The Swedish Number represents an inviting, personable, and welcoming approach to tourism, and it capitalizes on travelers’ growing desires more authentic, local experiences and connections in their travels.
“In troubled times, many countries try and limit communication between people, but we want to do just the opposite,” Magnus Ling, CEO of the Swedish Tourist Association said in a statement. “So instead, we are making Sweden the first country in the world with its own phone number and giving our fellow Swedes the opportunity to answer the calls, express themselves, and share their views, whatever they might be. In doing so we want to show the real Sweden — a unique country worth visiting with the right of public access, sustainable tourism, and a rich cultural heritage. With The Swedish Number, our goal is to create more pride and knowledge about Sweden, both nationally and internationally.”