72% of Icelanders Support Tourism Fee, According to Recent Poll

Geysir Iceland tourism

According to a recent poll by market research company Prósent for Fréttablaðið, some 72% of Icelanders agree that foreign tourists should pay for access to natural sites and parks, while 54% of Icelanders believe that Icelanders should not have to pay for access to these sites.

Only 12% of Icelanders disagreed with charging tourists for access, while some 30% of respondents did agree that Icelanders should pay a fee as well.

In a statement concerning the recent poll, Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, minister of tourism, stated that fees in the industry are being examined. The fees are planned to go into effect starting in 2024. The goal of such fees will be to ensure that municipalities also benefit equally from tourist traffic.

Many natural sites and parks in Iceland already charge for parking, including many attractions along the Golden Circle and South Coast. These parking fees were initially controversial but came in response to the need to develop facilities in light of the growing volume of tourism Iceland saw in the 2010s. Two of Iceland’s most popular tourism sites, Skógafoss and Geysir, were even placed on at-risk status by Iceland’s Environmental Agency.

Complicating the question of parking- and tourism fees is the fact that many of Iceland’s most iconic tourism destinations are actually located on privately owned land, meaning that it is in large part up to the landowner to regulate the fees and land use. The lack of cooperation between bureaucracy and landowners has been identified as a serious roadblock to safety improvements at Reynisfjara, where a foreign tourist recently died. There have also been related questions in recent years about foreign land ownership in Iceland and whether there should be more restrictions.

The online survey was conducted from June 22 to July 4, sampling some 2,000 individuals aged 18 and over.

Icelandic Government Raises Artist Salaries

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir is one of the people nominated for Person of the Year.

Iceland’s government raised its artist grants known as “artist salaries” to ISK 428,000 [$3,330, €2,908] per month this January, Fréttablaðið reports. The salaries were ISK 409,580 [$3,187, €2,782] per month last year. Minister of Tourism, Trade, and Culture Lilja Alfreðsdóttir has decided to increase funding of artists salaries by a further ISK 100 million [$779,000, €679,000] this year and says the government is also considering restructuring the artist salary grant system.

Fewer months than in 2020 and 2021

“This is not a high figure in my opinion and we aim for it to rise in stages throughout this term because I consider it important for our artists and this system has worked very well,” Lilja stated. “I would say that the entire government agrees with increasing support to this system.” In fact, the 2022 artist salary recipients, who were recently announced, will receive ISK 490,920 per month [$3,825, €3,335]. The government has, however, decreased the number of months granted to artists as compared to 2020 and 2021. An additional 600 months in artist salaries were granted in 2020 and an additional 550 in 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The artist salaries for 2022 have however decreased back to 1,600 months in total, the same number granted between 2009 and 2019. 

Special grant for young artists is a possibility

Lilja says the government is considering restructuring the artist salary system, including by having a special category for young artists. Culture and Trade were brought together under a single ministry this term under Lilja’s leadership, and she says that presents certain benefits. “Everything that is connected to culture and art is now in one place. The reimbursement system for literature, the reimbursements for film, recording, so now we have for example the Icelandic Film Centre and the big reimbursement system in one place which creates new opporunities.” Last term, the government abolished sales tax on Icelandic books and increased contributions to writers grants. This term, Lilja says the focus will be on the music and film industries.

Lilja says that the government chose to work toward raising artist salaries rather than increasing them in number to “send a message to the entire industry.” She says there is still a ways to go, as salaries in comparable professions average around ISK 550,000 [$4,285, €3,736] per month.

Around 45,000 Icelanders Have Spent Domestic Travel Voucher

Whale Watching Hvalaskoðun á Faxaflóa

Around 100,000 Icelanders have downloaded the ISK 5,000 ($36/€33) travel voucher given to all adult residents to encourage domestic travel this summer, RÚV reports. The initiative will cost Iceland’s government around ISK 1.5 billion ($10.8 million/€9.8 million), and although she has called it “first and foremost symbolic,” Minister of Tourism Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir has stated it would make a difference to smaller companies.

