Travel And Tour World: Tell us about the tourism opportunities in Iceland right now. What type of tourism mainly Iceland offers?
Styrmir Þór Bragason: : Iceland was one of the most successful countries at eradicating coronavirus, so the government of Iceland has already opened the borders to visitors from European countries. Since the lift of the travel ban, the island has seen huge progress towards a tourism revival. The tourists have indicated they are choosing Iceland as their first post-lockdown vacation because it’s one of the safest and most remote places to visit right now.
The most popular tours at the moment are small group and private excursions. During these experiences, adventure-minded guests can choose from glacier hiking, trekking, snowmobiling, and even scuba diving. More independent travelers prefer self-drive tours where they can tour the entire island on the famous Ring Road.
The major season for Iceland tourism is June 1, when non-Schengen countries will be allowed to enter the country.
Travel And Tour World: What are the marketing strategies you have undertaken to boost the tourism sector in post COVID-19 time? How will you embrace the “new normal”?
Styrmir Þór Bragason: We have focused more on what’s inherent to Iceland. Iceland attracts tourists with remote nature, wide-open spaces, and the lowest population density in Europe. We want to tap into the appeal of the country’s beautiful wilderness that offers endless natural attractions people can enjoy away from crowds.
We really care about travellers’ safety. We understand this might be a concern for a moment, so we provide them with detailed and accurate information so they can plan their future travel with confidence. Not only we provide the information, but we also decided to cover the cost of COVID-19 tests for all our guests, in an effort to support our clients during this time.
Travel And Tour World: We all know that COVID-19 created a huge loss in hotel, airline and tourism business. What are the losses Iceland have incurred till now due to coronavirus?
Styrmir Þór Bragason: Like other tourism-based countries, Iceland took a big economic hit. According to the latest data, revenue from foreign tourists declined by 28% this year, which is the biggest drop since the tourism boom in 2011.
Icelandair, the country’s main carrier, was also pushed into a severe financial crisis during the pandemic. Luckily, the airline is recovering and plans to run flights to 11 destinations this year. The new routes include flights to Copenhagen, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Zürich, Amsterdam, Paris, Oslo, London, Stockholm and Boston.
While the crisis has been hard on business, we are more than happy to see how local communities are pushing through these turbulent times and have no doubt the reopened borders will have a positive result.
Travel And Tour World: What are the plans Iceland Tourism Board have taken to boost MICE tourism economy in Iceland?
Styrmir Þór Bragason: Ensuring safety will be the top priority in post-pandemic MICE tourism. Icelandic authorities will do whatever it takes to protect the progress made in controlling the pandemic. Additionally, the country is working hard to ensure there are more incoming flights with good connections from key destinations in Europe and elsewhere.
Travel And Tour World: Right now, what is your target market to boost tourism?
Styrmir Þór Bragason: Due to the drastic and ongoing changes to tourism, we’re experimenting with different markets. We’ve already seen a significant increase in bookings by American tourists. However, they will need to wait at least until July to visit the country. Currently, the European market is the closest and easiest to reach, so we have our sights set here. Most of the European countries are reopening their borders for tourists, promising to create easier travel between neighboring countries, including Iceland.
Travel And Tour World: How will Iceland create demand in tourism market in the world?
Styrmir Þór Bragason: Iceland has already made a name for itself on the global stage for the successful management of the coronavirus crisis. Now the nation is capitalizing on this momentum and calling attention to its other qualities, such as its low population density and safety ranking. Iceland is one of the first countries to offer on-site COVID-19 tests in the airport and plans on continuing these measures to ensure the safety of both tourists and locals.
Travel And Tour World: What are the safety and hygiene protocols plans Iceland Tourism Board taken to reopen leisure tourism? Tell us about the safety and hygiene protocols tourism agents and hotel industry.
Styrmir Þór Bragason: The country takes hygiene and cleanliness standards very seriously. Both tourism agents and hotels are required to follow strict guidelines and recommendations mandated by local authorities. Regular protocols include additional cleaning on frequently touched surfaces, disinfection of rooms after guests depart, and before the next guests arrive, as well as ensuring the supply of hand sanitizers in all public areas.