Iceland Mag

11 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


Explosive growth in tourism comes to an end: Possible drop in tourist numbers in March

By Staff

  • Not a soul for miles People who feared Iceland was quickly being overrun by tourists need not worry: The explosive growth of recent years has come to a stop. Photo/Vilhelm Gunnarsson.

For several years now, Icelandic observers have been waiting for "Peak Puffin", the point when the explosive growth in the number of foreign visitors Iceland has been seeing since 2010 stops. Recent months have seen mounting signs that the growth is slowing down as the tourism industry is reaching something of a balance. Instead of the double digit growth rates of previous years the industry has been seeing a more sustainable 4-8% year-over-year increase.

First sign of a drop in nearly 8 years
Figures compiled by the Icelandic tourism board and the Keflavík Airport Authority suggest that for the first time since 2010 the number of foreign visitors dropped year-over-year. The official figures show a 3% year-over-year increase in March, but due to the uncertainty inherent in the counting method, which includes foreign nationals living in Iceland and various other groups which skew the total, it is likely that the actual number of foreign visitors dropped compared to last year.

Some 173,000 foreign nationals flew from Keflavík airport in March, an increase of 5,000 compared to 2017. This figure includes foreign nationals who live in Iceland as well as foreign travelers who stop at Keflavík to change airlines and do not leave the terminal. Previous studies have shown that these groups make up 8-14% of the total, depending on the time of year.

Read more: Numbers of foreign travellers in Iceland have been overestimated by 8-14%

The actual number of foreign visitors in Iceland in March was therefore somewhere between 149,00 and 159,000. The local news site Túristi argues that there are indications the "overcounting" of foreign visitors in March of 2018 was greater than in March of 2017, which would mean Iceland has finally reached "Peak Puffin."


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