The vouchers became available on June 19 and since then around 100,000 Icelanders have downloaded one and just under half, or 45,000, have already spent it. Around 25,000 of those spent their voucher within the last ten days.

Read More: All Icelanders to Receive Gift Certificate for Domestic Tourism

The vouchers can be redeemed at a variety of businesses within Iceland’s tourism industry, including hotels, tour companies, restaurants, and transportation companies. Of those who have spent their voucher, one third spent it on accommodation. Just under 30% spent the voucher on activities and 25.6% on dining. A further 11.1% spent theirs on transportation.

The vouchers are valid until the end of this year.

All Icelanders to Receive Gift Certificate for Domestic Tourism

Icelandair Marina Hotel

Icelandic residents 18 and older will each receive a voucher worth ISK 5,000 ($36/€33), redeemable at hotels and tourism companies around the country between June and December of this year. Minister of Tourism Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir said the measure was “first and foremost symbolic,” but that it would make a difference to smaller companies. The measure was first announced as part of the government’s first economic response package to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Icelandic Travel Industry Association and the Icelandic Tourist Board held an information meeting presenting the measure this morning. The voucher will likely be distributed via a smartphone app to all adult residents, who number around 250,000. The total cost of the measure will therefore be around ISK 1.5 billion ($10.8 million/€9.8 million).

The credit will be redeemable for accomodation, transporation, dining, and activities within the tourism industry. It will also be transferable, though no individual will be allowed to redeem more than 15 vouchers. Tourism companies will also have a cap on how many vouchers they may accept, though the cap is relatively high at 20,000 vouchers, or ISK 100 million ($723,000/€656,000).

Tourism Minister Þórdís Kolbrún stated that the government recognised the measure was not in and of itself enough to save struggling companies. “We realise that 5,000 krónur to all Icelanders 18 years and older does not change whether companies live or die. This is first and foremost a symbolic measure. But it will matter, especially for companies with smaller capacity.”

New Map Aims to Improve Safety of Travellers in Iceland

Safetravel.is, which aims to reduce the risk of travel-related accidents in Iceland, has introduced a new map. Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir formally introduced the map at the What’s On Tourist Information Centre in downtown Reykjavík this week.

The new map combines what once were three maps – vedur.is, vegagerdin.is, and safetravel.is – into one. Speaking at What’s On (Bankastræti 2) on Wednesday, Minister Þórdís Kolbrún stated that the new map was a “big step forward in ensuring the safety of travellers in Iceland.” The map displays travel conditions in real time: weather, road conditions, conditions at tourist attractions, wind gusts on roads, avalanche warnings, and more.

The map is a collaborative project between the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Innovation of Iceland; the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR); and Sjóvá-Almennar Insurance. The Safetravel project was recently renewed with increased funding from the Ministry. The new map is no less useful to locals as it is to tourists.

The map allows easy access to travel-related information, which is important considering that weather conditions in Iceland are known to change quickly.

Announce ISK 3.5 Billion for Nature Conservation Infrastructure

Minister for the Environment Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson and Minister of Tourism Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir announced today extensive plans to build up tourism infrastructure at 130 popular nature sites across the country. The two announced the allocation of ISK 3.5 billion ($28.8m/€25.5m) over the next three years in order to protect Icelandic nature and cultural heritage.

This is the second time the two ministers present jointly on the allocation of funds towards tourism infrastructure. Since last year, infrastructure has been improved at many increasingly popular sites, including Dynjandi waterfall in the Westfjords and Þingvallahraun on the north site of Þingvellir National Park.

The ISK 3.5 billion investment is an increase of more than ISK 1 billion ($8.2m/€7.3m) in funding from last year’s plan. The new plan does not only focus on individual locations, instead taking a holistic approach to nature conservation across areas.

It is estimated that about ISK 1.3 billion ($10.7m/€9.5m) will be devoted specifically to staffing land protection over the next three years. These funds will go toward the recruitment of full-time wardens as well as additional staff during high season at popular tourist sites and protected areas.

“Tourism is one of the foundations of the Icelandic economy, and it all depends on us preserving the magic of Icelandic nature,” stated Þórdís Kolbrún. “Together we will ensure that Icelandic nature and tourism can flourish side by side.”