The Icelandic tourism industry needs to bring in seven to nine thousand foreign workers this year and the next, in order to be able to handle the predicted number of tourists, says the director of the Icelandic Tourism Association. RÚV reports.
Isavia published a passenger forecast yesterday, showing a faster increase than was expected in February, and it is now expected that 5.7 million passengers will pass through this year. It could prove difficult to book a rental car and accommodation during the high season.
Kristófer Oliversson, chairman of FHG (the Icelandic Association of Hotel operations and Accommodation Services), says that the lack of cooks and waiters was to be expected. Many were forced to leave the industry during the pandemic. He says that although the industry is doing better now, it will take some more time for it to fully recover, as it was one of the industries most affected.
Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, executive director of the Icelandic Tourism Association says: “A lot of people who were employed in tourism before the pandemic have left the industry, about 9,000 people at the end of 2021 were gone compared to 2019, half of them Icelanders and half from abroad”.
He says that although it is good news that the outlook for the season is better than expected, it could mean that tourists will have diminished access to the services that they might want, and that is the problem. It therefore doesn’t seem feasible to receive all the people who would like to come here.
In addition to the lack of staff in hospitality, there is also a lack of tour guides. According to figures from Statistics Iceland, the number of employees related to tourism was over 33,000 prior to the pandemic, and decreased sharply afterwards. Unsurprisingly, unemployment rose alongside it. Jóhannes Þór says that the staff adjusted to the pandemic and do not intend to return to the industry, especially the Icelandic workers. Therefore, more foreign staff need to be hired, which will also mean more training costs.
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