A recent study indicates that most tourists, both foreign and local, are willing to pay to see the main attractions Iceland has to offer as long as the money goes towards the maintenance and improvement of the sites.
The study was conducted by María Reynisdóttir, a masters student, who asked 252 tourists at some of Iceland’s major attractions if they would pay an entrance fee to get into the site. The study was conducted at Gullfoss waterfall and Skaftafell national park, near Vatnajökull glacier. An overwhelming majority agreed that paying a ‘moderate’ entrance fee was reasonable. In fact, 92 per cent were willing to fork out the money to see the sites.
As more and more tourists visit Iceland, the introduction of small entrance fees to popular tourist sites has the potential to generate a significant amount of income to the government, possibly as much as ISK 100 million (USD 1.6 million) a year.
Reynisdóttir pointed out that tourists from many countries including the United States, Canada and New Zealand are accustomed to paying fees to access national parks and tourist attractions. The fees can play an important role in protecting the environment, particularly in a country with such a sensitive ecology, like Iceland.
Unfortunately, in some cases, entrance fees can limit people’s access to the environment which goes against the very principals of establishing a national park. And charging entrance fees can be difficult to set up. “We have a very open landscape,” commented Reynisdóttir. “Maybe it would be necessary to erect fences which would have negative influence on the experience of visitors.”
Reynisdóttir suggests a compromise. “People are obviously willing to pay if the money is used for protecting the site in question. I’m a little surprised that voluntary contributions have not been encouraged yet,” Reynisdóttir said.