View Full Version : Tourists Are Destroying Our Country

Thursday, May 26th, 2016, 04:31 PM
Iceland may be beautiful, but it’s dangerously close to full. This is the message currently filtering out from the North Atlantic island as it struggles to absorb unprecedented numbers of visitors. Last year, the nation hosted 1.26 million tourists, a staggering number for a chilly island whose population barely scrapes past 330,000 citizens.

Those numbers are powered partly by a “Game of Thrones Effect” that has seen fans of the TV series flock to its shooting locations. The 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which has since become a tourist attraction, also helped to push up its profile as a vacation spot—perversely so, given that the eruption initially led to 107,000 flights across Europe being canceled. Given the rocky waters the country has been sailing through since the 2008 financial crisis, the revenue brought in by this spike in tourism is no doubt welcome. But the sheer volume of visitors to what was until recent decades a remote part of the world is still causing major stress. So how can Iceland keep welcoming people while making sure it isn’t trampled underfoot?

For one thing, there isn’t always enough space to put everyone. By January of this year, the country’s Nordic Travel Agency was already worrying that Iceland’s accommodations would be fully booked all year. In a pattern repeated across Europe, this puts a strain on residents, as accommodations that could be available to locals are rented out to tourists.

The capital city of Reykjavik, whose metro area is home to the majority of the country’s population, is building many new hotels, but is facing a set of tourism-related problems familiar to many other cities. Tourist-oriented chains are pushing out long-standing local businesses such as food shops and music venues in the city center, eroding some of the charm that helped to attract visitors in the first place. The number of Airbnb rooms has increased 124 percent in a year, and the residential character of some streets is under threat as vacation rentals proliferate there. There are now 102 flats available on Reykjavik’s main street alone.

Problems outside the capital region are more distinctively Icelandic. This is raw-boned, hardscrabble country, both thinly populated and thinly served by public amenities. That’s much of its attraction, of course—the idea of having ancient lava fields, raging waterfalls, and mossy ravines more or less to yourself. You’re far less likely to be alone nowadays, though, and many of the easier-to-access areas are groaning under the pressure of not being as unfrequented as they once were. Land at some beautiful spots is being trampled by too many feet, while basic facilities such as parking and toilets are limited. This has led to unfortunate incidents that include desperate tourists turning the graves of Iceland’s greatest poets into an impromptu bathroom. Less gross but also less forgivable are tourists who drive off-road, damaging fragile landscapes and thus partly ruining the wildernesses that they have traveled so far to witness.

This puts Icelanders in a delicate position. They want to stop tourism’s golden goose pooping all over everything, but they don’t want to wring its neck. Already some new rules clamping down on tourist accommodations are in place in a few smaller towns that are struggling to cope. The country’s tourist board is also trying to lure visitors further afield. One of Iceland’s geographic quirks is that its heart is filled by a largely impassable spread of rock and glacier, which means that you need to take the long, coastal beltway to reach the north and east from Reykjavik. Encouraging visitors to travel a little further along this road to such magical spots at the East Fjords could relieve pressure on South Iceland, whose proximity to Reykjavik is putting it under particular strain as an easy, short trip from the capital.

In addition to these little nudges, there are also tougher plans afoot. Iceland is calculating how many visitors key sites like Geysir and the geothermal spa at the Blue Lagoon can manage, and may then create caps limiting further access to the sites. The country is also considering a blanket tourist tax to be added on top of all fares to the country as a way of scraping back some money to put into better tourist infrastructure. This might deter a few budget travelers, but with Iceland’s tourist numbers expected to reach a peak of 1.3 million visitors this year, that’s arguably a price worth paying to keep the country they’re coming to see in good condition.

I keep hearing from Brits going to Iceland. I've thought about going myself, but it would appear the volume of arrivals is becoming too great.

Saturday, November 18th, 2017, 09:59 AM
Iceland once was a country of solitude. Beautiful landscape empty of crowds, clean nature, untouched places. All this has gone in the last years and it is getting worse. Within only 5 year the country has become unrecognizable in many areas.

The greedy people try to get as many tourists into the country as possible, resulting in Icelanders being outnumbered by foreign guests at any given time. Tourists do not come anymore to enjoy nature, but to set check marks on their bucket list. Many of them do not care about anything else but their own pleasure and entertainment.

