One of the fastest-growing industries in Iceland today is tourism. Prime minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, who took office late last year, considers it one of the most pressing issues facing Icelanders in the next few years.
The tourist boom has done wonders for the economy but ensuring the future of Iceland’s natural wonders is important to Katrín. “When it comes to tourists and the environment, it’s clear that we need to control access more than we do now. Not selling access, just controlling it. When you’re visiting national parks in other countries, you book in advance. They even have one-way hiking trails, where you won’t cross paths with anyone on your trip. It’s an example of how it’s possible to preserve the experience of travelling through the beauty of nature. “
One of the most pressing issues threatening the Icelandic travelling experience is how many people want to visit the same spots. “We need to make sure the mass of people is evenly distributed around the country. Right now, most of the traffic is to Reykjavík, the southwest corner of Iceland and the south of Iceland. The traffic is so heavy that you don’t want to tell people about your favourite places, so you can still be alone there. But we need to preserve the experience, and that is possible. For some reason, we have been reluctant to do something about this but it’s not like people that are coming here aren’t planning their trip months in advance, they can be prepared.”
While Icelanders do have a history of depleting resources for the sake of a quick profit, Katrín also mentions the times Icelanders have managed to take charge of a situation for long-term gain. “We need to control this, so it won’t become a bubble that pops. We have experience in controlling the fishing industry, we have done well to avoid overfishing in the past few decades and this is what needs to happen in the tourism industry so that it can survive. It’s also what the industry wants, in the long-term.”
If you want to know more about Katrín and her goals for Iceland’s new government, read the full interview in the print version of Iceland Review. Click here to subscribe!