Recently, Reykjavík mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson said that city council was looking into the idea of putting a cap on just how many hotels can be built downtown. No one was happier than I was to read this, but not without reservations. Namely, I don’t think the idea goes far enough.
A recent much-shared article in the Icelandic media serves to prove the point I want to make here: in the article, two tourists from the US complained that there were far too many tourists in Reykjavík, and specifically named American tourists amongst the teeming crowds. Clearly, these two tourists were amongst the Special Ones: true elites who deserve to visit Iceland far more than any of these other plebs. And if Iceland had some kind of special filter in place, letting only the Special Tourists into the country, there wouldn’t be any need for more downtown hotels.
Really, the problem solves itself once you start screening who may and may not visit Iceland. We wouldn’t want people who clearly never read about the country before visiting to feel as though they were having an inauthentic experience, after all.
Once again the nanny state is seeking to glove, bind and amputate the invisible hand of the market. Our bleeding heart mayor has caved under pressure from environmentalists and other radicals by proposing that there ought to be a limit to how many hotels one can build downtown. The mayor has it exactly backwards: downtown Reykjavík needs more hotels, not less.
As a hospitable people, we want to offer guests to our country the very best we can provide. Sure, maybe in pretty much every major city in the world you will find tourist-oriented hotels in the suburbs as well as downtown, but Iceland is a special country, and we ought to keep it that way. If, as the mayor says, it can take months or even years to approve a plot for building a hotel, clearly the solution is to make the approval process faster, possibly even automatic.
In my dream of Iceland, downtown Reykjavík is literally nothing but hotels. There, we can keep the bulk of our tourists confined to a central area while they can easily access goods and service both uptown and in the suburbs. Living downtown is a nightmare anyway, so why would anyone fight to live there? We need to exercise some common sense and let the market decide, as is right and natural.
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