Published on : Thursday, October 15, 2020
The Radisson BLU Saga Hotel in Reykjavik in any normal October would remain crowded with tourists. They all remain anxious to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights, business travelers in town for trade fairs, along with honeymooners all set for a touring the exotic waterfalls as well as geothermal spas. In 2020, things are way very different, of course.
“It’s surreal,” said Ingibjorg Olafsdottir, the hotel’s general manager. “It’s completely quiet.”
From March 2020, even with government support, Ms. Olafsdottir’s staff has drastically decreased from 140 to a handful of 16. With more than 200 rooms, the hotel normally has an occupancy rate of above 75 percent.
However, in September 2020, it fell to 11 percent.
“It’s been emotional,” Ms. Olafsdottir said, adding that, even after cutting down to bare-bones operations, the hotel continues to rack up debt. “But the thing is, I think everybody is in the same boat here.”
Tourism is experiencing a record slump worldwide, but many factors make Iceland mainly susceptible to the crash of this industry: isolation geographically, a small domestic population, strict measures at the border areas and an economy experiencing decade-long boom in tourism had come to depend on foreign tourists heavily. A major rise in coronavirus cases has added to the challenges of Iceland.
However, as number of visitors is pretty low, Iceland is placing itself for a major bounce back in tourism after COVID. The government is investing over $12 million in tourism infrastructure. They are improving road conditions and harbors all over the country. To keep the sector floating, the Iceland government is also investing more than $9 million in a program that will give away free travel vouchers to Icelandic citizens and residents.
In the late spring, a marketing campaign primarily aiming on domestic tourists was rolled out; an international version will be disclosed anytime soon as travel restrictions are lifted.
The government anticipates that when people will try to book their first post-pandemic flights overseas, Iceland will be their top priority.
Tags: Iceland tourism