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Photo: Golli. Tourists in front of Esja on Sæbraut in Reykjavík.

Icelandic Tourism Approaching Pre-Pandemic Levels

International flights in and out of Iceland’s Keflavík International Airport are nearly as many now as they were in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Yesterday, the airport saw 119 arrivals and departures, as compared to around 150 per day during the summer of 2019. Tourism operators report that bookings are also approaching 2019 levels and business owners are optimistic this summer will be a good one.

“As the situation is now, the prospects are very good,” Bjarnheiður Hallsdóttir, chairperson of The Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF) told RÚV. “We’ve seen a steady increase in demand from foreign tourists over the past weeks and months. There’s a lot of optimism, and I know examples of some companies that have actually reached 80-90% of the sales they had at this time of year in 2019. So it all bodes well.”

Tourism companies prepared

Some operators predict that more international tourists will opt for driving the Ring Road on their own this summer, rather than purchasing group tours, due to pandemic-related concerns. Large cruise ships are expected in the country this summer, as well as at least two ships that will be travelling around the coast.

Bjarnheiður says Iceland’s tourism industry is prepared to receive the wave of international visitors. “We were lucky that most tourism companies survived and for that we can largely thank the government’s response measures and just people’s perseverance in the industry. So I think that most companies in tourism are pretty well prepared for this and have had a good amount of time to prepare themselves, so I think we’re ready for the wave [of visitors].”

Renovations at Keflavík Airport this summer

Those travelling through Keflavík airport this summer can expect to see some renovations taking place, as the airport will be adding 20,000 square metres of facilities over the next two years. Guðjón Helgason, Isavia’s public relations officer, says the company will aim to minimise the impact of the renovations on travellers.

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