Can Iceland welcome any more tourists?

Incoming tourism may have reached saturation point

Iceland’s tourism sector has been massively successful in recent years, with around 20% more visitors arriving in the country every year. But the numbers are becoming so big that many Icelanders are starting to wonder if the limit has been reached.
Last year, arrivals totalled 672,000 – twice the number that came in 2003. Attractions range from geothermal spas to beautiful national parks to dormant volcanos. The country has also been a very affordable destination since the collapse of the Icelandic krona in 2008.
“It’s a challenge to have 20% growth each year,” Oloef Yrr Atladottir, director general of the Icelandic Tourist Board, tells AFP. “Every industry would be challenged to experience such a development. Since 2011, we’ve been focusing our marketing campaigns on the off-season period.”
This has had the effect of pushing the ratio of visitors who arrive in summer to below 50%.
Atladottir adds: “Now we have to define where we want tourism to grow. […] During the high season, there are certain areas that cannot bear many more tourists.”
However, others – such as David Samuelsson, chief executive of Visit South Iceland – say that Iceland could welcome even more tourists if visitors who want to go off the beaten track are better catered for.
[pictured: Dynjandi waterfalls; courtesy Western Fjords Iceland]


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