All Iceland except the national parks and the road system IS PRIVATE OWNED. Even the big sightseeing spots like Seljalandsfoss or Skógarfoss and until earlier this year als Jökulsárlón. Everything right and left from the roads, even the parking lots along the Ring Road, every patch of land, fenced in or not, is owned by someone else than the government or municipality.

Tourists treat private property without any respect. They sleep in their cars in the drive of farms or even in fields, shit and piss next to their campervan rentals, steal, drive offroad, even slaughter lambs they catch from fields, enter houses (!) to "just have a look how the farm looks from the inside", throw trash out of their cars or leave it where they just had a picknick, enter fields with animals inside, feed them, touch them, open gates without closing them after them.

The situation has almost become unbearable and I could tell you stories you would not believe.

The Icelandic government has finally started to help its country and inhabitants. To protect them from the "bad guests" we receive.

- You are no longer allowed to camp outside of camping grounds in Iceland (except in uninhabited areas which are the highlands and mountain areas)
- Offroad driving (which means leaving tracks in any way) is punished with high fees
- The almannarétt (every man's right; you can pass private property to go from A to B) was cut down to you can pass private property if it is not fenced in and if it is necessary for you to pass it for your ongoing journey.

But there is much more to do to safe the country from becoming the "Mallorca of the North": crowded, dirty, spoiled.

Sunday, November 19th, 2017, 01:32 AM
This is sad and angering to learn. Where are most of these tourists from? Its long been an asset that Iceland was isolated, more easy to preserve its culture and environment because of its isolation. Its very unfortunate to learn that this is no longer the case.

A country has a duty first of all to its people and its environment (the two are closely linked), and instilling a love of the land in its people who naturally respect it. That means a people should be able to enjoy and marvel their land more than others, so its sad to see the effects of tourists making it harder for native Icelanders to see all of their beautiful country.

When I travel places, I do so as a traveler and not a tourist. Not only because I'm not interested in the tacky things that tourists like, but a difference in attitude where I respect the locals and approach a place trying to humbly learn and experience, rather than as a detached, superficial, consumer-driven tourist.

Your country did much to stem the tide of the bankers and corrupt politicians, so perhaps now taking measures to stop the massive swarms of tourists is needed too.

Sunday, November 19th, 2017, 07:44 AM
It's 2.3 million tourists this year (with 358.000 Icelanders living in Iceland), in 2010 it wasn't even 500.000.

In 2017 so far most people are Americans and Canadians due to the stop over offer from Iceland Air, then UK, then Germany, then the Asians.

Some of the stories we have to deal with

http://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/nature_and_travel/2017/09/24/tourist_risks_her_life_for_a_selfie_at_g ullfoss_wat/




http://icelandmonitor.mbl.is/news/news/2017/07/03/tourists_in_east_iceland_steal_lamb_and_ cut_its_thr/


... and the list goes on and on.

Sunday, November 19th, 2017, 02:47 PM
You missed this one: http://icelandmag.visir.is/article/chinese-roaders-forced-cover-their-tracks-hand


Sad to learn Iceland has become the new trend in mass tourism. I hear more and more people who want or did go to Iceland here as well. It was the US many years ago, then Canada, Australia and New Zealand, now it's Iceland.

Really hope it will not end up like here, the "Mallorca of the Alps", with huge "hostel villages", empty most of the year and totally crowded in winter and summer. Mass tourism is often the main source of income for the most remote areas and governments don't want to take actions against people possessing the "gold mine", so it's basically private owners, property developers and other real estate investors who finally run the show.

Sunday, November 19th, 2017, 04:10 PM
Almannarétt should not be extended to tourists.

Sunday, November 19th, 2017, 05:27 PM
We've had a freedom camper problem in New Zealand for a long while. It's hard to understand how people think leaving a turd and toilet paper on the side of the road or beach or track is acceptable. It's not as if we don't supply ample public facilities.

It has been left to local and regional councils to regulate through bylaws what can and can't be done.

Not thoroughly successful to date.

Saturday, October 27th, 2018, 02:09 PM
Iceland Is Not Overrun With Tourists, Despite What Everyone Says

by now, you've probably seen at least one photo of Iceland on your Instagram feed—could be of a glacier, those famed Northern Lights, or a lunar-looking landscape. It's been a few good years of press and attention for the island nation, to say the least. Unfortunately, the boon also comes with headlines like "Iceland Will Soon Have More American Tourists Than Actual Residents" and "Iceland Is Tired of People Just Visiting Reykjavík." Is Iceland the poster child for overtourism? Not quite. We sat down with María Reynisdóttir, tourism specialist at Iceland's Ministry of Industries and Innovation, to see what she thought about the crowds of visitors, responsible travel behavior, and Icelandic food.

