Iceland's Tourism Is Booming. Tourists Are Ruining Iceland

2.3M people will swarm the island this year in a boom that's straining infrastructure
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2017 8:01 AM CDT
Iceland's Tourism Is Booming. Tourists Are Ruining Iceland
A man walks on the black sanded beach in Vik, Iceland, near the Volcano Katla in 2016. The volcano has helped turn sleepy Vik, a community of 300 people some 110 miles east of the capital, Reykjavik, into a tourism hotspot.   (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Some 2.3 million Earthlings who are not Icelandic will trek through Iceland this year, armed with selfie sticks in search of the island's breathtaking fjords, waterfalls, volcanoes, and Game of Thrones backdrops. That's nearly five times the foot traffic Iceland saw seven years ago and it's worth $3.4 billion and one out of every three jobs. But that boon for Iceland's economy comes with a serious drawback, writes Laura Mallonee at Wired, as tourists trample over aforementioned natural beauty, infrastructures groan, and yes, sewers overflow. "Uncontrolled tourism does have negative impacts on the environment," a tourism professors says. "So if tourism is not planned and managed properly we will see some of the natural attractions be damaged." "Nice experience," reads a typical Trip Advisor review, "but there should be less people."

It's a problem that Iceland has worked hard for: The Iceland Monitor points out that there's now a guidebook in English that instructs tourists on how to act (hint: don't stick your hand in a geyser to see if it's scalding), while NBC News notes that Visit Iceland put together the "Iceland Academy," which gives visitors tips on gems like "How to Avoid Hot Tub Awkwardness." Add in cheap airfares, and the fact that, as a Frommer's rep puts it, "most travelers are jazzed by the idea of getting to see an additional destination on their way to Europe," and you've got yourself a hot spot. Mallonee cites one French photog who sought to document the tourist clog. The problem, she writes, "is that even as (his work) offers a commentary on all those damned tourists, his photos often look like tourism bureau ads." (Whatever you do, don't sneak your cat into Iceland.)

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