Icelandic Nature Key Attraction for Foreign Visitors, Survey Finds

Kirkjufell mountain on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula

A recent survey by the Icelandic Tourism Board found that in 2023, nature was a key attraction for foreign tourists, influencing 97% of their decisions to visit. Popular destinations included the capital region and Southern Iceland, while recreational activities like natural baths and spa treatments were highly utilised by visitors.

Nature the primary attraction

A recent survey conducted by the Icelandic Tourism Board revealed, rather unsurprisingly, that foreign tourists primarily visited Iceland in 2023 for its nature, Morgunblaðið reports. Most visited the capital region and Southern Iceland, while 13% travelled to the Westfjords.

Furthermore, 97% of respondents said that nature had a significant or some influence on their decision to travel to the country. Interest in the Arctic influenced 84.6%, and nature-related activities influenced nearly 80% of respondents. Nearly 60% had received recommendations from friends or relatives to travel to the country.

Shorter stays than before

As noted by Morgunblaðið, tourists stayed an average of seven nights in the country, which is slightly shorter than the year before.

As far as the distribution of tourists in Iceland is concerned, 90% of respondents had visited the capital area, four out of five travelled around Southern Iceland, two out of three around the Reykjanes Peninsula, nearly half around the Western region, nearly a third around the Northern region, almost 30% around the Eastern region, and 13% in the Westfjords.

The survey also indicates that seven out of ten responded that their visit to Iceland exceeded their expectations. Foreign tourists appear eager to utilise a variety of recreational options. 56.2% visited natural baths, 40% used spa or wellness treatments, 34% visited museums, 33% took bus tours, and 21% went swimming.

Gallup: Support for Independence Party Hits Historic Low

bjarni benediktsson finance minister

The Independence Party has hit a historic low in the Gallup National Pulse survey, polling at only 18%, Vísir reports. Despite minor fluctuations in support between polls, overall backing for the government has decreased slightly from 33% to 32%.

Social Democratic Alliance enjoying increased support

The Independence Party is currently polling at 18% support in the latest National Pulse (Þjóðarpúls) survey by Gallup. This marks the lowest level of support the party has ever recorded in the over three-decade history of the National Pulse, Vísir reports

The Social Democratic Alliance remains the largest party with 28% support, followed by the Independence Party with 18.1% support. The Centre Party is now the third largest party in Iceland, polling at 9.7%, slightly ahead of the Progressive Party at 9.4%. As noted by Vísir, there has been little change in respondents’ answers between polls, although support for the government continues to decline, dropping from 33% in November to 32% in December.

Support for individual parties (with 2021 election results in brackets) is as follows:

  • Social Democratic Alliance: 28.4% (9.9%)
  • Independence Party: 18.1% (24.4%)
  • Centre Party: 9.7% (5.5%)
  • Progressive Party: 9.4% (17.3%)
  • Pirate Party: 9.1% (8.6%)
  • Reform Party: 8.8% (8.3%)
  • People’s Party: 6.8% (8.9%)
  • Left-Green Movement: 6.0% (12.6%)
  • Socialist Party: 3.6% (4.1%)

Conditions in the Cleaning Sector Unacceptable, Survey Finds

cleaning equipment

Living conditions for those in the cleaning sector are unacceptable, according to a new report from Varða, the Labour Research Institute. Women and immigrants dominate the sector, facing significantly worse health and financial conditions than other workers, RÚV reports.

Far worse conditions than other jobs

On Wednesday, Varða released a report on the status and living conditions of those working in the cleaning sector. The study covered members of ASÍ and BSRB unions, with unequivocal results.

In an interview with RÚV, Kristín Heba Gísladóttir, Varða’s director, stated that the situation of workers employed in the cleaning sector is worse, even much worse, than those in other ASÍ and BSRB jobs, based on all metrics used in the survey, whether financial status, mental health, or physical and job-related strain.

Kristín observed that this group often faces rights violations in the labour market, adding that international studies had shown that the outsourcing of jobs negatively impacts the workers themselves; although many respondents work for private companies, the jobs often take place in public institutions, yet the workers are not considered part of these workplaces.

Women and immigrants dominate cleaning jobs

Kristín Heba also noted the high proportion of foreigners in this sector. “Cleaning is predominantly done by immigrants, with 78% being immigrants and 22% native-born.” Kirstín added that women composed a much higher percentage of workers in the cleaning sector: “Only about a quarter are men, meaning women and immigrants primarily sustain cleaning in our country.”

