How Iceland’s airlines have helped spur a tourism boom, lifting its battered economy back to health

Financial Post

The 2010 eruption of the notorious and unpronounceable Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland was a disaster for global aviation, resulting in the cancellation of some 100,000 flights and lost revenue of US$1.7 billion. The Icelandic tourism industry couldn’t have come up with a better advertisement if it tried.

“We had some luck in that,” Icelandair Group CEO Björgólfur Jóhannsson said in an interview. “Everybody blamed Iceland but it put Iceland on the map all over the world.”

FP0606_Iceland_tourism_620_ABThe number of foreign visitors to Iceland more than doubled between 2010 and 2014, when nearly one million people visited — not bad for a country with a population of 320,000. (If Canada had the same ratio of tourists to population, it would have had 109 million foreign visitors last year. The actual number was approximately one-tenth of that.)

Tourism is now the biggest contributor to Iceland’s export revenue, surpassing even fishing, which has dominated…

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