Iceland Mag

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Iceland Mag


Peak puffin? Tourist numbers continue to grow, but at a slower pace: 8.5% increase in January

By Staff

  • Puffins Icelanders have come to associate the unofficial national bird of Iceland with the tourism boom. Photo/Heiða.

Official figures show that the number of foreign travellers who visit Iceland continues to grow, but the pace of growth continues to slow. According to the Icelandic Tourism Board 147,000 foreign travellers visited Iceland in January, 11,500 more than visited in January 2017. This increase (8.5%) is significantly smaller than the year-over-year increase in January 2017, when tourist numbers increased by 75.3%.

The number of foreign visitors in January has more than tripled since 2014.

Read more: From the editor: Is there an angry backlash against tourism in Iceland?

visitor numbers in january 2014-18

Dramatic growth After growing by double digits each year growth is now slowing down. Photo/Icelandic Tourism Board

The Icelandic tourism board notes that the increase in January was similar to the increase in November (9.8%) and December (8.4%), suggesting it is part of a new trend. In recent years the numbers of foreign visitors have registered double digit year-over-year increases each month: 30-40% increases were the norm. This explosive growth caused some concern. The new reality seems to be slower growth.

Most visitors from the US or Britain
Nearly half of all visitors in January were either from the US or UK. British travellers were the single largest group, with 38,000 visitors, which is roughly the same number as in January 2017. The second largest group were US travellers, 33.500 visitors, a 8% increase over January 2017. US and British travellers accounted for 48,4% of the total.

The third largest group in January were Chinese travellers. 6,500 Chinese travellers visited Iceland in January, 4.4% of the total. The numbers of Chinese travellers dropped by 10.3% since January 2017. 

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