Iceland's tourism boom
In 2016 around 1.7 million visitors arrived in Iceland, more than triple the amount of people that visited in 2010. With an ever-growing cast of tourists in the country, Iceland’s geothermic hot pools are now amongst the must-see attractions on traveller itineraries, but nobody expected Iceland to experience such an astonishing tourism boom.
In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the value of the Icelandic currency krona plunged, and Iceland attempted to make a rapid recovery by making deliberate efforts to attract more foreign visitors to the country. This undoubtedly helped to save Iceland’s economy, which is still growing at more than 7% a year. The country is benefitting from a stable economy today with unemployment now below 3%, construction at a record high and tens of thousands of jobs created.
So, what are the reasons behind the huge growth in its tourism industry?
In recent years the world has become more aware of what Iceland has to offer with the country being featured more in the news, especially in 2016 when the country appeared in the European Championships for the first time and shocked the footballing world by reaching the quarter finals. With the explosion of social media, travellers have also drawn inspiration from the thousands of posts showcasing Iceland’s dramatic landscapes on Instagram.
Another factor has been the increasing availability of cheap airline tickets from Europe and the United States, which has steadily increased passenger numbers at Keflavik International airport.
Icelandair’s fantastic ‘buddy’ stopover scheme has been a success with passengers flying across the Atlantic having the opportunity to stop in Iceland for up to 7 days at no extra cost. By requesting a buddy, travellers have even been able to benefit from the full cultural experience.
However, with a small population of 300,000 people, there are fears that the dramatic growth in the tourist industry may eventually get out of hand. To put things into context of how much the sector has grown, the country’s most famous attraction, Blue Lagoon welcomed around 50,000 guests in its first year in 1994 and around 1.3 million visitors in 2017.
It will be interesting to see if Iceland can continue to keep up with their growing tourist industry.