Iceland is taking steps to protect its “pristine nature” from overtourism with a new night-time tariff. The Nordic country has seen a sharp increase in tourists over the past decade, with visitor numbers skyrocketing by more than 400% between 2010 and 2018, when they reached an astonishing 2.3 million. These numbers have only continued to climb since the pandemic, reaching 1.7 million in 2022.
In an interview with Bloomberg news agency last week, Icelandic Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir said a tourism tax could help combat the impact visitors have on the country’s climate and environment.
“Most of our guests who come to us visit wilderness, and obviously that creates pressure,” he said.
The country has set itself ambitious climate objectives including reaching net zero by 2040.
How much will the Icelandic tourist tax be?
While Jakobsdóttir did not specify the exact amount of the Icelandic City tax, he told Bloomberg that “it wouldn’t have been high, to begin with.”
He said the scheme would be introduced as a council tax for people staying in Iceland.
Companies in the country’s tourism sector are also improving sustainability for example by taking advantage of the circular economy and using electric vehicles, Jakobsdóttir added.
“It’s happening, but it’s a challenge,” he admitted.
How does the tourist tax help the environment?
Tourists place a burden on the infrastructure, public services and facilities of the destinations they visit. By introducing a City tax, they can help these places cope with tourist loads and discourage visitors from overcrowding. It can be used to fund public transport infrastructure, reverse crowd damage and support sustainability initiatives.
Iceland is not the only destination to introduce a tourist tax. Such schemes are already common across Europe with levies in place in major cities such as Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and Rome. The British city of Manchester announced it will begin charging a nightly fee for visitors early this year, while Santiago de Compostela in Spain has said it wants to introduce a regional tax this summer to combat overcrowding. Venice Italy has long had a visitor tax and recently set a launch date for summer 2024.