Matt Dawson

What Iceland’s Tourism Boom Means for Travelers

What Iceland’s Tourism Boom Means for Travelers

Apr 3, 2017|Where we travelNews| by Holbrook Travel

Iceland is virtually erupting with travelers.
A 30% annual increase in visitors for the last four years has made tourism the #1 industry, surpassing fishing and aluminum production. How did this come to be and what does this mean for travelers? Jennifer Bruck and Nicole Sullivan from Holbrook’s operations team recently returned from conferences in Reykjavík, where they met with dozens of travel vendors, spent several days exploring southwestern Iceland, and saw firsthand the effects of Iceland’s economic bounceback.

 Photo by Ting W. Chang

The recent surge in travel goes back to two major events. First, the collapse of the Icelandic króna in 2008 made it a very affordable destination. Second, the volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in April 2010 created interest with dramatic pictures of this magnificent landscape. An  economic renaissance has since taken place, with GDP growing at a rate of 10 percent annually and unemployment under 3 percent. In 2016 the Icelandic króna rose for the fourth straight year, gaining 16 percent against the euro.

This is good news for Iceland, but what does it mean for travelers? Are price increases in Iceland unavoidable? Jennifer and Nicole found that in many instances, hotel prices are rising, as are the costs of guide and driver services. One hotel they visited is already booked through summer of 2018, and they found that the gap is closing between the traditional “high” and “low” seasons; Iceland is quickly becoming a year-round destination.

Photo by Daniel Knieper

Holbrook’s Iceland Offerings
The price increases don’t necessarily mean Iceland is beyond reach for the average traveler. Holbrook pre-reserved accommodations and is seeking new, alternative options for our travelers. Jennifer says travelers who are willing to get creative can still save; they can use guesthouses with shared bathrooms, make picnic lunches, or have 1-2 course meals instead of 2-3 course meals to help cut costs. Cheaper flight options from new, low-cost carriers can also help offset increases elsewhere.

Holbrook has also developed itineraries with less-visited sights. “þórsmörk is an amazing experience to get a little out of your comfort zone,” says Jennifer. “It’s secluded and doesn’t have much in the way of regular life distractions.” Kerstin Elisabet Andersson from Iceland Travel also recommends the West Fjords and the North East corner.

Price increases notwithstanding, travelers also benefit from these changes. “The economic growth has really helped the country as a whole,” Jennifer says. “One example would be that country hotels are able to grow, and can afford to build staff housing which helps keep turnover down. The infrastructure is in place and I got the impression tourism runs pretty smoothly.”

 Photo by Andreas Tille

2018 and Beyond
Jennifer’s advice is to make travel plans further in advance. Now is the time to lock in 2018 trips, but also not too early to consider 2019. Holbrook is one of the few travel providers that offers new, off-the-beaten-path itineraries that appeal to our educational and nature audiences. In addition to our “Trips to Plan” itineraries we also offer exciting “Trips to Join” where you can travel with a group on a theme-based expedition. See our website for details.