Tourism industry hoping for long eruption
The chair of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association says the eruption has come at an inconvenient time for the industry, as the summer peak season is still underway, and many touristic services and accommodation providers are totally booked up already. Tourism minister Lilja Alfreðsdóttir says the number of tourists visiting Iceland now is the same or higher as in 2019, before the pandemic.
“It is very desirable to visit Iceland and we are actually coming over the numbers, which is to say of guests, that we were having visit in 2019. Of course, we are prepared to some extent, but this will mean increased pressure on all touristic infrastructure. The tourism industry has been coping very well and I expect it will continue to do so, with its capable people,” the minister says.
Bjarnheiður Hallsdóttir, the chair of the tourism industry umbrella organisation, says that nearly all accommodation in the country is fully booked and that it is nearly impossible to find hire cars. More manpower is needed to deal with increased demand in all areas. There are also fewer Airbnb properties available now than before the pandemic. Many were sold during the pandemic, and a change of law just before covid that makes it hard for people to rent properties out on Airbnb for more than 90 days a year, means that market will never reach its previous capacity again, Bjarnheiður predicts.
Lilja Alfreðsdóttir says that as long as the volcanic eruption remains benign towards homes and infrastructure, it remains a valuable addition to the country’s natural appeal; adding that more tourists is naturally good for the economy.
“A lot of foreign currency earnings are coming in here in connection to this and providing us with shelter now, as we are battling inflation and the like,” Lilja says.
Bjarnheiður agrees, saying the goal of the tourism industry is to make Iceland a desirable destination all year round: “The eruption is really valuable for us going into the winter, so, of course we hope it will carry on a bit after the autumn. It’s getting lots of coverage in overseas media and is a great advert for the country.”