Iceland Mag

3 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag


More signs that the tourism boom is slowing down. Growth of "only" 7.9% in February

By Staff

  • The Puffin The unofficial national bird of Iceland has become synonymous with the tourism boom. Photo/Heiða

The latest figures on the number of foreign visitors to Iceland seem to support the notion that the tourism boom has already hit Peak Puffin, and that double digit growth rates are now a thing of the past. February saw only a 7.9% increase in the number of foreign visitors, compared to the year before. The year-over-year increase in February has been 35-47% in recent years.

Read more: Tourism boom has peaked: 1% year-over-year drop in hotel stays in January

According to a count by the Icelandic Tourism Board and Keflavík International Airport 160,000 foreign visitors came to Iceland in February,an increase of 12,000 over last year. A total of 308,000 people have visited Iceland during the first two months of the year, an increase of 8.2% over 2017. The increase has been in this range in recent months. The year-over-year increase in November was 9.8%, in December 8.4% and in January 8.5%.

However, a striking difference emerges when we compare the increase with previous years The year-over-year increase in February in 2014-15 was 34.5%, in 2015-16 it was 42.9% and in 2016-17 it was 47.2%. In recent years some commentators have wondered whether the growth was too rapid, leading to excessive stress on the tourism infrastructure. A slower growth might therefore be welcome.

Most travelers are from US and UK
The two largest groups of foreign visitors in February were from the US and Britain. British travelers were the single largest group. 47,000 British travelers visited in February, roughly the same number as 2017. The second largest group came from the US, 30.500 Americans visited, an increase of 5.6% over 2017. 

Read more: American travellers happiest with their stay in Iceland, Chinese travellers least pleased

Together the two groups made up 48.4% of all foreign travelers in February.

Airlines revising routes to Iceland
The news of slower growth in the number of foreign visitors comes at the same time as some airlines are reconsidering newly added direct flights to Iceland. The Hungarian airline Wizz Air has announced it will be canceling its regular flights between Iceland and the capital of the Czech republic, Prague, at the same time as the airline begins flying between Keflavík and Vienna. Wizz Air has flown year-round between Keflavík and Prague. Czech Airlines will continue to offer flights between Keflavík and Prague over the summer months.


The number of foreign visitors in February 2014-2018. Vertical axis: Number of visitors



Related content

Editor's Picks