Victim of its own success, Iceland considers new tax on tourists

By: Omar R. Valdimarsson, Bloomberg
March 20, 2017 Updated: March 20, 2017 at 9:16 am
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A crater at Lake Myvatn is one of the stops on Country Walkers' Iceland tour. (Photo Courtesy Richard Koegl/Country Walkers)

One of the world's hottest and most expensive holiday destinations could soon become a little more expensive.

Overwhelmed by a record number of visitors in spite of its far-flung location, Iceland's government is considering ways of raising taxes in the tourism sector. The alternative would be to limit sightseers' access to the country's most popular spots.

"The sector and all of us have to be careful not to become victims of our own success," Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir, Iceland's tourism minister, said in a recent interview in Reykjavik.

A currency plunge and its location for scenes featuring in the popular TV series Game of Thrones helped create a tourism boom, with visitors' numbers growing exponentially -- from 490,000 in 2010 to an estimated 2.3 million this year. That's a lot, considering Iceland's population totals less than 340,000. Tourism is now the country's main export, bringing in a forecast 45 percent of foreign exchange -- or $5.1 billion (560 billion kronur) -- in 2017, according to Islandsbanki, the country's second-largest lender.

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