Iceland becomes “touristsland”

Iceland’s tourism performs well in spite of local economic troubles and a global recession. Fewer groups but more individuals are coming to Iceland this year than last year. Hoteliers, car-rental companies, tour operators and tourist guides vouch for this trend.

The historically strong tour group market seems to have stagnated, while more and more people opt for the freedom of using a rental car.

Package tour sales, marred by the long negotiation and sales process, have declined. Tour group package prices for summer 2009 are higher than consumers expect to pay considering near 50 percent devaluation of the local currency (ISK) in October last year.

Individuals take advantage of the current discounted prices on meals and accommodation and make up for the absence of groups. Also, they are keen shoppers. Shopkeepers and tax refund companies have reported up to 50 percent increase in sales since the devaluation of the local currency.

This year 1.2 percent more tourists visited Iceland in July than last year according to the Icelandic Tourism Board. Although statistics for the first seven months of the year reflect a 1.7 percent decline in terms of numbers the result is very positive, especially when compared to competing destinations in Europe.

Last year a record 500,000 tourists visited Iceland – a record likely to be repeated this year.