Goteborg moves to promote visitor pass in U.S.

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GOTEBORG, Sweden -- No visitor to any Scandinavian city -- large, like Stockholm, or smaller, like Goteborg, Sweden's compact and picturesque second city -- should go without an official visitor's savings pass if available.

These "keys to the cities" usually offer clients substantial discounts, ease of access and/or free entrance at a range of attractions, dining spots, hotels and other establishments.

What's more, travel agents often stand to benefit, too, as some issuing tourism authorities -- for example, visitors bureau Goteborg & Co. here -- will pay commission on sales.

Yet tourism authorities here say they are unaware of any U.S. tour operators or travel agents selling the perk-laden Goteborg Pass.

Goteborg & Co., which doles out negotiated agent commissions on the pass -- based on volume and certain marketing requirements -- is eager to promote the product in the U.S.

The U.S. is the city's fourth-largest source market; some 47,000 Americans visited in 2002, a 5% dip from 2001, which had seen a 42% increase in U.S. arrivals.

Goteborg offers Old World charm, a maritime heritage and great value. Above, Gustaf Adolfs Torg. According to Cajsa Engstrom, director for leisure travel at Goteborg & Co., some 100,000 "pass days" were sold in 2002 (the Goteborg Pass is available in 24- and 48-hour increments).

And interest keeps growing: This year, with the same number of pass days sold by Aug. 31, Engstrom said she is "counting on a good increase."

Where and how

Engstrom attributes the increasing popularity of the pass to it being "a very favorable card, with a lot included at a low price."

The pass -- valid at 23 attractions, six restaurants, two cruise lines and more -- is priced at about $22.50 for adults and $14 for children under age 17 for 24 hours, and $37.75 for adults or $25.50 for kids for 48 hours.

Goteborg Pass holders are entitled to free admission to some of the city's top sights: the Universeum science center, which usually costs $15; the Liseberg amusement park ($7); the East Indiaman reconstructed ship ($9); the Butterfly House ($4.50); and several institutions with normal $5 admission fees, including the city's history, natural history, art, design and maritime museums.

Most attractions are within 15 minutes' walking distance of Goteborg's major hotels.

But cardholders also get free boat and bus tours; free children's meals, two-for-one specials or desserts at six local restaurants and all area McDonald's; discount-shopping vouchers; and half-price day cruises to Denmark and Norway.

Free public parking and transit rides are included, as well; clients should be advised to take advantage of free passage on Vasttrafik ferries to the scenic archipelago off Goteborg's coast.

"A half-hour tram ride from the city center and you are at the terminal for the archipelago passenger ferries," said Eng-strom. "You get free rides with the Goteborg Pass, so why not go backpacking by boat?"

Goteborg & Co. also offers the city card with its Goteborg package, which pairs the pass with overnight stays and breakfast at 36 hotels, including the Elite Plaza Hotel (see Room Key below), priced from $62 per night.

A new spa package includes hotel, breakfast, city pass and entrance to the 19th century Hagabadet municipal spa, priced from $106 per person.

Golf packages also are available, and plans are afoot for culinary packages to debut next year. However, Goteborg packages are not commissionable.

At sea, at Yule

Engstrom and her colleagues at Goteborg & Co. suggest two areas of concentration for visitors: maritime heritage and Yuletide events and attractions.

Sights linked to the sea -- many offering free entrance to pass holders -- include:

• East Indiaman: A new replica of a ship that sank in 1745.

• Paddan Boats: Tours of the city's canal system and harbor.

• Feskekorka: The "fish church," a seafood market that looks more like a chapel.

• Universeum: Sweden's largest aquarium.

• Fishing Quay: Morning fish auctions are held here Tuesdays to Fridays.

And come mid-November, Goteborg will begin its season of pre-Christmas preparation, with markets, concerts and events.

Clients should be directed to Christmas markets at the Kronhuset workshop complex (Nov. 30 to Dec. 14); the Haga neighborhood (weekends from Dec. 6 to 21); and at Tradgardsforeningen Park (Nov. 29 and 30). Longer-lasting -- but possibly less charming -- markets are held at Liseberg (Nov. 15 to Dec. 23) and the Nordstan mall (Nov. 14 to Dec. 30).

Meanwhile, julbord Christmas buffets can be sampled at the world-renowned, dockside Sjomagasinet restaurant and charming guesthouse Styrso Skaret, in the archipelago.

For more on Goteborg and the Goteborg Pass, call the Swedish Travel and Tourism Council at (212) 885-9700, or go to www.visit-sweden.com and click on "travel trade." Or, contact Goteborg & Co. at (011) 46-3 161-2500, www.goteborg.com or e-mail [email protected].

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].

Room key: Elite Plaza Hotel
Address:
Vastra Hamngatan 3, 404 22 Goteborg, Sweden
Affiliations: Elite Hotels of Sweden, Design Hotels
Phone: (011) 46-31-720-4000
Fax: (011) 46-31-720-4010
Reservations: (408) 776-2575
E-mail:[email protected]
Web:www.elite.se/eng; www.designhotels.com
General Manager: Carlo Mandini
Rates: About $214 to $2,140 per night, with breakfast and tax.
Commission: 10%
Rooms/Suites: 134/5
Facilities: Swea Hof restaurant; bar; sauna; gym.
Amenities: Mini-bar, safe, cable-TV, hairdryer, trouser press, computer outlets,free morning newspaper.
Review: A centrally located and stylishly appointed blend of two former insurance headquarters buildings, the Elite Plaza is a short stroll away from top Gothenburg attractions. On-site Swea Hof restaurant is one of the city's top dining venues, with a famed prix-fixe lunch that attracts well-heeled locals. On the downside, on a recent visit there were no porters to lug luggage to and from rooms, a hassle on uneven main floor.

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