Icelanders Flock to Tenerife to Find Sunshine, More Icelanders

It has been a particularly punishing winter in Iceland this year, but many locals have avoided the blizzards and gales entirely, or at least managed to escape it for a short while. Vísir reports that the Spanish island of Tenerife has become a home away from home for a bustling community of Icelandic expats and tourists who are eager to soak up the southerly sun.

The flight from Iceland to Tenerife takes roughly five hours, with round-trip tickets from Keflavík starting at around ISK 68,000 [$475; €443]. These flights are extremely popular with Icelanders throughout the winter months, so much so that the Icelandic electronics chain Elko started advertising, in Icelandic, in the Tenerife airport over Christmas, hoping to encourage some last-minute gift purchases.

“We set [our billboard] up in December,” said Elko marketing manager Arinbjörn Hauksson. “There’s been a lot of discussion about all these Icelanders who have been flocking to Tenerife. So we saw an opportunity on the table and secured a billboard in the best place to get traffic, take advantage of this whole stream of Icelanders who are going out there and then coming back home.”

Elko’s decision to use Icelandic in the advertisement caught locals’ eyes, and certainly got people talking, but it’s not even the first time that Icelanders have advertised in the Tenerife airport. Last April, Hildur Björnsdóttir, an Independence Party representative on the Reykjavík City Council, announced her candidacy for the upcoming council elections in the Tenerife Airport.

Two thousand Icelanders a week

Sigvaldi Kaldalón, known as Svali, the owner of Tenerife Tours, does a bustling business with tourists of all stripes, not just Icelanders. He says the overwhelming number of visitors to the island overwhelms the existing infrastructure, which is a problem back in Iceland, too.

“This island is literally bursting with tourists, not just Icelanders, but tourists in general,” he said. “The main concern of Canarians is not having a sufficiently organized infrastructure, which is something we don’t have in Iceland, either.”

“Last year, 8.3 million tourists came [to Tenerife], and it’s looking to be even more this year,” he said. “I’d say there are close to 2,000 Icelanders every week. Icelanders are mainly here for the weather, just want to relax a bit. It’s a totally different tempo here.”

But whatever infrastructure problems might exist, they don’t seem to be putting Icelanders off in the least. In fact, many Icelanders make the trip annually.

“I’ve been here 14 times, I’m just addicted to it,” Ólöf Ingbergsdóttir said with a laugh. “A person could spend their old age here, I think it’s heading that direction.”

“It’s just so nice, the weather’s great,” said Þorgerður Gísladóttir, whose family was on their 13th visit to the island. “It’s wonderful to come with the kids, everyone can just do what they want and we don’t have to wear coats.”

“It’s fabulous, I’ve got to come here every single year,” agreed Bjarni Sigurjónsson from a sun lounger on the beach.

Just like Sunday lunch at grandma’s

Icelanders may be coming for the distinctly un-Icelandic weather, but they can still have a taste of home while in Tenerife. There are at least four Icelandic restauranteurs on the island. Níels Hafsteinsson is one of them. Níels owns several bars and restaurants and has 45 employees working for him. Icelanders are some of his most frequent customers.

“Yes, like tonight,” he said gesturing around one of his restaurants during a recent interview. “Three out of ten tables are Icelanders. It’s a lot fun.”

Níels’ Icelandic diners were happy to be able to patronize an Icelander’s business while in Tenerife and found it comforting to be able to go somewhere where everything felt like home.

“It’s just like going to Sunday lunch at grandma’s,” said customer Ásgeir Ingólfsson. “The rhubarb jam is missing, maybe, but the food is great.”

New Icelandic Ad Campaign Trots Out Email Replies While You Horse Around on Vacay

A new ad campaign is likely to have travellers chomping at the bit to visit Iceland. Tourism PR company Inspired by Iceland now invites travellers to “OutHorse” their emails—that is, reign in the common urge to work while on vacation and instead, relax, undistracted and unbothered, while a real Icelandic horse tölts out an email response for you on an enormous, equine keyboard.

Visitors can choose from one of three Icelandic horses, each with their own unique horsenality, to hoof up thoughtful replies. There’s Litla Stjarna (“Types fast, but might take a nap), Hekla, and Hrímnir (“Assertive. Efficient. Shiny hair”). “They are trained in corporate buzzwords,” explains actor Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (Trapped) in voiceover. “Your boss will never know the difference.”

