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Iceland: 'No we're not Disneyland'


Iceland's either enjoying or suffering a huge boom in tourism, depending on your point of view. The two most prominent to differ at the moment are Birgitta Jonsdottir, leader of the anti-establishment Pirate Party and Inga Hlín Pálsdóttir, the director of Iceland's tourism promotion agency.

Since 2010, when Iceland drew publicity by blocking world air traffic with a volcanic eruption, tourism has been booming. The popularity of Game of Thrones hasn't hurt, and neither has a free stopover policy by the country's airline. The 2010 total of 459,000 visitors has jumped to 1.5 million this year.

According to Jonsdottir, “It’s like the city is not my city any more. It’s like Disneyland downtown,” she said. Her comments came after figures show that U.S. visitors alone, this year, will outnumber the entire population of Iceland. Of course, they won't all be there at once!

Palsdottir, on the other hand, sees the growth as positive: “This year the tourism industry will be bigger than the fishing and aluminium industries combined...We still want to encourage people to stay here longer, spend more and create a year-round industry."

Her goal is to get the tourists out of Rekyjavik, and off to see other parts of the country's towns and coasts and attractions. Since nearly all visitors arrive by air at the only international airport, located just outside Rekyjavik, that may be a tough job. Nonetheless, Palsdottir isn't worried: “All destinations have to peak at some point,” she said. “And we think we will slow down in the next few years to a sustainable level.”

Photo: DrFumblefinger's view of Godafoss waterfall, Northern Iceland (where Palsdottir would like more visitors to travel)

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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Now that Rekyjavik is on the European Budget Airlines destinations list its hard to avoid a rush.

It was one of those places you wouldn't visit unless you had a business interest and an expenses account.

They're still advertising Iceland on TV, so someone must be pleased with the extra income tourism brings.

Iceland is a great destination, but it has limited tourist facilities.  The population of the entire island is about 300,000 and there aren't all that many hotel or B&B choices in smaller places.  I think the lack of infrastructure is the main problem.  They certainly have the space and ability to handle more tourists, but need to develop services for them outside Reykjavik.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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