Tourism in Iceland saw a 20% rise in British visitors in September, says the Icelandic Tourist Board.
The financial crisis gripping Iceland is bad for all things Icelandic… but it’s offering British tourists a great opportunity to visit Iceland on the cheap. The Krona has been devalued by nearly 50 per cent. Interestingly enough, the tourist industry was fast to react, promoting Reykjavik and trips to Iceland. Clever marketing strategy that. UK tourists are flocking to Iceland and the economy gets an unexpected boost. There are some great packages on offer… and whilst you may think that £4.00 for a beer is too much… well, it’s still a saving of £2.50 (and I hear that if you know where to go, you can actually get a beer for £2.50). Food and hotels are cheaper too.
There’s plently to do in Reykjavik and you can happily spend a long weekend there – museums, galleries, trendy bars (amazing nightlife), good restaurants and great independent shops for Christmas shopping with a difference (and if you’re from the EU, you get sales tax refunds). You can plan your break in advance by checking the Reykjavik Grapevine for ‘Your essential guide to life, travel and entertainment in Iceland’. And you can easily escape to the country: the Blue Lagoon is only a short drive away and so are the Thingvellir national park, Gullfoss (waterfalls) and the Geysir. And at this time of the year, you may be able to see the Northern Lights!
Sounds too good to be true? It is.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Iceland… and my heart is telling me that this is an opportunity too good to miss. I have visited the country twice now, in 1998 and 2004. I rarely go somewhere twice… too many places to visit and not enough time and all that. But Iceland really blew my mind: the amazing scenery and lanscape (sometimes extremely surreal); waterfalls everywhere; the feeling of emptiness and space; numerous hot springs… I could go on.
But sadly, in 2006, Iceland announced it would resume commercial whaling… I cannot condone this and I will not support an economy which encourages cruelty towards animals and put species at risk. Back in 2003, the Icelandic tourist industry warned that ‘whale-watching earns more for Iceland than whaling itself could, and is internationally popular’. How ironic is that!
I did email the Icelandic Embassy in London at the time to protest and got the customary bland reply. Made me feel that I was just a small fish in the pond. Ban whaling and I’ll come back… in the meantime, I’ll spend my hard-earned money elsewhere!