Investing for the long run
After the 2008 banking disaster, Iceland’s tourism growth helped to propel the nation into a powerful financial rebound. But whereas the fast development in international arrivals created jobs and income, it additionally outpaced the federal government’s capacity to construct the infrastructure that was wanted to handle so many new guests. Now, with vacationer numbers low, the federal government has an opportunity to catch up.
This yr, the Icelandic authorities is investing roughly 1.7 billion Icelandic krona (about $12.three million) in infrastructure at each private and non-private vacationer spots throughout the nation, stated Skarphedinn Berg Steinarsson, director basic of the Icelandic Tourist Board. Roughly 1 billion krona has been put aside for infrastructure at nationwide parks, protected areas and huge public vacationer websites, whereas 700 million krona goes into the nation’s Tourist Site Protection Fund. The investments had been already being deliberate final yr, however the authorities elevated the funding after the pandemic hit. Further investments will help harbor and highway enhancements all through the nation.
The enhancements at vacationer websites have two objectives, Mr. Steinarsson stated in an interview, “allowing them to receive bigger numbers — creating parking spaces, walking paths, etc. — but also preserving the nature to make sure that the sites will not be worn down when we get the visitors back.”
The largest grants from the Tourist Site Protection Fund are supporting the development of a viewing platform on Bolafjall Mountain within the Westfjords, he stated, in addition to infrastructure at Studlagil Canyon, the place a viewing platform is being put in in addition to new walkways, bogs and knowledge indicators. These enhancements are supposed to maintain vacationers protected (the Bolafjall web site includes a steep cliff), whereas additionally defending the panorama from environmental harm and bettering the general customer expertise.
The Studlagil Canyon is an instance of a phenomenon that’s not unusual in Iceland: a web site that was created not by the hosts, however by the guests. The canyon — which options dramatic basalt-column cliffs lining the banks of a glacial-fed river — was “discovered” as a sexy vacation spot solely just lately, Mr. Steinarsson stated, after the river’s movement was made a lot calmer following the development of a close-by hydroelectric plant.
“This is one of those sites that are created on social media,” Mr. Steinarsson stated. “But there’s no infrastructure there, no parking sites, no toilets. What happens when you start allowing 100,000 or 500,000 visitors? Everything gets torn down because nothing is designed to accommodate that.”
Now the federal government is working with the house owners of the land to construct pathways, parking areas and bogs. The objective, Mr. Steinarsson stated, is to make sure that guests can benefit from the web site “without spoiling anything.”