Too much of a good thing: Iceland weary of tourist influx

Tourism brings money to Iceland. But Icelanders seem slowly to becoming more fed up with the crowds. Is the North Atlantic island nation heading for an overdose
Though a steady stream of tourists has been a blessing for Iceland after the financial crash a decade ago, signs are emerging that local inhabitants are beginning to tire of the influx, an industry assessment said.
“We are seeing some signs that the tolerance is getting lower, especially in the most popular areas,” Helga Árnadóttir, director of the Icelandic Tourism Industry Association said.
As tourism is the North Atlantic island’s second most important industry, this is something to take seriously, she says.
“This is the biggest threat – the tolerance of the inhabitants,” Arnadottir added.
According to Árnadóttir, tourism was a lifesaver for Iceland after the severe 2008 financial and banking crisis.
Since 2010, the number of visitors has more than quadrupled in the small country of 330,000 people.
And this year, financial institution Islandsbanki forecasts around 2.3 million visitors – a healthy 30-per cent increase over 2016.
According to Islandsbanki, every fifth person in the country is a tourist during the summer months.
In September, the national statistics office counted 378,300 overnight visits, with Germans being the most frequent visitors followed by US nationals.
“Most Icelanders are still positive about tourism and understand its importance,” Árnadóttir said.
She suggests however that the industry may need to set some limits, saying that questions have to be answered as to the number of buildings in Reykjavik to be converted into hotels, the number of new restaurants to be built and the number of flats to be rented out.
“These decisions must be made by the government,” she said.
Locals complain mainly about vandalism, the introduction of entrance fees for national parks, price hikes and hotel construction sites.
And there have been weeks of discussion over the past year about the lack of public toilets that has forced tourists to take advantage of shrubbery and other public spaces when nature calls. — dpa

Theresa Muench