Icelandic Film Industry Sees 80% Growth in Ten Years

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir

The operating revenue of the Icelandic film industry has grown by 80% over the past ten years. “A giant leap in a relatively brief period of time,” the editor of the trade publication Klapptré told RÚV.

Considerable growth

In the last ten years, the Icelandic film industry has grown by ISK 15 billion ($107 million / €99 million) in operating revenues. As noted by Statistics Iceland, the operating revenue of the Icelandic film industry totalled ISK 12 billion ($85 million / €79 million) in 2012, compared to ISK 27.8 billion ($198 million / €183 million) in 2021.

Operating revenue refers to, “the total amount that a company registers to its books during the reference period and corresponds to the sale of goods or services to third parties, including export earnings.”

“A giant leap”

“There are fluctuations between years, but over a ten-year period – this is quite the leap,” Ásgrímur Sverrisson, editor of the trade journal Klapptré, told RÚV.

As noted by RÚV, the film industry is by far the largest cultural industry in Iceland today. Following closely behind is the media sector, with a turnover of approximately ISK 18 billion ($128 million / €119 million). Design and architecture have also experienced significant growth over the last decade.

The growth within the film industry is exemplified by the substantial increase in the number of operators, which now stands at nearly 800. “Just the other day, there was a general meeting of the directors’ association; before there were a few dozen directors. Today, there were around 200 people,” Ásgrímur remarked.

Besides the state’s reimbursement policy, and the efforts of employees and production companies, streaming services have also played a significant role in the growth of the Icelandic film industry: “They have certainly played their part in all of this, most notably the production of Katla, which was domestic content produced by Netflix.”

When asked if this meant that the long-awaited “summer of Icelandic film” (i.e. golden era) had finally arrived, Ásgrímur replied: “The fact is, that it has been spring, summer, autumn – and then winter, again and again.”

Staffing Shortages May Counteract Tourism Growth

tourists on perlan

A new forecast by Isavia projects that 5.7 million passengers will pass through Keflavík Airport in 2022. According to the Director of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, the tourism industry must hire between seven and nine thousand foreign workers to meet demand.

A shortage of waiters and chefs

On Wednesday, Isavia – a company that handles the operation and development of all airports in Iceland – released its 2022 passenger forecast. The forecast, the first since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, projects that the total number of passengers passing through Keflavík Airport will be 5.7 million.

Following the report’s publication, RÚV interviewed the Director of the Association of Companies in Hotel and Accommodation Services (FHG), Kristófer Óliversson, who stated that staffing shortages in the sector would mean that hotels and guesthouses would be unable to meet demand in some areas of the country. “There are always regions that are difficult and have been difficult, but we’ve seen improvement year on year. Continued development means a greater likelihood of available rooms.”

According to Kristófer, a shortage of waiters and chefs is common among associated companies, given that many have abandoned their jobs during the pandemic. Although a few have returned, new hires account for ca. 70-80% of staff today. Kristófer also observed that the tourism industry would need time to recover after the pandemic. Despite improving forecasts, the sector had been hit hardest by the pandemic.

A shortage of seven to nine thousand employees

Addressing the near future of the tourism sector, Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, Director of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, told RÚV that improving prospects were certainly good; nevertheless, conditions could arise wherein fewer travelers could secure desired services, with staffing shortages playing a significant role.

“In general, I’d say that a great many who worked in tourism before the pandemic have now left the industry: ca. 9 thousand people were gone at the end of 2021 when compared to 2019, half of them Icelandic and the other half of foreign extraction,” Jóhannes Þór observed.

Aside from a staff shortage in the restaurant sector, there are not enough guides to meet demand. As noted by RÚV, data from Statistics Iceland indicates that there were over 33 thousand employees in the tourism industry before the pandemic. This number plummeted with the onset of COVID-19, and unemployment rose. According to Jóhannes Þór, these workers have not returned to these jobs, especially Icelanders, which means more foreign employees would need to be hired with the concomitant training costs.

“If we take a broad view, I would say that to meet demand, this year and the next, we’re short between seven to nine thousand foreign workers, and that’s about two thousand more than before the pandemic.”

As noted by RÚV, the high season may also see a shortage of rental cars. Data from the Icelandic Transport Authority indicates that there are fewer rental cars in the country today when compared to before the pandemic. As dealerships have not imported enough cars, some rental companies, like Bílaleiga Akureyrar, e.g., have begun importing cars themselves to meet demand.