Iceland is booming. The northern island nation is quickly becoming one of the hottest European destinations for Americans going abroad.
In fact, American travelers are the largest source of tourism in Iceland, and it’s projected that nearly 325,000 of them have already visited in 2016, according to Vox. It’s expected that by the end of the year, more Americans will visit than there are people living in Iceland (the population is about 331,000).
It’s a big increase from 2010, when just 51,000 Americans visited the country. American interest in traveling to Iceland has increased 65% over the last year, Kayak.com told Vox.
That’s a lot of attention for a place that is extremely cold in the winter and only gets about four hours of daylight much of the year. There are, however, five reasons that could explain the explosion in tourism from 2010 to 2016, and the biggest one involves a natural disaster.
1. What volcano?
The 2010 eruption of volcano Eyjafjallajökull attracted worldwide attention by halting much of Europe’s air traffic for an entire week. Iceland’s tourism board capitalized on this attention by releasing a PR blitz campaign highlighting the natural beauty of Iceland and putting it in the minds of would-be travelers, according to Vox. That marketing campaign appears to have paid off.
2. Cheap flights
But that wouldn’t have been enough on its own to bring in so many Americans. The logistics of flying to Iceland also check out. It’s a pretty short flight (around 5-6 hours) from the population-dense East Coast – shorter than most would expect it to take to fly to Europe. And more importantly, budget airlines like WOW Air are offering inexpensive flights. A trip to Iceland is 26% cheaper than other European destinations, according to Kayak.com.
This summer, WOW Air announced a set of flights from Los Angeles to Keflavik International Airport for just $99. Predictably, those sold out pretty quickly.
3. More places to stay
Iceland’s popularity is peaking at the same time that services like Airbnb are making travel easier than ever. In addition, Iceland is seeing a major hotel boom in its major cities, and more major luxury brands arriving soon, according to Travel Pulse. Iceland saw a 36% increase in hotel stays from 2014 to 2015.
4. Iceland on TV
- Robert Hoetink / Shutterstock.com
Iceland’s natural beauty has also attracted American media producers, introducing the country to a bevy of TV watchers who otherwise don’t pay attention to travel trends. For the sixth season of ABC’s “The Bachelorette” in 2010, producers decided to set an episode in Iceland, no doubt contributing to the massive increase of tourism to the country.
5. Iceland is relatively safe and stable
Iceland is shielded from many of the economic and terrorism issues that are troubling mainland Europe. While tourism is declining in many parts of Europe, the trendiness of Iceland makes it a bit of an outlier, notes Vox. It’s like going to Europe without really dealing with the problems plaguing the continent.