A decade ago....there were a total of seventeen North American and European cities which had some flight access into Keflavik, Iceland. Tourism was something that occurred, but wasn't some hyped up activity. Iceland was in a period of economic prosperity and didn't really care if tourists came or not.
In 2008....things changed. An economic downturn. A huge impact on jobs and prosperity. A wave of negative thoughts were on the minds of most Icelandic people.
By 2010, some individuals saw tourism as being something that could reshape Iceland. Today, there 78 different North American and European cities which have access to Iceland. At least seventeen different carriers now make trips into Iceland....some all-year round....some just in the summer months.
This past week....Grímur Sæmundsson, who serves as the chairman of the Icelandic Travel Industry Association, came out and had a speech over the trend, and problems that people see. An all-time record of people in 2016 came (1.8 million visitors). Frankly, it's way beyond expectations, and testing the faith of Icelanders.
Sæmundsson says that Keflavik International Airport needs to be limited to airlines which only do all-year round flights, and that the summer carriers need to be forced to use Akureyri.
Yeah, you probably haven't heard of the town. If you have a map, and on the west end of the isle....note the Keflavik Airport and Reykjavik.....then you look at the far north of the isle, on the coast, there rests Akureyri, a town of 18,000 people.
What Sæmundsson wants to do is spread tourists around the country....not by taxation or upgrading landing fees but simply forcing the part-time carriers to use other airports.
Is Keflavik Airport being maxed out? No. The airport is going through expansion plans and adding onto capabilities. Last year, they noted that they needed more employees in 2017 and were looking at the idea of bringing in some folks just for the summer months, from outside of Iceland. If you haven't noticed....the Iceland unemployment rate by late 2016 was at 2-percent and sliding further down. With a large tourist flow in 2017....they probably will go under the 2-percent point easily by late summer.
By some point in late 2017/early 2018.....two five-star hotels will open in Iceland. Prior to this....none existed. The two? The Blue Lagoon on the far west side (20 minutes south of the Keflavik Airport) will see one of these opened up....as sort of a wellness center/resort (don't be looking for fancy beaches). The other five star will be be the concert hall in the middle of the capital. Both are geared to take advantage of this tourism trend.
But why stop at five-star hotel construction.....across the whole country, there are various hotels under construction, and others being in draft form to discuss.
By suggesting Akureyri, you are putting people mostly in the middle of nowhere. It's a four-hour drive to reach Reykjavik or the Blue Lagoon. If your interest was staging a drive on route one around the whole isle, then it might make sense.....otherwise, the carriers would be dumping you in the middle of nowhere. Tour groups? It might make sense to stage some groups there and start your route one circle drive there, and lessen the stress on Keflavik.
My humble guess is that some folks are now asking questions about the limit. These are people who were used to the pre-2007 trend of 500,000 guests per year and feel a bit shocked at 1.8 million. The question from them would be.....could you handle 2.5 million guests a year.....or perhaps even 3 million?
It's kinda like being the authority over Disneyland, and knowing that there has to be some limit and some control to who comes and goes.