Published on : Tuesday, June 23, 2020
Icelandic tour operators are wooing back pandemic travelers with a promotion better than any seasonal discount — free coronavirus tests. As a savvy response to the new coronavirus screening program, tourism company Arctic Adventures is trying to set a new market standard by offering to pay the ISK 15,000 ($114/€100) test fee for foreign visitors.
The latest border rules require tourists to either be tested on arrival or spend two weeks of their trip in quarantine. Test results arrive within 24 hours via the Rakning C-19 tracing app, so travelers can begin their excursions around the country.
Iceland is one of the first places to reopen its borders to tourists. Heavily reliant on tourism, the island was hit hard by pandemic travel bans, and suffered a 28% decrease in revenue from foreign visitors according to the National Statistical Institute of Iceland. The airport measures were introduced as a safe way to revive the tourism sector, but industry leaders believe test costs will have a negative effect.
Founder and CEO of Arctic Adventures, Styrmir Þór Bragason said that the cost of mandatory screenings is a burden for tourists that they want to help eliminate. The company has encouraged their fellow operators to adopt the new practice of covering costs, and some are already following suit.
“Iceland has managed the pandemic exceptionally well, and that is due to widespread testing. We are dedicated to protecting the health of our fellow citizens and visitors and testing ensures maximum safety,” he said. “Our goal is to make this process easier by covering costs and revitalize our tourism sector.”
With the announcement of reopened borders, Þór Bragason said the tour providers have received a flurry of travel inquiries, but that people still have pandemic safety concerns.
“Testing costs aside, Iceland should be an attractive destination for pandemic travelers this summer. It is one of the least densely populated countries in the world, which makes social distancing quite easy,” explained Þór Bragason.
Tour operators have made several adjustments to their offerings in anticipation of guests. Guided tours will be led in small groups to ensure a safe distancing of passengers in transport vehicles. Þór Bragason said that small groups are becoming the new standard, but that many guests are choosing to explore the remote country on their own with self-drive tours.
While there is no word yet on how long the coronavirus screening will last, the chief epidemiologist recommended continued testing at the airport for at least six months. If visitors test positive on arrival they will be asked to go into quarantine with free accommodation provided if necessary.