2016: The Top Tourism Stories - The Reykjavik Grapevine

2016: The Top Tourism Stories

Published January 12, 2017

Photos by
Art Bicnick

We all had a nice year, right?

Even though there are plenty of people happy to see this year come to an end, not all the news of the past year was necessarily bad. Political upheaval was a dominant theme in Iceland, but what attracted readers from outside Iceland spanned a wide range. So join us on a magical journey through last year’s headlines.


The top tourism stories of 2016

Now that tourism has become the backbone of our economy, both tourism and tourists alike have been prominent in the news. This year, there were virtually no stories about tourists pooping outdoors (even if, as far as we know, the dearth of public toilets at tourist spots has not been rectified), but there were signs that the tourism bubble is straining against its seams.

The beautiful black-sand beach of Reynisfjara became synonymous with folly, a lack of vision or preparation regarding tourism, and death. This beach, known for its sinister “sneaker waves” that come out of nowhere, and its powerful undertow, claimed a couple lives and put others in great danger. Icelanders were quick to point out that there were no clear warning signs at the beach advising people to avoid going near the water. This has since been addressed, and we haven’t heard about any other drownings since. The sheer number of tourists has also been a preoccupation, and with good reason: about five times the total population of the country visited Iceland this year, and American tourists alone outnumbered Icelanders. Not that more tourists necessarily means more revenue, either—as a recent economic forecast from Landsbanki pointed out, while tourist numbers will increase, revenue generated from tourism will sharply fall over the next three years. As such, it may be that our chance to cash in on the tourism bubble, and use that money to improve our infrastructure so we can actually accommodate them, may have come and gone. As adorable as the Icelandic horse is, at least one Icelandic horse farmer has become fed up with tour buses disembarking at his property, and letting tourists pet and feed his horses. As this can give horses considerable health problems, the best policy to operate under when it comes to Icelandic horses is “look, don’t touch.” In less ominous news, it has come to light that the traffic roundabout is the bane of tourists in Iceland. This is largely due to the fact that in Iceland, the inside ring has the right of way, which is counterintuitive to many around the world. Although Icelanders abide this in order to prevent people from getting trapped in the middle of a roundabout, ‘National Lampoon’s European Vacation’ style, it’s not even a part of our traffic laws, so the confusion is certainly understandable. Ask your rental service about local traffic laws and customs—it could save your life!


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