A member of parliament has argued that there are already too many tourists in Iceland, preventing Icelanders from getting seats at cafés and “disturbing” the experience of visiting Gullfoss and Geysir.
Tourism is a growing industry in Iceland. Over 600,000 tourists visited the country last year, and that number is expected to rise. Páll Asgeir Ásgeirsson, the chairman of the Iceland Touring Association, told radio station Rás 2 last year that he believes the time has come to place surcharges or entrance fees on some of Iceland’s more popular settings of natural beauty, such places as Þingvellir, Landmannalaugar, and Vatnajökull. Such charges would help fund the maintenance and upkeep of these places as foot traffic grows.
Þór Saari, an MP for The Movement, spoke on the radio show Reykjavík Síðdegis yesterday, expressing his concerns over what he sees as an overabundance of tourists in Iceland already. Þór contends that the tourist industry’s plans to continuously increase the number of visitors to Iceland will not work, as the country is too small to accommodate them all.
“Icelanders who go downtown to their cafés, which they’ve maybe done for years, can’t get in because they’re all full of tourists,” he said. “Tourism robs us of the environment that we live in and grew up in. We can’t go to Þingvellir anymore and enjoy standing on a ridge looking at the scenery. We can’t go to Gullfoss and Geysir anymore and enjoy it because there are thousands of foreigners there, disturbing you in your own country.”
Þór compared today’s tourist industry to the way heavy industry was once handled in the past – Iceland putting all its economic hopes into one field, and overloading it. He added that other members of parliament agreed with him, although he did not mention who they were.
“There is the sentiment among members of parliament that there are too many tourists and we need to do something about it,” he said, but claimed many were afraid of going up against the tourist industry. Amongst themselves, he claims, MPs do believe there are too many tourists, but they do not know what, exactly, to do about it.