Icelandic tour guides call for restrictions on foreign travel companies

Following a coach accident this weekend, the deputy chief of the Association of Icelandic Tour Guides says that foreign tour companies bringing people to Iceland should be obliged to bring at least one Icelandic tour guide along with them.

A Czech tour bus rolled over into a Highland lake this weekend and sank to the bottom; but tragedy was averted because the driver was able to ensure all 11 people on board got away unharmed. The group consisted of 22 Czechs, but 11 were away from the bus at the time of the accident.

The story would have been open-and-shut; but later reports suggested that the Czech tour bus visits Iceland every year and has been involved in accidents before — due to the recklessness with which it is driven and because safety procedures are not correctly followed. The bus also, apparently, drives off marked driving routes, which is illegal. The tour operator in question, Adventura, strongly denies the claims; saying passenger safety and respect for the local environment are its top priorities.

In either case, the operations of foreign tour companies in Iceland are not monitored, and neither is the number of tourists they bring with them. Now the deputy chief of the Icelandic tour guides association wants foreign companies bringing large groups of people to Iceland to be forced to hire Icelandic tour guides.

Any tour company with a valid operating licence in another EEA (European Economic Area) country can legally operate in Iceland. The same is true of Icelandic tour companies in the EU/EEA.

A variety of other European countries do, however, insist that foreign companies use domestic tour guides. Larus Bjornsson says that should also be the case in Iceland — especially in the potentially dangerous Highlands and in national parks, RUV reported.

Two incidents were photographed last year; one where the bus drove off the track and got stuck in mud and another where it collided with an oncoming 4×4. The driver of the 4×4 was cleared of any wrongdoing and claims to have had to swerve up on the bank to avoid serious damage and injury.

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