Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag


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

By Staff

  • Crowds at Keflavík The new study shows that only 86% of people who are currently counted as foreign visitors when they pass through Keflavík are visiting Iceland. Photo/Gunnar V. Andrésson.

A study conducted by Keflavík International Airport and the Icelandic Tourism Board has revealed that the official figures on the number of foreign travellers who visit Iceland has been overestimated by as much as 14%. The study was commissioned after some in the tourism industry questioned the growth in official figures, arguing they had not seen a similar increase, for example in the number of people who use the FlyBus from Keflavík to Reykjavík.

Read more: An exaggerated tourism boom? Numbers of visitors to Iceland probably overestimated

Well-known error in official statistics
The official figures simply count everyone foreign national who passes through passport control at Keflavík Airport. Critics have pointed out that this includes both foreign nationals who live in Iceland as well as travellers who change airlines at Keflavík on their way between destinations in Europe and North America. Passengers who fly, for example, with WOW air from Europe to Keflavík and with Icelandair to North America, have to collect their luggage in Keflavík and go through check-in again, before continuing their travel. This means they have to go through passport control, where they are counted as foreign travellers visiting Iceland.

The numbers of these travellers, who should not be counted among foreign travellers visiting Iceland, has been unknown. The assumption has been that they do not make up a significant portion of the total. The new study shows that this is not the case.

Real number 8-14% lower than official figures
The study showed that 5% of foreign nationals who passed through Keflavík Airport were transferring between airlines. An additional 6% were transit passengers who checked out of the airport while they waited for their continuing flight, but did not spend the night in Iceland. A final 3% were foreign nationals who live in Iceland. This means the count of foreign nationals passing through passport control overestimates the number of foreign travellers by 8-14%.

Keflavík Airport and the Icelandic Tourism Board will repeat the study to see if these shares change based on the season or time of year. 

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