Skift Take

It's every destination marketing organization's goal to drive visitation to their destination. But as Iceland's ascent as a global tourism giant has shown, explosive growth can bring its own problems and drawbacks.

The island nation of Iceland has been a major beneficiary of the travel boom that has resulted following the global economic meltdown in 2008. It has also had to grapple with the remaking of its national economy and the effect of tourism on its citizens, its cities, and natural wonders.

Visit Iceland director Inga Hlín Pálsdóttir told Skift founder Rafat Ali onstage at the Skift Global Forum 2016 that Iceland’s cohesive culture and government gives it the ability to better manage the effects of increased tourism.

“I wouldn’t say we have a crazy problem at the moment,” said Pálsdóttir. “It’s not just about bringing tourists, it’s about being sustainable as well. I mean, tourism is important for Icelanders and we’re starting to realize it is the biggest industry and we need to be careful how we treat it…. we need to be careful about our lifestyle and sustainability around nature.”

The healthy effects of tourism on Iceland’s economy, according to Pálsdóttir, need to be considered by the country’s leadership alongside the potential negative effects. Landmarks swarmed with tourists, a property bubble in Reykjavik, and decaying roads are the new normal for Icelanders.

Pálsdóttir also discussed how Iceland’s destination marketing company helped drive increased visitation by appealing to global travelers with clever marketing materials.

Watch Pálsdóttir’s full presentation on the effect of overtourism on Iceland below.

At this year’s Skift Global Forum in New York City, travel leaders from around the world gathered for two days of inspiration, information, and conversation for panels such as this as well as solo TED-like talks on the future of travel.

Visit our Skift Global Forum site for more details about 2017 events, including our London event in April of 2017.

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Tags: iceland, overtourism, sgf2016, skift global forum, tourism

Photo credit: Iceland has experienced a major tourism boom, officially making tourism the country's biggest industry, but tourism growth has happened without several negative factors affecting the country. Visit Iceland director Inga Hlín Pálsdóttir onstage at Skift Global Forum 2016.

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