300,000 Tourists to Visit Ísafjörður Next Summer Via Cruise Ships

Approximately 300,000 tourists are expected to arrive in Ísafjörður via cruise ships next summer, RÚV reports. Receiving so many tourists is a “challenge,” the mayor of Ísajförður has stated, with many residents keeping entirely out of the downtown area during the busiest periods.

Mass arrivals to test infrastructure

Ísafjörður, located in Iceland’s Westfjords, is a town of roughly 3,000 residents.

Next summer, tourists – numbering ten times the town’s population – are expected to arrive in Ísafjörður via cruise ships. A total of 218 ships, carrying 245,000 passengers (excluding crew members) have announced their arrival.

During a 35-day period next summer, RÚV notes, 3,000 visitors are expected to arrive in Ísafjörður every day. “8,200 tourists are expected to arrive in town during one particular day.”

In an interview with RÚV published this morning, Arna Lára Jónsdóttir, Mayor of Ísafjörður, added the caveat that experience had shown that there were always a few cancellations. “Nonetheless, this is a record number of arrivals, which will greatly test our infrastructure. That much is clear.”

Avoid the downtown area completely

As noted in RÚV’s article, the port dues paid by cruise ships have become the main source of income for Ísafjörður harbour, which also comprises the harbours of Þingeyri, Flateyri, and Suðureyri.

(The Ísafjarðarbær municipality was founded in 1996 with the merger of six municipalities in the northern Westfjords: the districts of Þingeyri, Mýri, Mosvellir, Flateyri, Suðureyri, and Ísafjörður).

By directing traffic through these four harbours, the municipality would be able to ease the burden. “Those passengers that arrive here, go all the way to Arnarfjörður, to Dynjandi, or here into Djúpið. So we’re able to distribute the burden, so to speak,” Arna Lára observed, noting that the numerous arrivals presented an opportunity for the travel industry – although it was important not to overdo it.

“There are many residents who monitor arrivals at the harbour; they may decide to avoid the downtown area completely in the event that there are four or five cruise ships arriving.”

Arna Lára added that Ísafjörður was a fishing town and that the fishing industry needed its space: “We’ve got to strike a balance. But there are many days in Ísafjörður where we’re completely booked.”

Reykjavík City Council Approves Extensive Budgetary Measures

City of Reykjavík strike

At a meeting yesterday, Reykjavík City Council approved measures intended to save over ISK 1 billion in operational costs over the coming year, RÚV reports. Among the measures are the expansion of paid-parking zones and decreased subsidies for electric-vehicle charging stations located by apartment buildings.

92 budgetary items

At a City Council meeting yesterday, the majority submitted an amendment to Reykjavík’s 2023 budget. The amendment comprises a total of 92 items, which are expected to save over ISK 1 billion ($7.1 million / €6.7 million) over the coming year.

As noted in the meeting’s minutes, City Council deems that the measures reflect “sensible financial management,” noting that the pandemic has impacted municipalities all over the country. “The reaction is natural and befitting the occasion, serving to protect front-line services and vulnerable groups.”

Among the measures are amendments to meal purchases for preschools; reduced opening hours for youth centres (which will close at 9.45 PM as opposed to 10 PM), museums, and swimming pools (during holidays); expansion of paid parking zones; and decreased subsidies for electric-vehicle charging stations near apartment buildings; among other things.

In an interview with RÚV on Wednesday, Einar Þorsteinsson, Chair of City Council, stated that the residents would “feel these changes.” These budgetary cuts were not fun but necessary in order to improve Reykjavík’s finances.

Operational losses of over ISK 11 billion

During its meeting yesterday, the City Council also reviewed an interim financial statement for the city’s operations during the first nine months of the year. The statement revealed that the city’s “A Section” – primarily funded by taxpayer money – was operated at an ISK 11.1 billion ($7.1 million / €6.7 million) deficit.

In a press release published yesterday, City Council stated that numerous factors had impacted its finances: “A new variant of COVID-19 at the beginning of the year put temporary pressure on operations, especially on the school and welfare system. The war in Ukraine, in addition to the pandemic, led to a shortage of raw goods and slowed down production time, which has negatively impacted global markets and led to increased inflation among our trading partners. The Central Bank, owing to rising real-estate prices, high inflation, and overheating of the domestic economy, raised key interest rates; all of this has had an impact.”

As noted in a press release on the City’s interim financial statement, however, the City’s A and B sections – the “B” section includes businesses in part or whole ownership of the city, such as Reykjavík Energy (OR), Associated Icelandic Ports (Faxaflóahafnir), Sopra bs. and Strætó bs., among others – produced a surplus of ISK 6.8 billion ($48 million / €46 million).

This article was updated at 11 AM.

Strætó’s Reykjavík Night-Time Service Could Resume Next Year

Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson has proposed allocating an extra ISK 51 million ($361,000 / €343,000) of next year’s budget to the operations of Strætó (Iceland’s public bus service), RÚV reports. The increased allotment is intended to cover Strætó’s night-time bus service in Reykjavík during the weekends.

An unsuccessful trial period

In early July, Strætó announced that the Reykjavík night bus, Næturstrætó, would return to service on July 9 following a two-year hiatus in response to low demand during the pandemic. During this hiatus, many capital-area residents had called for its return, arguing that it provided an affordable and safe alternative to taxis.

During a trial run between July and October of this year, however – when the night bus departed downtown Reykjavík every hour and stopped at the capital area’s seven suburban neighbourhoods – demand once again proved wanting. As noted in a press release from Strætó in October, an average of 15 passengers travelled aboard the night bus during each trip, which amounts to approximately 300 passengers over a weekend:

“In light of this, and given the finances, Strætó’s board has agreed that continuing night-time service during the weekends, now that the trial period has concluded, cannot be justified. The service will, therefore, be discontinued.

The mayor takes a u-turn

At a city council meeting yesterday, however – roughly six weeks after Strætó announced that it would be discontinuing its night-time service – Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson proposed allocating an extra ISK 51 million ($361,000 / €343,000) of next year’s budget to cover Strætó’s night-time bus service.

As noted by RÚV, Strætó’s night-time bus service was a key campaign issue for the Progressive Party, which went on to form a majority coalition, during municipal elections last spring.