Skift Take

The rise of Iceland has a lot to do with a simple strategy of increasing direct flights from strategic locations all over U.S. and Europe.

There seems to be no end to the upswing in the Icelandic tourism industry.

Last year the number of visitors grew 24 percent and ended in 970,000 visitors—three times the total population of Iceland. This May the number of visitors went up 36 percent—total in May: 91,023—in comparison with same time last year according to numbers collected by the Icelandic Tourist Board.

Little more than one third of the increase came from the largest group of tourists in Iceland, U.S. citizens. Just over 20,000 U.S. passport holders flew to Keflavik Airport (96 percent of all tourists enter Iceland at Keflavik Airport) in May which is a huge increase of 76 percent over last year.

The (most likely) reason for this huge rise in inbound tourism from the U.S. is the fact that number of flights from Keflavik Airport to U.S. destinations grew 47% in May according to study by, the leading travel media brand in Iceland.

“In May last year Icelandair was the only airline offering flights from Iceland to the U.S. and they had 218 departures to their U.S. destinations during that month. Now we had Delta and WOW air operating as well,” says Kristjan Sigurjonsson, publisher of

Iceland has been part of Delta’s network since 2011 but the airline has, until this year, started its season in Iceland early June. But now it has offered daily flights from JFK to Keflavik Airport from the second of May. WOW air (Iceland’s low-cost carrier) just recently started Boston Logan and Baltimore/Washington Airport, its first two destinations outside of Europe.

These two airlines added 66 flights to Iceland from the U.S. in May but at the same time Icelandair increased frequency from all its U.S .destinations (except Orlando) and opened Portland, Oregon. In total Icelandair added 37 U.S. flights in May so all in all the number for flights from Iceland to the U.S. went up 47 percent.

The supply of flight seats its estimated to have risen to 18,000.

The number of flights this season, compared to a year ago, and the airlines providing them:

Note: Story first published on Translated and republished with permission.

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Tags: iceland

Photo credit: Iceland won't remain this empty if the tourist numbers keep increasing. Not that it is complaining, for now. Rafat Ali / Skift

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