Iceland’s growth strategy in the tourism industry has become a benchmark for the global tourism industry. It reflects, amongst other things, the results of Iceland utilizing the opportunity that presented itself through the unexpected volcanic eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 that “shut down” Europe and Iceland for days. The tourism industry used the volcanic eruptions as an opportunity to create a global campaign called “Inspired by Iceland” that boosted the inflow of tourists, now estimated to reach 1.7 million this year, up from 500 thousand in 2010. Tourism has grown to be one of the most important industry in Iceland, generating more foreign revenue than any other industry.
Ragnheidur Elín Árnadóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Industry and Commerce, will visit the IMEX exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany, on April 19th 2016. The Minister will chair the Politicians Forum as well as take part in an open debate on topics relating to the international meetings industry. IMEX in Frankfurt, Germany, is one of the largest tourism exhibits and conferences in the global tourism industry.
“Iceland has over the past few years enjoyed growth far beyond any forecasts and the sector is expected to continue to grow. Last year 1.3 million tourists visited Iceland, a 30% increase from 2014. This year 1.7 million tourists are expected to visit the country, more than five times Iceland’s population”, said Ragnheidur ElínÁrnadóttir Minister of Industry and Commerce as she opened the IMEX Politician Forum in Frankfurt. ”This increase represents a challenge for us, as tourism has historically been very seasonal but we have been able to change that picture and attract more visitors during the off-season period and can therefore be optimistic for the future of the industry.”
The increase in the number of tourists and the growth in revenue is partly due to the award-winning Inspired by Iceland marketing campaign, where the focus has been on promoting Iceland as a destination for all seasons. Also more frequent flights and increased general interest in what Iceland has to offer during the winter season, including the Northern Lights as well as music, art and design festivals draw thousands of guests all year round to the country. Surveys show that 95% of those who visit Iceland are satisfied with their trip and 84% say they would like to return.
Iceland is primarily a nature destination, both summer and winter, but it also has a strong offering when it comes to the MICE market (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions). This market represented 7% of Iceland´s tourist market in 2015, an 11% increase from 2014. The growth of the MICE market supports the overall objectives for Icelandic tourism to even the distribution of guests throughout the year as well as to encourage higher spending levels overall. It also contributes to better utilization of resources and long term positive economic impact and growth for the destination.
Let’s meet in the middle
Iceland is well located, only 5 hours away from North America’s East Coast and 3 hours away from mainland Europe. Around 25 airlines operate from Keflavík International Airport during summer, serving over 80 destinations around the world. To put this in context, there are more weekly departures out of Iceland to North America than from the capitals of Norway, Sweden and Finland combined. This puts Iceland in a unique position when it comes to access to the country and for connecting people from all over the world in international meetings and conferences.
Tourism has played a major role in Iceland’s economic growth in recent years and generated thousands of new jobs. Today the tourism industry generates more foreign revenue than any other industry in Iceland. Iceland also ranks high on the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Index, being 18th out of 141 countries in the category “tourist services”.