Varða presented the research results to the leadership of ASÍ and BSRB on Wednesday morning under the title “Take action.” Kristín Heba told RÚV that the title referred to those working in cleaning. “But it’s also a call from the labour movement to employers and authorities to take action and rectify this situation because the living conditions of those in cleaning are unacceptable.”

Icelanders Travelled Less this Summer

seljalandsfoss tourist

Locals in Iceland travelled less this summer than in recent years, both domestically and abroad. During the summer of 2022, three out of every five locals travelled abroad. The percentage is slightly lower this year and has not been lower since eight years ago (excluding the years that the pandemic was at its height). The figures are from a recent survey conducted by Gallup.

Three years ago, international travel was almost at a standstill due to the pandemic, which continued to have a big impact on travel in 2021. Despite lower rates of travel than in recent years, more than half of Iceland’s population still travelled abroad during the summer of 2023.

People between the ages of 40 and 60 were most likely to have travelled abroad this summer, and residents of the capital area travelled more than those living in rural areas. People with university degrees and people with higher family incomes also generally travelled abroad more than people with less education and lower incomes.

Respondents in the demographic aged 30-39 were most likely to stay home, while those in the highest income bracket were most likely to travel abroad.

Domestic travel

Two out of three survey respondents travelled domestically this summer, a drop compared to figures from the last few years but similar to last year’s figures. As with international travel, residents of the capital area travelled more domestically this summer than residents of rural areas. People with more education and higher family income generally travelled more domestically than people with less education and lower family income.

People stayed an average of 15 nights on their international trips and 9 nights on their domestic trips.

The data is from an online survey conducted by Gallup between September 1 and 10, 2023. The total sample size was 1,697 and the participation rate was 50%.

More Icelanders in Favour of EU Membership Than Against

Danish Embassy

More people are in favour of Iceland joining the European Union than opposed, according to a new survey conducted by Maskína, RÚV reports. The result is consistent with another survey conducted by Gallup last year.

Surveyed attitudes since 2011

More people are in favour of Iceland joining the European Union than against, according to a new survey that Maskína – a research company based in Reykjavík – conducted for Evrópuhreyfingin (i.e. the European Movement), RÚV reports. A total of 40.8% of respondents stated that they were in favour of membership, while 35.9% stated that they were against it. More than a fifth of the respondents were undecided.

This is the first time that a survey conducted by Maskína – which began measuring the nation’s attitude towards EU membership in 2011 – in which a greater number of respondents stated that they supported rather than opposed membership to the EU.

The survey was conducted between February 3 and February 7, and there were 1,036 respondents. The survey was submitted to participants via Maskína’s Þjóðgátt (i.e. national portal), which randomly selects respondents from the National Register.

As noted by RÚV, Gallup also surveyed the nation’s attitude towards EU membership in March of last year, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In that survey, the number of proponents also outnumbered opponents. The difference then was even more decisive than that of the latest Maskína survey.

‘What colours the lives of all nonbinary people is invisibility’

A new study finds that one of the most significant challenges faced by nonbinary people in Iceland is a lack of visibility, as well as difficulty and discomfort in accessing even basic medical care. RÚV reports that Birta Ósk, a master’s student in gender studies at the University of Iceland, is currently conducting a study on behalf of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association to determine what obstacles nonbinary people regularly face in their daily lives, as well as how the government can better serve this community’s needs.

“When I talk about obstacles, that can mean both obstacles in general and systemic ones,” says Birta Ósk. “But in general, what colours the lives of all nonbinary people is this invisibility. Society doesn’t take nonbinary people into account.”

There is a great deal of awareness-building taking place in Iceland right now, says Birta Ósk, and the general public is still learning how to speak in gender neutral language, for instance. But the issues faced by nonbinary people in Iceland has not yet been researched much, particularly in regards to sexism and gender inequality. “[Nonbinary people] have been somewhat left out of reports on gender equality,” says Birta Ósk, whose research specifically aims to rectify this disparity.

Birta Ósk says that space is rarely made for nonbinary people. Restrooms are frequently gendered for men and women, and registration and profile systems do not often offer gender-neutral or genderqueer options. The situation extends into interpersonal interactions: when meeting someone for the first time, Birta Ósk says people rarely consider that that individual they’re meeting could be nonbinary.

See Also: Iceland’s Gender Autonomy Act is a Step Forward for Trans and Intersex Rights

Iceland passed a landmark law on gender autonomy in 2019, which Birta Ósk says was an important step forward. “A lot of things have gotten better but there’s still a lot that needs improvement in both the healthcare and school systems.”

