Investing for the longer term
After the 2008 banking disaster, Iceland’s tourism increase helped to propel the nation into a formidable financial rebound. However whereas the speedy 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, mentioned Skarphedinn Berg Steinarsson, director common of the Icelandic Vacationer Board. Roughly 1 billion krona has been put aside for infrastructure at nationwide parks, protected areas and enormous public vacationer websites, whereas 700 million krona goes into the nation’s Vacationer Website Safety Fund. The investments have been already being deliberate final yr, however the authorities elevated the funding after the pandemic hit. Additional investments will help harbor and street enhancements all through the nation.
The enhancements at vacationer websites have two targets, Mr. Steinarsson mentioned in an interview, “permitting them to obtain greater numbers — creating parking areas, strolling paths, and so forth. — but additionally preserving the character to make it possible for the websites is not going to be worn down after we get the guests again.”
The biggest grants from the Vacationer Website Safety Fund are supporting the development of a viewing platform on Bolafjall Mountain within the Westfjords, he mentioned, in addition to infrastructure at Studlagil Canyon, the place a viewing platform is being put in in addition to new walkways, bathrooms and data indicators. These enhancements are supposed to preserve vacationers secure (the Bolafjall web site includes a steep cliff), whereas additionally defending the panorama from environmental injury and enhancing the general customer expertise.
The Studlagil Canyon is an instance of a phenomenon that isn’t 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 “found” as a lovely vacation spot solely not too long ago, Mr. Steinarsson mentioned, after the river’s stream was made a lot calmer following the development of a close-by hydroelectric plant.
“That is a kind of websites which can be created on social media,” Mr. Steinarsson mentioned. “However there’s no infrastructure there, no parking websites, no bathrooms. What occurs if you begin permitting 100,000 or 500,000 guests? All the pieces will get torn down as a result of 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 bathrooms. The objective, Mr. Steinarsson mentioned, is to make sure that guests can benefit from the web site “with out spoiling something.”