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Iceland Tourism

Appointment of Iceland’s new tourism director slap in the face, critics say

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Stefan Helgi Valsson  Jan 10, 2008

REYKJAVIK, Iceland (eTN) – The appointment of a new tourism director for Iceland is drawing more criticism than praise.

“The new director of tourism in Iceland has neither professional education nor significant experience of the nuts and bolts in the industry,” said Bjarnheidur Hallsdottir, spokesperson for the Association of University Educated Tourism Professionals in Iceland.

This comment comes in the wake of the five-year appointment of biologist Olof Yrr Atladottir, 39, as Iceland’s new director of tourism at the beginning of the year.

“The appointment of a biologist as the new director of tourism is a slap in the face of the many people who have university degrees in tourism and specialization in the field,” said Hallsdottir.

Fifty applied for the position at the end of 2007 after former director of tourism, Magnus Oddsson, announced his resignation from the Iceland Tourism Board after an 18-year stint.

“The appointment is in stark contrast of tourism development in Iceland in recent years and out of sync with the needs of the sector,” said Hallsdottir. “The message to society is that professional education is not required in tourism and that everyone and anyone can do the job properly.”

Former CEO of Icelandair, Jon Karl Olafsson, and current chairperson of the Iceland Tour Operator’s Association has publicly questioned the appointment.

Industry and Tourism Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson, who himself is also a biologist, is responsible for the appointment. He explained that Atladottir has recently completed MPA degree in public administration and focusing in part on change management.

Skarphedinsson said he is planning to make significant changes at the Iceland Tourism Board, which he would like Atladottir to lead. “Clearer mentioning of the change management should have been stipulated in the advertisement for the position - if that was to be the main function of the incumbent,” said Hallsdottir.

Hallsdottir contends the minister’s argument for his decision. “University-educated tourism professionals know about urgent management issues in the industry. Their motivation for applying for this position in the first place was indeed to manage change based on professional qualifications and knowledge.”

Appointment of Iceland’s new tourism director slap in the face, critics say
Iceland's newly appointed tourism director, Olof Yrr Atladottir

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