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Survey: Tourism in Iceland & Its Environment Impact

|March 27, 2019
Passionate nature lover, traveler, adventurer. Viktoria has traveled halfway around the globe with a single backpack and a tent. Finally, she landed in Iceland and decided to make a new home for herself in Reykjavik.

We talked to hundreds of our customers to find out their views on the environment, travel and the Icelandic tourism industry itself.

Arctic Adventures conducted a survey of hundreds of their customers to find out about their attitudes to the environment, climate change and tourism’s affect on the region.
Over 250 holidaymakers took the survey, and the vast majority showed an appreciation for Iceland’s natural beauty and a sense of urgency when it comes to climate change.
Arctic Adventures’ CEO and owner, Jon Thor Gunnarsson, said of the survey results:

“Like everybody else, we are gravely concerned about the effects of climate change. Inaction is not an option. As a company, we invest in local climate initiatives, strive to educate about the effects of global warming and maintain as low a carbon footprint as possible on all of our tours.”

“The results of this survey are a cause for cautious optimism: Not only are the public concerned about the environment, but this concern grows after they see Iceland first-hand. This is a perfect example of travel’s ability to change people for the better. Also, the survey showed that many tourists are willing to take positive steps, whether this means skipping fragile sites they’d like to visit or travelling with an environmentally friendly company – even if it means having to pay more to do so.”  Looking at the reasons for going to Iceland, over 85% of visitors come to Iceland for its beautiful scenery.

An even higher number of visitors are either “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the environment in the region: 98%.

And over half of those surveyed said they were even more concerned having seen Iceland first-hand.

Most would be “unlikely” or “very unlikely” to visit an attraction if the visit had a negative effect on the environment.

And a clear majority would prefer to travel with a tour company that invests in protecting the environment.

This number holds reasonably steady – at nearly 70% – when respondents are asked if they would pay more for a company that invested in the environment.

Some visitors (just over half) were concerned about seeing a site or attraction before it was too late.

Shrinking glaciers was of most concern to visitors, perhaps because this is one of the most visible forms of environmental destruction in Iceland. But as you can see from the below data, there’s no shortage of causes for concern, with endangered species, warming waters and pollution all featuring heavily among those surveyed.

Encouragingly, most respondents would forgo visiting a site if they knew that it had a negative impact on the local environment.

Also interesting: Most feel that they’d like to know more about the impact of their holidays. This is an opportunity for greater transparency and communication between tour operators and their customers.

Arguably one of the more controversial findings of the survey; respondents believe that the Icelandic government bears most responsibility for the environment, followed by the country’s citizens.

The survey shows that tourists share Arctic Adventures’ concerns about the environment. However, it also betrays the fact that we haven’t communicated our philosophy clearly enough.

Our four guidelines for travelling with us are:

1. Take nothing but pictures.
2. Kill nothing but time.
3. Leave nothing but footprints.
4. Make nothing but memories.

Be sure to take the time to read Arctic Adventures’ full philosophy, certifications, and policies.

Arctic Adventures’ customers have spoken, and we have listened. We’re proud of our approach to the Icelandic environment and are always striving to do better. Watch this space.

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