Iceland "Being Ruined By Tourism" - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Iceland “Being Ruined By Tourism”

Published January 15, 2018

Photo by
Art Bicnick

A fairly arbitrary and unscientific listicle from MSN includes Iceland as one of 13 destinations “being ruined by tourism”.

“Reykjavik, Iceland, is a popular vacation destination, especially given recent airfare deals. However, the entire country has been overwhelmed with tourists in recent years,” the article contends. “In 2015, 1.26 million people visited Iceland, compared to the country’s population that year of approximately 330,000. In 2016, the number of American tourists alone will be greater than the number of locals. A local politician recently complained about the number of tourists, comparing the island country to Disneyland. While tourism has given the economy a much-needed boost post-recession, it’s bad news for local infrastructure (there’s construction everywhere), and it has pushed local prices sky-high.”

Most of these contentions are fairly subjective; how many tourists is “too many” is by all means a matter of opinion on the surface. It also bears mentioning that tourists have contributed positively to Iceland’s cultural life, especially its music scene.

The concerns that have arisen regarding tourism and Iceland by almost all accounts have more to do with how local and national authorities respond to tourism than tourists themselves.

For example, in an interview we conducted with geographic information systems specialist Dr. Ben Henning last year, he pointed out that a lack of any coherent policy, as well as a lack of coordination between the different actors in the tourism industry, is responsible for most of the tourism-related ills locals face.

This being the case, a more accurate description for the MSN profile would probably be that Iceland is “being ruined by a laissez-faire response to tourism”, although this is admittedly difficult to fit inside a headline.

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