How would you describe Iceland’s current state of overtourism?

I wouldn't call it overtourism. Iceland is a fairly large island. But yes, okay, Iceland has been mentioned in the context of overtourism—the main reason being since 2010, we’ve seen a 25 percent growth year on year, which is not a sustainable growth rate. It’s actually slowing down now, but the fast growth and catching up with that growth has been the focus. The fast growth has caused pressure of certain kinds, in certain areas at certain times. [Editor's note: Reynisdóttir was referring to Reykjavík, the capital city, and the Golden Circle route.] There’s far from being pressure all over Iceland. Iceland is not overrun with tourists. But we do have problems in specific areas, parts of sites, and we’ve started to focus more on visitor management and adding infrastructure and those kinds of things, and changing our marketing message to distribute visitors.
I think some people point to the stopover program, which has been going on for a number of years, as a key factor in tourism growth.

I do think the stopover program has a role to play in the tourism growth, so in a way it’s been positive in terms of helping our economy rebound after the financial crash. But the downside is that [you can stay] up to seven days, and people usually have a short timeframe and don't manage to get far from Reykjavík and where the airport is. So that means more pressure on the capital. But our surveys show that around 20 percent of passengers decision to visit Iceland because of the stopover program. So it is one of the factors, but not one of the biggest factors in the growth.

You mentioned the misconceptions. I went to Iceland four years ago in June, and went back again in June of this year. And yes, Reykjavík can be crowded at certain points, but you get out into the countryside and you go 15 minutes without seeing another car. There’s a lot of the country left to explore.

That's one of the main challenges—the regions of the east, north, and west, they’re like, Hey, we’d like more tourists! Bring them over. It’s important for regional development and we’ve seen businesses pop up [when tourists arrive]. It really does matter. We’ve been very successful at reducing seasonality. Only a few years ago, half of all visitors came between June, July, and August. Now that’s down to 35 percent. So tourism has become a year-round industry supporting year-round, full-time jobs. That’s mostly in Reykjavík, and in the east, north, south, and west you still have that seasonality curve. That’s something we want to change, but it takes time. We have a route development fund to encourage routes to the north. But it takes time to build the market.

In what ways is Iceland looking to grow tourism numbers? Or, rather, what's the current messaging?

We actually don't have any aim of growing tourism numbers—we haven't had that for years. In 2010 we had this volcanic eruption and Iceland was in the news everywhere, with the photos of dark ash and people with masks on. The message then was, "Don't be afraid of coming to Iceland." Then we were in a crisis, and bookings were going down. Then messaging changed: Iceland during winter, fall, spring. Iceland, all regions. And the latest focus is responsible travel behavior. So we’ve done different campaigns focusing on how people can travel safely and responsibly while having fun. Like I said, we don't have any tourism growth aims. But we do see seasonality and want to increase profitability of the sector and reduce impact on the environment—these kind of general aims.


You've got a hard job: It's a fine balance between wanting people to come and holding them accountable—making them be responsible.

Yes, it’s all about the balance. I think research is important and is something we’ll continue focusing on. We’ve established a new tourism research unit and they're supposed to make plans based on data so we have all that in one place. We actually have an ambitious, interesting project. We’re going to try and answer the question "How many tourists can Iceland carry?" We don’t think any kind of country has done this kind of study before. We’re done with phase one, which is developing indicators for the environment, infrastructure, economy, and society, and the tourist experience. We’ve got 60 indicators overall. The next step is to put values on those indicators and determine how stretchable they are. Out of that, we will hopefully be able to see what that magic number is.

We’re doing this for the whole of Iceland to try and get a rough idea of what the country can handle, but we also need to do this research at the site level in order to be able to apply these to crowd control techniques that we don't have today. For example, entrance to our attractions is generally free, because in Iceland, like in the Nordic cultures, it's written in law about the public's right to roam. People have a right to cross over land without any barriers or without having to pay, and we hold that very dear. But we are actually reviewing that legislation system, so third parties that want to do business on land within national parks will have to apply for a license. You need to establish some kind of model for doing research on different sites. How much change to the environment is acceptable, and when do you step over that limit? We need to establish this research model to be able to base any management decisions on this.
When is the second phase supposed to be completed?

