Big Expansions for Bíldudalur Harbour

The harbour in Bíldudalur, a village with a population of just over 200 people, will be the site of considerable expansion and investment next year, RÚV reports. This news was announced by Rebekka Hilmarsdóttir, district manager of the Vesturbyggð municipality in the Westfjords, in a radio interview on Thursday.

“There’s been a great explosion of activity in the harbour,” Rebekka explained. “We’ve got both the salmon farming and the [seaweed-derived calcium supplement production], and then we’ve also had ships sailing internationally stopping over here, so there’s a real call for building up the harbour.”

Municipal documentation shows that the harbour has generated considerable revenue over the years, or an estimated ISK 155 million ($1.3m/€1.2m). Once wages are deducted, harbour operations are expected to increase upwards of ISK 33 million ($283,000/€248,000) next year. This increase in revenue is attributed to local aquaculture, as well as cruise ship landings in Patreksfjörður and the Samskip cargo company’s operations in and out of Bíldudalur.

According to a survey conducted by the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities, fishing fees in Vesturbyggð harbours increased 32.2 percent between 2008 and 2017, which is one of the greatest increases of the kind in the country. The increase in activities in Bíldudalur is ultimately expected to generate 50% more full-time equivalent positions.

Among the primary improvements that the municipality will be investing in is road repairs, says Rebekka. “One of the big projects in the coming years is going to be establishing a proper connection to the outside world,” she said, including road construction in the area of Gufudalur district.

Gray Line Downsizes Due to Tourism Downturn

tour buses

Gray Line, one of the biggest bus companies in the country, has reduced its staff by 32 employees in the last few months and sold eight of its busses, Vísir reports. Þórir Garðarsson, the chairman of the board at Gray Line, says that this is because the Icelandic tourism industry is clearly experiencing a downturn, which he attributes to the strengthening króna and its role in decreasing foreign tourists’ spending power in Iceland.

Just over 2.2 million tourists came to Iceland last year, as compared to half a million visitors in 2011. The industry’s growth has, however, slowed in recent years. Recent earnings of bus companies such as Gray Line seem to bear this out: Frjáls verslun recently reported that five of the biggest bus companies in the country, including Gray Line, had lost a total of ISK 319 million ($2,737,257/€2,394,786) in 2017.

“All in all, we have reduced our previous staff by 32 and of those, we’ve laid off 27. We made a strategic decision in the spring to reduce our fleet and have gone down from 78 busses to 70,” said Þórir.

Þórir still remains somewhat hopeful about the outlook of the tourism sector and Gray Line by extension, saying: “…[W]e can see signs now that the purchasing power of foreign tourists is increasing, and we can see a brighter time ahead in the coming year.”