Ten Facts About Tourism in Iceland Skip to content

Ten Facts About Tourism in Iceland

With tourism at an all-time high in Iceland—more than two million visitors came last year—Kjarninn has compiled ten interesting facts about tourism in the country.

  1. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of tourists (98.7%) arrive in Iceland via Keflavík International Airport. Interestingly, however, 22 000 tourists arrived via the ferry in Seydisfjörður in East Iceland and 7 000 tourists arrived via the local airports in Akureyri, Egilsstaðir, and Reykjavík.
  2. From 2012 to 2016, growth in the Icelandic tourism industry accounted for an average of just under 50% of the country’s GDP growth.
  3. Travelers (both foreign and Icelandic) spent a total of ISK 551 billion [$4.68 billion/€3.98 billion] on accommodations, tours, meals, and transportation associated with domestic travel in 2017. Seventy percent of this spending was by foreign tourists.
  4. The Icelandic Tourist Board estimates that between ISK 90–100 billion [$840–933 million/€718–798 million] was invested in tourism and related facilities in the country, including hotels and guest houses, cars, airline operations, airports, and more. Investment in hotels is expected to slow this year, but will still remain high, particularly with the construction of a new 250-room Marriot Hotel next to Harpa in Reykjavík.
  5. Statistics Iceland estimates that 13–14% of all working individuals in the Icelandic labor market work in tourism. That comes out to 25–26 000 people, up from 17 500 people in 2012.
  6. Last year, Iceland ranked 25th (out of 135 countries) in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report. This was down from its ranking in 2015, when it placed 18th.
  7. During the first quarter of the year, 481 000 foreign tourists came to Iceland, up from 452 000 last year.
  8. Around 84% of Icelanders travelled domestically in 2017, according to a survey conducted by the Icelandic Tourist Board. Most Icelanders visited North and South Iceland and half of their trips included overnight stays. Pools and museums ranked highly among paid entertainment for Icelanders, although around a third of Icelandic travelers did not pay for any sort of recreation while traveling.
  9. More Icelanders went abroad last year than ever before, or nearly 80%. The UK was the most popular destination, followed by Spain (including the Canary Islands) and Portugal.
  10. According to a recent Gallup poll, tourists who visited Iceland last summer were less satisfied with their visit than those who visited in the summer of 2016.

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