Trans and nonbinary individuals can seek assistance from the so-called “trans team,” which, per Trans Iceland, is “a loose team of doctors (a psychiatrist, endocrinologists, and a plastic surgeon), psychologists, and a social worker within Landsspítali (the national hospital) that oversees trans-specific care.” The team can help individuals access hormone replacement therapy, all standard surgeries, and therapy. But Birta Ósk says there’s a lot that needs to change about the team and its diagnosis process in particular.

“People have to undergo four diagnostic interviews with a psychiatrist and a psychologist before anything can begin. So they feel a bit like they have to convince doctors that this is something that they want and that they are really nonbinary.” These interviews are particularly onerous because there can be a very long wait—up to a month’s wait for the first interview, for instance. “So it can be a really long wait before you start on hormones, for instance,” explains Birta Ósk.

A nonbinary person could have potentially been in this process for a year and a half, then on hormones for six additional months, and then decide they need to have an operation. Then the process has to start all over again. “They have to go through four diagnostic interviews again,” says Birta Ósk, “go through the same wait before they can book themselves for a procedure which there’s maybe another long wait for.”

Nonbinary people ‘can never completely relax’

Birta Ósk says their interviewees also spoke about the difficulties they generally experience in basic interactions with healthcare professionals, from dentists to GPs. These doctors ask a lot of questions about their nonbinary patients’ gender and often don’t know how they are supposed to speak to them, even when gender is not relevant to the medical service being provided. This makes nonbinary people feel insecure about accessing even basic medical care.

There’s a pressing need, Birta Ósk continues, for a general awareness-raising in both the healthcare and school systems about what it means to be nonbinary how to use pronouns correctly. “I think it’s a serious thing that healthcare professionals don’t really know and even within the Trans Team—that they don’t exactly understand the experience of nonbinary and trans people.”

In the course of their research, Birta Ósk has interviewed nonbinary people of all ages. “My interviewees have explained to me how they have to constantly be on the lookout for risks in their environment—they can never completely relax because they don’t know how people will receive them.” Nonbinary people continue to have to justify their right to existence, Birta Ósk continues, and are often put in the position of having to educate people themselves when this responsibility rightly belongs elsewhere.

“When people use hate speech against nonbinary people, it suppresses all the good awareness building and makes people feel even more insecure about being themselves.”

Birta Ósk’s report will be published in September, at which point they will have suggestions for measures the government can implement to better serve the nonbinary population of Iceland, such as better enforcement of the 2019 Gender Autonomy Law, increased visibility for nonbinary people, and more educational outreach.

Support for PM’s Left-Greens Hits Near-Decade Low

According to a new Gallup poll, support for the government continues to decline. Countrywide support for the Prime Minister’s Left-Greens hasn’t been lower since the lead up to the 2013 Parliamentary elections.

Criticism over deportation of asylum seekers

A new Gallup poll (“Pulse of the Nation”) indicates that Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir’s Left-Green Movement has lost more than a third of its support since the last Parliamentary elections. The poll was conducted between May 2 and May 31. The Left-Greens saw the most significant decline since the previous poll was conducted; the party has recently been criticised over plans to deport an inordinate number of asylum seekers.

Only 8.1% of respondents stated that they would vote for the Left-Green Movement if elections were held now, which is two percentage points lower when compared to the last poll – and 4.5% less than the Left-Green Movement received during the previous elections. Support for the party hasn’t been lower in nine years, RÚV reports.

Support for the People’s Party has also declined compared to the previous Parliamentary elections (although the numbers have remained nearly unchanged since the last poll); 6.4% of respondents said that they would vote for the People’s Party, compared to 8% in the last poll. The party made headlines after screenshots of obscene text messages from MP Tómas A. Tómasson made the rounds on the internet. Chairman Inga Sæland subsequently stated that the party would “stand by” Tómas and that the controversy would not affect his role as MP.

The Independence Party still the most popular

The Independence Party remains the most popular political party nationwide, according to the poll, with just over 20% of respondents declaring support. These numbers suggest decreased support from the last Parliamentary elections, however, where the Independence Party received 24.4% of the vote.

Fresh off of successful municipal elections, the Progressive Party continues to enjoy increased backing since the last Gallup poll. The party stands out among the governing coalition as it appears not to have lost support from the previous elections (17.5%).

The three governing parties are now polling at roughly 44%, which is about three percentage points lower than last month.

