A new forecast report (.pdf) from Íslandsbanki predicts that over a million tourists will visit Iceland this year, and that this number will continue to climb.
“About 700,000 tourists visited the country last year,” the report states. “This is about a 45% increase from 2020, but also a third of those who visited in 2019. The vast majority of tourists came from July to October, comprising about 470,000 tourists.”
Summer is traditionally a popular time to visit Iceland, but the “re-opening” of the country to tourists in late June of last year may have also had an effect. When looking to the future, the forecast predicts an even greater increase, despite the pandemic.
“The short term projections undeniably worsen with the rise of the Omicron variant in the country and elsewhere,” the report continues. “Despite this, we believe that people’s desire to travel is significant and people are traveling despite the virus. Iceland is seen as a tourist destination in the eyes of many as it is possible to travel within the country without engaging in close contact with others.”
As such, Íslandsbanki believes the number of tourists in 2022 will cross the one million mark again
“We predict from 1.1 million to 1.2 million tourists will visit the country this year,” the report states. “If this comes to pass, it will be similar to the number of tourists who visited Iceland in 2015, but about 40% fewer than visited in 2019. Next year, we predict about 1.5 million tourists will visit, and in 2024, 1.7 million.”
Their reasoning behind this forecast is based on a number of assumptions, both about the Omicron variant and the distribution of vaccines abroad.
“The development of tourism matters a great deal for economic development in the near future,” says the report. “There is definitely still uncertainty due to the new variant in the pandemic and how long it will last. On the other hand, the distribution of vaccines in the countries that comprise the greatest share of tourists to Iceland, and the milder illness caused by the Omicron variant, gives us cause to be optimistic.”
While many health experts have said the Omicron variant is milder, they are still advising extreme caution, in particular because the long term effects of the virus are still not fully understood, and it can still wreak havoc on those with vulnerable immune systems, which in turn can increase the workload of health care services.
Where vaccinations are concerned, visitors from the UK and the US comprise some of the largest tourism groups in Iceland. According to the latest data, 83.9% of the UK population aged 12 and up has had two doses, and 64.3% have received two doses and a booster. Meanwhile in the US, 64% of the population is considered fully vaccinated.
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