Iceland Experienced Most Growth of All European Countries in 2016

Blue lagoon in Iceland
Photo by svedoliver/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

For travelers looking to head to Europe, Iceland is still on the rise as one of the most popular destinations for the area. According to the European Travel Commission’s (ETC) latest report, titled “European Tourism - Trends & Topics,” in 2016 Europe not only experienced a two percent increase in arrivals, but among European countries it was Iceland that remained the nation experiencing the most growth. The country experienced a 40 percent increase in growth during 2016, which was double the growth percentage of the country with the next best growth rate for the year, Cyprus.

That’s not all the travel industry is saying about Iceland, though. A new report from hotel consultancy HVS also showed that arrivals to the country are continuing to grow. The report stated that arrivals to the country’s Keflavik International Airport grew 34 percent over the year through October 2016. Another report from Virtuoso put Iceland at the top of its adventure travel destinations list. A survey of advisors and preferred partners who are part of the Virtuoso Active and Specialty Travel (VAST) program showed that 95 percent of respondents forecasted an increased demand for adventure travel over the next two or three years (meaning 2017, 2018 and 2019) with Iceland leading the way in terms of destinations gaining popularity.

The increase in arrivals makes sense, when you consider that multiple airlines increased routes and flights in and out of the country during the previous years. WOW air, Iceland’s low-cost transatlantic airline, introduced new daily flights from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) to Keflavik, following the airlines entry into the U.S. west coast market in June of 2016. The airline offers flights from San Francisco to Iceland five days a week and flights from LAX to Iceland four days a week. The rates began at $99, including taxes, for a route that included a one hour stop over in Iceland to allow travelers to continue to a number of WOW air’s other European destinations.

Finnair also got in on the action recently, having announced the addition of a fifth weekly flight to its new Reykjavik route which will begin service on April 11, 2017. The new, additional flight will depart Wednesdays between May 31 and August 11. The route will become a year-round destination with three weekly frequencies during the winter service. The flights are going to complemented by flights operated by Icelandair, with whom Finnair has a codeshare agreement.

Air traffic isn’t the only new development in Iceland, either. Also new to Reykjavik is the new Canopy By Hilton, which opened its first Reykjavic hotel during the summer of 2016. Canopy by Hilton Reykjavik City Center is centrally located within the city, conveniently on Hverfisgata Street. The hotel sits near attractions like Lugavegur (a street known for its shopping, eateries and pubs), the Harpa Concert Hall and Convention Center and Old Reyjavik Harbor, offering views of Mount Esja and Hallgrimskirkja church. The hotel has 112 rooms and suites decorated in ocean blue and gray volcanic rock, complete with local touches like a Reykjavic Music Box that plays an Icelandic lullaby. Amenities of the hotel include Iceland’s famous Omnom chocolate on site, an LP library with records to be played on any of the hotel's 10 record players, the Geiri Smart restaurant, the lobby area’s Canopy Central (complete with Canopy Breakfast Bags available for delivery to guest rooms), a 24-hour fitness center and meetings/event space for up to 50 people.

The hotel also provides complimentary bicycles for guests, and staff are knowledgeable in recommending local routes to explore the city and surrounding trails. Bonus: From October through March, guests can watch the Northern Lights from near the hotel.

For cruise lovers, a number of cruise lines introduced Icelandic ports of call into their upcoming itineraries. Oceania Cruises announced the addition to its 2017 summer and 2017-2018 winter itineraries of a maiden port call in Husavik, Iceland, in addition to the addition of Reykjavik. The new call will take place on the line's Northeastern Quest of its Around the World in 180 Days voyage.

Coming in June of 2017 is Variety Cruises' newest Iceland itinerary, “Iceland: Journey in the Land of Fire & Ice.” The week-long yacht cruise will set sail on the 35-passenger Callisto, the newest addition to Variety Cruises’ fleet of yachts. Travelers will take the Ring Road to reach Godafoss Waterfall before continuing on to Lake Myvatn, Namarksard and Dimmuborgir. They’ll continue on to the almost-Arctic fishing town of Siglufjordur, complete with stops at the Herring Museum and Folk Music Center, before reaching Isafjordur, the largest fishing port in Westfjords. Other highlights of the itinerary include visiting the Sea Monsters Museum in Bildudalur and the Latrabag Cliffs, Borgarnes, Deildartunguhver, Barnafoss Waterfalls, Reykholt, Heimaey Island and more.

Poseidon Expeditions announced its lineup of Arctic and Antarctic cruises onboard the 114-passenger Sea Spirit. Departing June 15, 2017, a new voyage explore Iceland’s northern fjords and follows the Arctic Circle east to the Norwegian coast. Arctic rates in 2017 for the all-suite Sea Spirit begin at $8,395 per person, double, and if three people share a Triple Suite, the rate is $5,995 per person. New for 2017 will be the inclusion of a pre-cruise hotel night in either Reykjavik, Iceland, or Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, depending on the itinerary.

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