Continued support for the opposition

The three largest opposition parties have all gained support from the last Parliamentary elections: the Pirate Party is polling at 14.7%, the Social Democratic Alliance at 14.1%, and the Reform Party at 9.5%.

The Socialist Party is polling at 5% and the Centre Party at 4.3%. Over 7% were unwilling to specify support for one political party over another, and 8% stated that they would not vote or cast an empty ballot.

Nearly All Icelanders Believe War Crimes Have Been Committed in Ukraine

Protests in Reykjavík

A new survey shows that support for Ukraine in Iceland is almost universal and Icelanders have shown this support in a variety of ways, RÚV reports.

According to a recent Gallup poll, almost all Icelanders believe that Russians have committed war crimes in Ukraine and should be prosecuted in international courts.

See Also: Vesturbær Residents Come to Aid of New Ukrainian Neighbours

Nearly a third of Icelanders have made direct monetary donations to Ukraine and over a quarter of the country has purchased goods or services, the proceeds of which will be used support Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself and support its people during Russia’s invasion of the country. A fifth of the nation has donated clothing or other items to be donated to Ukrainians.

See Also: Ukrainian Refugees Welcomed to Bifröst University

Almost 84% of Icelanders believe that the country is doing a good job of its reception Ukrainian refugees, while 4% think that the reception efforts have not been handled well.

Fewer Icelandic Teens Drinking and Having Sex

teenagers nauthólsvík summer sun

In 2006, 36% of Icelandic girls in the 10th grade stated that they had had intercourse, and 29% of boys of the same age. Those figures have now fallen to 24% among girls and 27% among boys, Fréttablaðið reports. Less than one in five 15-year-old boys in Iceland stated they used a condom the last time they had intercourse.

The data comes from an international survey called Health Behaviour in School-aged Children, which has been carried out in Iceland since 2006. The survey’s fundings indicate that one-fourth of 15-year-old boys and one-sixth of 15-year-old girls have had intercourse. Iceland’s results show that one-third fewer girls report having had sex than in 2006, and slightly fewer boys.

Decreased alcohol consumption likely a factor

“Sexual activity is a natural accompaniment of puberty that adolescents go through. The first steps can, however, be complicated and if they are taken before the individual is ready, the consequences can be negative,” explains University of Iceland Professor Ársæll Arnarsson, who is a director of Icelandic youth research. He conjectures that less alcohol consumption among teenagers could be one reason they are having less sex.

The COVID pandemic is certainly not the reason, Ársæll says, as “this development began before it appeared. Decreased alcohol consumption is likely a big factor. Drinking among Icelandic teenagers has decreased sharply in recent decades and the same can be said of other countries to which we compare ourselves, though the development there has not been as decisive as here in Iceland.”

Condom use far lower than international average

Condom use among youth varies significantly between countries, the survey results show. In Europe and North America, 61% of sexually active youth used a condom the last time they had intercourse. While the proportion in Malta was 52%, it was just 8% in Denmark. Just 18% of 15-year-old boys in Iceland stated that they used a condom the last time they had intercourse, which Ársæll calls disappointing. “This of course manifests in higher rates of sexually transmitted infections here in Iceland. The condom is, in addition to being a contraceptive, very good protection against that type of infection.”

Majority of Icelanders Support Vaccination of Children Aged 5-11

COVID-19 vaccination children

Just under 75% of Icelanders are in favour of vaccinating children aged 5-11 against COVID-19, according to the results of a newly-published survey from Maskína. Only 11% were opposed to vaccinating that age group. Icelandic health authorities began offering vaccination to 5 to 11-year-olds in January and 45% have already received their first dose.

The nearly 75% of respondents that were in favour of vaccinating the age group split into two camps: those who were “very much in favour” made up 49.3% of the total respondents, while those who were “rather in favour” made up 25%, for a total of 74.3%. Older respondents were more likely to be in favour of vaccination of children 5-11. In the oldest group (60+), 86% were in favour of vaccinating the demographic, while only 62% of those in the youngest group (18-29 years) were in favour of vaccinating 5 to 11-year-olds.

Categorising the responses by political affiliation revealed that supporters of the Left-Green Movement, Pirate Party, Social-Democratic Alliance, and the Socialist Party were most in favour of vaccinations for children 5-11. The survey took place between January 6 and 17 had 902 respondents from across the country.

Vaccination is optional and free for all age groups in Iceland. In the case of children, both parents or guardians must approve vaccination for their child. Only the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in those 15 years of age and younger in Iceland.

Of Iceland’s total population, 78% are fully vaccinated, and 52.3% have received a booster dose.