Iceland’s stunning, rugged natural landscape has made it a go-to tourist destination for lovers of the great outdoors. People travel from all over the world to see the country’s volcanos, geysers, mountains, waterfalls and black sand beaches.
In fact, between 2010 and 2018, the number of tourists visiting the island increased by an enormous 400 percent. This relatively small island now sees 2.3 million visitors per year.
The pandemic obviously meant this growth was paused, but visitor numbers rebounded quickly to 1.7 million by 2022. What’s more, Iceland’s recent ranking as not only the safest country in the world, but also just the best overall, is only making it a more attractive destination. Who wouldn’t want to visit?
While the vast number of people who come to appreciate the majesty of Iceland’s landscape is good for the country’s economy, there are concerns about how sustainable these numbers are, and the pressure being put on infrastructure and services.
That’s why the government is planning on introducing a tourist tax, to protect Iceland’s ‘unspoilt nature’.
The amount visitors will have to pay has not yet been decided upon, though Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said it would ‘not be high, to begin with,’ according to Bloomberg. The scheme will apparently be introduced as a city tax, where visitors will have to pay each night that they stay.
Iceland isn’t the first place to introduce a tax on tourism. Similar schemes already exist in Paris, Berlin, Rome and Amsterdam, and Venice finally announced the details of its tourist tax earlier this month, too.
Protecting the environment is at the heart of Iceland’s new proposal. The country aims to reach net zero by 2040, and many companies in the tourism sector are also improving their own sustainability, such as by switching to electric vehicles.
The money from the tourist tax should help ease the burden on infrastructure and services, used to improve transport networks, support sustainability initiatives, and reverse any damage caused by overcrowding.
It’s thought that the tax might also deter some visitors from paying a visit to Iceland at all. That might be the case, but with all its scenic views and fascinating phenomena, it’s also hard to believe. Let’s hope the money can be put towards successfully protecting the environment.
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