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Tourism digest: positive and negative

26.09.2019 - 14:38
Mynd með færslu
 Mynd: Vilhjálmur Þór Guðmundsson - RÚV
This summer was the third busiest ever for the Icelandic tourism industry, one report states, while tourist numbers will increase three-to-five percent in the next two years, another predicts.

Digesting this summer 

Only two summers have seen more foreign tourists visit Iceland than this year, despite significant drops in the numbers of North American and British visitors. The number of Asian visitors increased, and the numbers from central and southern Europe were roughly the same as last summer, according to tourist board figures released this week.  

The most numerous visitors were American nationals again this summer. Despite their numbers dropping 35.7 percent between years, there were still 188,552 tourists from the USA. The second-biggest group was from Germany: 57,148 visitors, down 2.8 percent since last summer. 

Overall, tourists spent an average of 7.8 nights in Iceland this summer, which is longer than last summer. Visitors from central and southern Europe tended to stay the longest. 

The number of Russian visitors was up 33.5 percent between summers, while the number of Indian visitors was up 12.4 percent, and those from China by 11.5 percent. 

89 percent of tourists visited the capital region. 81 percent visited South Iceland. 38 percent visited East Iceland. 16 percent visited the Westfjords. 61 percent visited Reykjanes. 57 percent visited West Iceland. And 42 percent visited North Iceland. 

Looking to the next years 

The number of visitors to Iceland will go up by three-to-five percent in the coming two years, according to a new forecast from Landsbankinn. 

While the number of tourists this year is lower than last year, visitors are generally staying longer and spending more. The Icelandic tourism industry is more sustainable now than it was one or two years ago, according to the president of Icelandair. 

Landsbankinn held a short conference on the near future of tourism and aviation yesterday morning at which the bank presented the new report from its economics department. 

“The main conclusion was that the shock following the fall of WOW air was maybe smaller than people feared,” said Daníel Svavarsson, the head of the economics department. “The reduction in the number of tourists was generally in line with what we were expecting. But what lessened the blow considerably is, on the one hand that tourists are spending more per person, and on the other that they are staying a little longer. This is weighing quite measurably against and is lessening the shock to the industry.” 

Daníel also says the reduction is affecting unregistered accommodation, such as homestays, much more than traditional hotels and guesthouses, which he describes as something of a defensive victory for the established providers. 

When it comes to next year, the principal question marks are overseas, and include Brexit, the global oil price, and the US-China trade war, he says. 

“We believe we have achieved balance this year and that there will be modest growth next year in the number of tourists; though much, much lower than we have been seeing in recent years. It will be in the region of three to five percent over the next two years.” 

President of Icelandair Group Bogi Nils Bogason says the outlook is very good, despite the fact that tourist numbers have dipped slightly.  

“Yes, it is a little bit like if the fishing companies were finding they were catching a little bit less but were therefore looking after fish stock a bit better. In that way, the tourism industry is looking after nature better, but is deriving the same amount of value from it. And the tourist is happier afterwards; there are not so many people in the most crowded spots, and so forth. So the situation is more sustainable than it was just one or two years ago, in my opinion,” Bogi Nils said. 

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