photo by author
Having many warm memories of my visit to Iceland I was interested to recently read just how big tourism to this Nordic nation has become.
According to figures from Statistics Iceland the share of tourism in Iceland’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) doubled from 3.3% in 2010 to 6.7% in 2015, the last year for which the government department has final figures. A leading Icelandic financial institution, Landsbankinn bank, has estimated the 2016 tourism percentage of GDP at 8.2%. Despite the dramatic growth of tourism it ranks as the fifth biggest industry behind others including fishing and fish processing, manufacturing and social work.
In terms of international arrivals in 2009 Iceland welcomed 464,000 tourists, a number dwarfed by the 2016 count of nearly 1.8 million however there’s some evidence the numbers have started to plateau based on overnight hotel stays in July 2017 compared to the same month the year prior. To put those numbers into some perspective remember that Iceland’s population is only 330,000 and are easily outnumbered by the annual number of Canadian visitors alone.
The current tourism boom started in 2010 when the volcano nobody except Icelanders can pronounce Eyjafjallajökull erupted shutting down transatlantic travel and focusing the world’s attention on Iceland. Turning adversity into an advantage the country’s tourism bureau promoted the wildness of the country and rather than reacting negatively the waiting world responded with interest and has beat a mass tourism path to the country’s door every since.
The country’s tourist board has launched a brand new video campaign having some fun with Iceland’s notoriously difficult-to-learn language dubbing their song “The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World”.
Any travellers contemplating a visit to Iceland should plan it well in advance, especially for the peak Summer season between June – September when hotel occupancy rates run 92% keeping nightly rates high.