Iceland struggling with major influx of tourists

Published on : Tuesday, December 19, 2017

IcelandWith Iceland poised to welcome 2.3 million visitors by the end of this year, tourists in Iceland will soon exceed the national population by seven to one.

The expanding industry, which is now Iceland’s second largest after its wholesale and retail sectors, has raised concerns over the sustainability of such rapid growth.

With just 340,000 residents spread across a 40,000 square miles, Iceland has witnessed an exponential rise in the number of visitors in recent years, sparked by appearances of its otherworldly landscape in the ever-popular Game of Thrones television series and various Hollywood blockbuster films from Star Wars to Interstellar.

The meteoric rise of tourism in the small Nordic country has prompted the Icelandic government to consider introducing a series of measures to limit arrivals, including a imposing a “nature tax” on tourists to help preserve the country’s raw beauty.

Since 2010 the number of tourists visiting has nearly quadrupled to around 1.8 million tourists, with the number of overnight stays amounting to a total of 7.8 million in 2016.


While the number of visitors from Australia is still relatively low, Traveller’s readers voted Iceland their 6th favourite country in our ‘Destination of the Decade’ survey, tied with the US.

Last year, critics warned Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, was “becoming Disneyland”, as the number of US tourists alone (around 415,200) surpassed the country’s population.

“This sector is maturing and becoming a real industry in Iceland, and with that of course come challenges that we need to be ready to tackle,” Thordis Kolbrun R. Gylfadottir, the country’s tourism minister said.


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