The image of Scandinavia has long been one of healthy and clean living with a progressive attitude towards environmental concerns. If further proof were needed, the Swedish capital Stockholm was earlier this year awarded the honour of becoming Europe's first Green Capital, an award conceived by the European Commission. According to the Commission, Stockholm was chosen because it has an outstanding and long historical track record of integrated urban management, confirmed by its C&I offerings across the city.
Getting there and around: Stockholm-Arlanda airport is among the world's leading sustainable airports, and was the world's first airport to be accredited the highest level in an European programme that grades climate change impact. There is environmentally friendly transport from the airport to the city centre, with the Arlanda Express high-speed train. Even the eco-labelled airport shuttles (bio-gas and ethanol buses) will be free of fossil fuels by the end of the year. Almost 50 per cent of the city's taxis are eco-friendly. Stockholm has more than 760km of cycle lanes, together with a community bicycle programme that supports 1,000 bikes for public hire.
Where to stay: According to the city's Tourist Board, Stockholm has the highest concentration of eco-labelled hotels in the world. Leading the way is the budget, mid-range Scandic chain with all of its 18 hotels in Stockholm carrying the Scandinavian ecological stamp of approval, known as 'The Swan'. Scandic is the first Nordic hotel chain to implement property-wide sustainability programmes, and all hotel staff undergo specific training. Other major hotels in the city that are ecologically certified are the Radisson hotels, the Sheraton Stockholm, the Hilton hotels and several Choice hotels.
Where to meet: Many meeting venues in Stockholm are eco-labelled and either climate or carbon neutral, if not both. Kistamassan, a centrally located 4,500-capacity exhibition hall, has a number of solutions for saving energy, including fast-closing doors in the exhibition hall, energy-saving lamps and reduced light during setup and breakdown. Meanwhile, at Stockholmsmassan - the Stockholm International Fairs venue, the main halls, which have 55,000m2 of exhibition space, offer ecological catering as part of the programme. The most sustainable venue will soon be the Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre, opening in 2011. It will be built partly from recycled material and will have solar cells on the roof.
Incentive options: Stockholm boasts a large number of low-impact incentive activities that take place in the centre of the city, including running, kayaking, swimming, fishing, biking and skating. One of the most popular are the Strommagruppen boat trips, which take place on the clean waters of the archipelago. Skansen is the oldest outdoor museum in the world and is part of the city's national park. For groups that want to dine in good conscience, Kulturhuset has eco-labelled restaurants, notably at Ekoteket.
Contact: Gabriel Dorch
Tel: 020 7870 5609
UPDATE: CONFERENCE CENTRES AND HOTELS
February 2011 will see Stockholm inaugurate a new conference venue in the downtown area. The Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre, with a 3,000-delegate capacity, will be complemented by a new 418-room Radisson Blu hotel. Both will be linked directly by train to the central station in the Swedish capital. The Stockholm Exhibition and Congress Center has also expanded the capacity of its exhibition halls. The extension creates a further 10,000m2, which gives exhibitors a total exhibition area of almost 70,000m2.
On the hotel front, the Lydmar Hotel is a stylish, 46-room hotel with views of the Royal Palace that has added to the city's boutique portfolio. The chic, hi-tech Story Hotel also opened last year, an 82-room property that futuristically emails you an access code before your arrival, while Hotel Skeppsholmen, a member of Design Hotels, has opened on the eponymous island and has 81 rooms in a building dating back to 1699.
During 2010, Stockholm will have opened more than 1,000 new hotel rooms. The Courtyard Stockholm Kungsholmen will be the first of 15 properties that the global chain plans to open over successive years, with 278 guest rooms and 12 meeting spaces.
The Elite Hotel Marina Tower will open in a dramatic and original waterfront location. Housed in a beautiful old mill, the property will have 186 rooms and a conference capacity of up to 900 people. The five-star, 201-room Nobis Hotel Stockholm will also open in a prime spot on Norrmalmstorg square right in the heart of Stockholm. Two new Scandic properties (Scandic Stockholm and Scandic Victoria Tower) will add to the chain's already notable presence in 2011, and add substantially to the city's total room numbers.
Outside of the capital, in Gothenberg, the Salt & Sill floating hotel has opened a novel incentive activity - a floating sauna. Built over two floors on a catamaran, the top floor can be used as a relaxation area, conference room, wedding suite or exhibition hall. The sauna offers memorable overnight stays in a secluded bay where guests can relax in the Jacuzzi in peaceful isolation.
Access to the city is also improving, with a new Easyjet route from Gatwick to Gothenburg. The low-fare carrier launched daily flights to Sweden's west coast in September.
CORPORATE LOWDOWN – Justsearch
Paul Yates, managing director of Justsearch, a search engine optimisation company
- How would you characterise Stockholm as a destination for UK corporate groups to visit?
The city is full of vibrant individuals, from both creative and financial backgrounds. The architecture and cleanliness on view particularly stands out, which in my opinion makes Stockholm a superior city, compared to numerous other capitals.
- What kind of corporate events have you attended?
I have been to several media parties and PR-led promotional events, some of which were hosted by Google. The most memorable were ones held at venues Cafe Opera and Scandic Anglais.
- Which are some of your favourite hotels?
The Lydmar is by far the best hotel in the city. The atmosphere in the restaurant is fabulous and the rooms are unique - modern and understated, but luxurious at the same time. The reception from the staff is always warm and hospitable.
- Have you used any good restaurants or bars?
The Grill restaurant offers great food, the best I have eaten in Stockholm, in attractive surroundings. For more of a party atmosphere, the Scandic Anglais bar is a good drinking spot and the Cafe Opera nightclub has an electric atmosphere.
- What incentives can you recommend for groups?
Boat excursions to take in the sights are available in summer. In the winter, head north for some fantastic skiing. Both of these activities make great team-building events.
- Any insider tips for corporate visitors?
Do not drink draft beer as it is very strong. Prepare yourself for the fact that everything is quite costly, and also remember that it is customary for everyone to take lunch at noon so do not expect to carry out any business between 12 and 1pm.