Icelandic tourist industry taking pragmatic view

reykjavik-little(This article relates to the 2010 eruption at Eyjafjallajokull. For information on the May 2011 eruption at Grimsvotn, please check the IceNews homepage for regular updates)Members of Iceland’s tourism industry say that the spate of cancellations and slow bookings being caused by the volcano could yet be a blessing in disguise if Iceland plays its cards right and keeps the world updated on what is really happening on the ground.

Fridrik Palsson is the owner of a chain of hotels, including Hotel Ranga near the South Iceland volcano. He told RUV’s Kastljos current affairs programme that this summer need not be a disaster for the industry if Iceland cleverly uses the immeasurable amount of free advertising the volcano has brought for the country.

Palsson welcomed the government’s investment of ISK 350 million (USD 2.7 million) for a global publicity campaign aimed at saving the important tourist sector this summer. But he said the amount is not much and will have to be used carefully: primarily to keep the world updated of the pure truth of what Iceland is like after the current media frenzy abates. He believes Twitter and Facebook could prove even more important than billboards and broadsheets.

Palsson points out that “Iceland covered in ash” and “Disaster strikes terror in Iceland” make much better global headlines than “Eruption stops” or “Roads open and farmland saved in Iceland”. It is therefore, he said, highly important for Iceland to take up where the global press leaves off.

Many countries would pay handsomely to receive as much global attention as Iceland is now and Palsson believes people will still visit in large numbers as long as they are in possession of the facts. Nobody has died, all the shops and schools are still open, life is normal away from the unfortunate South Iceland farms; and above all, travel chaos in Iceland has been no worse than everywhere else in Europe. There is no way of knowing which volcano will erupt next; but everyone’s safety will still be top priority whenever it does.

In the meantime, viewing brand new lava or an active volcano is just one more great thing to do during a trip to Iceland, Fridrik Palsson happily points out.

Photographer: Anders Peter Amsnæs / www.imagix.dk

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