Iceland’s Tourist Tax: What You Need to Know

Wild Icelandic Horses on a post for a travel blog regarding Icelands tourist tax

In its continuing efforts to sustain its pristine landscapes and unique heritage, Iceland has recently made the move to implement a tourist tax. This has come as a response to the increasing influx of visitors attempting to visit the country. The sheer number of visitors is putting pressure on the natural wonders, so the tax has been introduced so that the funds can be used to preserve them for future generations. 

A Sustainable Approach to Tourism

There are many reasons to visit Iceland, in fact it’s one of the most welcoming and beautiful countries I have ever visited. With its cities filled with vibrant colours, geothermal wonders, black sand beaches and immense waterfalls it’s no wonder Iceland is a magnet for all sorts of travellers. But between 2010 and 2018, tourism to Iceland has increased by 400 percent and now accommodates 2.3 million visitors each year. Even with the pandemic Iceland’s tourism quickly rebounded back. However the surge in tourism has created concerns about the environmental impact, and how they can still continue to greet tourists but reduce the impact on nature. 

To address these concerns, Iceland’s government introduced a tourist tax system that aims to balance the economic benefits of tourism with the need to protect the country’s fragile ecosystems. The tax will be levied on all visitors aged 18 and above and will apply to both domestic and international tourists.

How the Tax Works

Iceland’s tourist tax is designed to be accessible and straightforward for travellers. Here’s how it’ll work:

  1. Flat Fee: Iceland will require each visitor aged 18 and above to pay a flat fee upon arrival, with discussions considering this scheme as a potential city tax. Meaning visitors will have to pay for each night that they stay. 
  2. Revenue Allocation: All funds collected from the tourist tax will be spread across various initiatives. Each aimed at preserving Iceland’s environment and cultural heritage. This includes investments in sustainable tourism infrastructure, conservation efforts, and support for local communities.
  3. Transparency: Transparency is a key component of the tourist tax system. The Icelandic government has promised a breakdown of how their contribution is being used. Allowing them to see the benefit of their visit to Iceland’s natural beauty and cultural assets.
Black sand beach in Iceland

Benefits for Iceland

The introduction of the Icelands tourist tax is expected to yield several benefits for Iceland:

  1. Sustainable Tourism: By implementing the tax, Iceland aims to encourage more responsible and sustainable tourism practices. This includes promoting eco-friendly transportation, reducing waste, and protecting delicate ecosystems.
  2. Preservation of Nature: The tax revenue will go toward the maintenance and preservation of Iceland’s natural wonders. Including its glaciers, geysers, and national parks.
  3. Supporting Local Communities: Local communities will receive a portion of the tax revenue to invest in infrastructure and services. This will enhance the visitor experience while ensuring the well-being of residents.
  4. Cultural Conservation: Iceland’s rich cultural heritage, including its language, traditions, and historical sites, will receive protection and support through this initiative.

Positive Visitor Impact

It’s understandable some travellers may initially be apprehensive about the introduction of the tourist tax. But it’s essential to recognize that it contributes to the overall well-being of Iceland. Responsible travellers will understand that their contributions are helping to maintain the country’s unique allure and natural beauty.

Iceland’s decision to introduce a tourist tax demonstrates its commitment to preserving its environment and culture for generations to come. It sets an example for other destinations grappling with the challenges of balancing tourism’s economic benefits with environmental and cultural conservation. Travellers can continue to explore the Land of Fire and Ice. And they can do so with the knowledge that their visit is contributing to a more sustainable future of this remarkable country.

The Icelandic government is yet to decide the price of this tourist tax. Although Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdóttir has stated it would “not be high, to begin with”. This form tax is not uncommon in Europe, with several cities already having a similar scheme already. These include Paris, Berlin, Rome, and Amsterdam. Venice has also announced the details of its own tourist tax earlier this month.

If you’ve ever been to Iceland then you know that the environment is at the core of the country’s beliefs. Their aim is for Iceland to reach net zero by 2040. And many tour companies operating across Iceland are making steps to reduce their own footprint. With operators switching to electric vehicles and promoting local businesses and services. 

Community Thoughts

The introduction of Iceland’s tourist tax can be a divisive decision. Some members of the community have expressed concern it could discourage visitors. But personally it wouldn’t stop me from visiting. I see it as a positive step towards change and better travel practices. But what are your thoughts? Would a tourist tax prevent you from visiting a destination? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts below.

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