Crisis-hit cruise industry makes record bookings
In recent years, between 100,000 and 200,000 passengers have stepped onto Icelandic soil from cruise ships docked at Skarfabakki at Reykjavík’s main port. This year, they numbered less than 1,400. The cruise industry directly and indirectly supports thousands of jobs in Iceland and their future remains very uncertain.
The Icelandic cruise industry has grown fast, and not without controversy, in recent years. 203 ships were scheduled to bring 223,000 tourists to Iceland in 2020. That did not happen.
Erna Kristjánsdóttir, the public relations head at Associated Icelandic Ports, says news of very strong bookings for next year cannot be taken as concrete just yet: “These are the aspirations of the cruise lines. They want to come, but we don’t know what or how it will be. As things stand, we have the same level of bookings as this year, but the actual numbers turned out to be very different. This year, seven ships arrived with around 1,350 passengers.”
The cruise industry contributed 16.4 billion krónur to the Icelandic economy in 2018 and Associated Icelandic Ports directly took 600 million from ship owners last year. That figure was 11 million this year—or a 99 percent decrease.
“As things stand now, there have been a lot of enquiries coming in to our shipping reps about how it will be here next summer. The situation is as it is today, and constantly changing, so we just have to adapt to the situation as it stands at any given moment. But the shipping companies have let us know that they have doctors and nurses on board and that they can carry out tests, but we don’t control that. That is up to the epidemiologists and the civil protection department to decide how it will be. However it works out, we always need to follow their instructions. We have to stay hopeful and hope for the best,” Erna says.