Passenger numbers up 969 percent
These are among the findings of a new report by Íslandsbanki, introduced this week by the bank’s chief economist, Jón Bjarki Bentsson. Icelandic Tourist Board data show that 108,000 foreign citizens boarded flights out of Iceland in September, which was over nine-times more than in the same month last year.
Íslandsbanki predicts there will be a lot more tourists in Iceland this autumn and winter than there were last year and that there will be a total of 600,000 visitors this year—though increasing vaccination rates and appetite for travel in Europe and North America could see that figure rise to 700,000 if optimistic forecasts prove correct. Íslandsbanki predicts as many as 1.5 million tourists next year and 1.7 million in 2023—though there are significant uncertainties when looking further ahead than the end of this year.
“What will happen afterwards is subject to enormous uncertainty, but in our opinion the likelihood that the development will be below our baseline forecast has decreased somewhat recently. There is therefore a good chance of a significant increase in tourist numbers in coming years. On the other hand, it should be borne in mind that the policy of the sector and the government is more about maximising the value of each tourist, rather than increasing numbers as much as possible. We agree with that approach, as the future of Iceland as a tourist destination is probably brighter if we mark the country as a destination where quality dictates demand rather than price,” the report states.
American tourists make up 40 percent of all visitors at the moment, which is considered positive because they are among the higher-spending nationalities when visiting the country.
Hotel occupancy reached 640,000 nights in August, which was the highest rate seen in two years. Each foreign visitor stayed an average of 5.1 hotel nights this summer, compared to 4.3 in summer 2019 and 3.7 in summer 2018.
The number of foreign nationals flying out of Iceland last month was 108,267, compared to 10,126 in September 2020. The most came from the USA, then Germany. Other regular visitors were from the UK, France, Italy, and Poland. It was the busiest September at Keflavík for several years. Despite this, 2021 is still down 41 percent on 2019 so far.
29,000 Icelandic citizens flew out of Iceland in September, compared to 5,000 last year. Interestingly, though, 113,000 Icelandic nationals have flown out of the country since the New Year, which is 6.6 percent fewer than the same period last year. The first two-to-three months of last year were relatively normal travel months for Icelanders, while many have decided not to travel overseas this year.