In February. Engineering consultants put values on those indicators, and the input from this will then transfer into our new tourism strategy that will take over the current roadmap action plan that's in place until 2020. So preparations have started for a new tourism strategy. It's really exciting.

What other countries do you learn from?

New Zealand. It’s our best-practice country in many ways. Their research is very well developed, as are their visitor management techniques: the signage and all that. We've looked to Scotland in terms of skill: We launched a tourism skills and training center, which was based on the Scottish center.
All rugged islands.

Yeah, we’re looking at destinations that have similar landscapes, like Canada and Norway, as well. Norway has a interesting system to get people off the beaten track with their tourist route program. We want to start it in the north, for our Northern Coastway. It's not finished yet.

I asked you about overtourism and you were quick to correct me, which was good. So what are some things that media can do differently about covering it?

A lot of it is very positive. But it’s [the topic] evolving and I’d like to see more of that. I know it’s a challenge for media to grab people’s attention with headlines. But like I said, overtourism is a complex subject: It’s not that overtourism is everywhere—even in these cities like Venice or Barcelona, you can always find a little corner somewhere.

And I don't think the answer is to send people elsewhere.

No, not only that. You need management. I think we’re realizing it more and more. We need to decide, for each area, where do we want tourism? What type? For whom? Where do we maybe want to keep some sites untouched? Because that’s the image people have. Many people don't mind being in crowded areas—in fact, I think most of us expect a popular site will have other people in it. But many people also come to Iceland looking for a certain experience, like in the Highland with barely anyone there. There’s value in that. We’re one of the last wildernesses in Europe, and that's precious. So if you just build everywhere and distribute, distribute, distribute, you’ll end with mass tourism everywhere. Mass tourism can be fine if you concentrate it in certain areas and build proper infrastructure: good strong paths, or one way around. But then we need to keep other areas untouched for those who want that kind of experience. That’s sort of the next step.

It's easier, I'm sure, building it in as you’re going, instead of retroactively.

We’ve been playing catch up but now, that’s an important project that’s being finalized now. Each region is making a specific plan for tourism for their region. So that will be key for each local tourism authority to have a say.

If someone was coming to Iceland for seven days, what would you tell them to do?

I’d tell them to go far away from Reykjavík: I’d send them to the east, to the north, to the beautiful Westfjords. I would tell them to shop locally. I’d tell them to read up before they arrive and check Visit Iceland and Inspired by Iceland and those fun tutorials that we have on how to dress, how to drive, how to take the best photo of the Northern Lights.

Some places are must-see places and there’s a reason why. So yeah, go to the Golden Circle, but go there in evening—remember that in summer we have the midnight sun. Winter also has its charms. There's a reason why the South Coast's sites—the glacier lagoon, the black-sand beaches—are popular. But also go to Seyðisfjörður in the east for its artsy vibes. Oh, and try the new spa experiences: a beer spa in the north, and the natural hot springs where you can just swim. Wouldn't that be a good trip?
Not the Blue Lagoon?

Well, I still recommend the Blue Lagoon. That’s actually the best managed tourist site in all of Iceland. But go swimming as much as possible—the municipal pools are great, cheaper, and open until late in the evening. But the food—that’s something that surprises people a lot.
I think people think of the shark, and the hot dogs. But you have lots of good soups in Iceland—the fish soup, the lamb soup. And the doughnuts!

Oh yes, kleinur.

We don’t have those. We have Dunkin’ Donuts.

Yeah, we also have Dunkin’ Donuts now, too. [Laughs]

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.https://www.cntraveler.com/story/iceland-is-not-overrun-with-tourists-despite-what-everyone-says

Saturday, November 10th, 2018, 11:36 AM

It is. I live here. I know.
It's just not what the tourism industry wants you to know. They panic when the number of tourists go down by 0.1%. "We will all die, no money, no income, oh no, oh no" - it's tiring and disgusting to watch. Still, even now in off season, we have to close off sightseeing areas because of the massive destruction the huge amount of visitors leave behind. Even in places that are not soooo common to visit. These things just never make it into international news.

Saturday, November 10th, 2018, 11:37 AM
Destruction still going on strong: https://www.mbl.is/frettir/innlent/2018/11/09/spoladi_um_i_mosanum/?fbclid=IwAR1a2TkoIxmDiwfr18_-h6hMS87XZtdl4U6cw3Q9pLCw99P8vqB39_tIBbs