This isn’t Inspired by Iceland’s first rodeo when it comes to employing quirky, zeitgeisty humour to encourage people to travel to Iceland. The company actually grew out of the eponymous 2010 ad campaign that put an ironic and optimist spin on the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption. In 2020, during the global COVID-19 lockdown, they encouraged would-be travellers to “let it out,” and scream out their lockdown frustrations via speakers set up across the country. And, most recently, it skewered Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse, inviting visitors to come experience the country’s “immersive, open-world experience.”

If you’d like to join the herd of travellers capitalizing on this “revolutionary service,” gallop over to www.outhorseyouremail.com, and sign up.

Pilot Program Could Increase Access to Westfjords Over Winter

There will be increased snow plowing on Strandavegur, a coastal road that runs through the Westfjords municipality of Árneshreppur, from January to March. Per a press release issued by the government on Thursday, snow will be removed twice a week, weather conditions permitting. This pilot project is a collaboration between the Icelandic Regional Development Institute, the Westfjords Regional Development Office, and the municipality itself, and is part of the Fragile Settlements initiative, which aims to strengthen select rural communities throughout the country.

Golli

Strandavegur is an 80-km [50 mi] road that runs along the coast from Bjarnafjörður to Norðurfjörður. Much of the road runs through an area known for avalanches during the winter. Adding the fact that the road is not in terribly good shape, this generally means that authorities are frequently unable to remove snow on Strandavegur or keep it open in the winter. Limited reception also means that it’s more dangerous for employees and travellers to use this route during difficult weather.

If successful, the pilot program could have a significant impact, allowing increased access to a region popular with travellers but largely inaccessible for much of the year. The Westfjords are, perhaps, on even more tourists’ bucket lists these days: in November, Lonely Planet named it one of its top ten regions to visit in 2022.

Snow removal on Strandavegur will be handled by locals and the Icelandic Road Administration, which will maintain the twice-a-week schedule provided that there is no risk of avalanche and that weather conditions will not put employees at risk. The Road Administration will finance the pilot project with an eye to determining whether it will be possible to continue winter snow clearance along the seaside road throughout the winter and if so, how it can be done in a safe manner on a long-term basis.

One Out of Four Icelanders Went Abroad This Summer

Keflavík Airport

One out of four Icelanders went abroad this summer, as the country began to recover from the initial waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. This per a new Gallup poll, reported by RÚV, and is a marked increase from the summer before, when only 6% of Icelanders left the country.

Though this summer saw an increase in Icelanders enjoying international travel, the numbers are still not close to what they were pre-pandemic. During the summer of 2019, 57% of Icelanders went abroad during the summer; 62% went abroad in 2018. The current poll surveyed Icelanders from all around the country and found that more capital-area residents travelled out of the country than those who live elsewhere in Iceland.

Domestic travel is still experiencing a boom in Iceland, too: three out of four Icelanders travelled within the country this summer, or 76%. That is a slight decrease from the summer before, when 82% of Icelanders travelled domestically.

The poll was conducted from October 7 to 18 and surveyed 1,625 people with a participation rate of 51.1%.

Icelandic Government Invests ISK 1.5 Billion in Tourism Ad Campaign

tourist selfie jökulsárlón

To counter the economic impact of COVID-19, Iceland’s government has hired two advertising agencies to create a campaign promoting the country as a travel destination. The country will invest ISK 1.5 billion ($10.3 million/€9.5 million) towards the initiative. Iceland’s Prime Minister announced yesterday that the country would reopen its borders no later than June 15 and provide coronavirus tests to arriving travellers.

The campaign is titled “Ísland – saman í sókn,” loosely translated as “Iceland – onward together.” According to a notice on Promote Iceland’s website, the aim of the campaign is to “strengthen Iceland’s image, increase demand, and maintain Icelandic tourism’s competitiveness” in select foreign markets.

A team of two advertising agencies, the UK-based international M&C Saatchi and Icelandic agency Peel presented the winning bid for the project. Notably, M&C Saatchi made headlines last year due to an accounting scandal that led to the resignation of four executives at the company, as reported by mbl.is. Fifteen bids were received for the project, which was advertised across the European Economic Area.