A massive spike in interest in travel to Iceland will see Intrepid Travel run a record number of departures to the destination in 2016 with Aussies making up a significant chunk of the passengers.
The adventure tour operator reported a 40% increase in passenger numbers for the 2015/2016 winter season compared to last year when, despite the country’s distance from Australia, a third of its Iceland passengers were Australian. The region experienced a 117% growth in passenger numbers year on year.
As a result, Intrepid is boosted departures of its Iceland Discovery trip to 32 for 2016 – up from just four in 2011. Its Northern Lights trip is rising from four departures when it launched last year to 12 in 2016.
The spike in the destination’s popularity is down to more affordable prices and additional flights, according to Intrepid product manager for Europe Steph Millington.
“After the 2008 financial crisis when several Icelandic banks collapsed, travel in and around Iceland became much, much more affordable. Prices are currently comparable with London,” she said.
The “Game of Thrones effect” has also helped shine the spotlight on Iceland as did the high profile volcano eruption of 2010 which disrupted flights across Europe.
“While the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull in 2010 could have proved disastrous for the country’s tourist industry, many believe this event, which drew worldwide media attention, actually put Iceland on the map,” Millington said.
“Visitor numbers have doubled since, which tends to support the theory.”
In addition, the last few years have been particularly good for viewing the Northern Lights due to the conditions created by this particular time of the solar cycle.
However, care must be taken as tourism to the destination grows, Millington warned.
“While the tourism boom continues to provide more employment opportunities, Iceland’s infrastructure is evolving to cope with the number of visitors,” she said.
“This makes it even more important for operators and agents to encourage visitors to travel responsibly to preserve the natural beauty of this stunning destination. We encourage our travellers to tread carefully to protect the fragile ecosystem and our drivers only drive on permitted routes.”
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