Tourism in Iceland

Tourism in Iceland

Iceland recorded a total of 488,000 tourists in 2020, ranking 128th in the world in absolute terms.

That smaller countries regularly perform lower in a comparison of the absolute number of guests, is obvious. By putting the tourist numbers in relation to the population of Iceland, the result is much more comparable picture: With 1.3 tourists per resident, Iceland ranked 37th in the world. In Northern Europe, it ranked 4th.

In 2018, Iceland generated around 3.13 billion US dollars in the tourism sector alone. This corresponds to 12.22 percent of its the gross domestic product and approximately 3 percent of all international tourism receipts in Northern Europe.

A global comparison can be found here › International tourism

Back to overview: Iceland

On average, each of the tourists arriving in 2018 spent about 1,063 US dollars. Conversely, the inhabitants of Iceland spend as much as 2,315 dollars a year when they themselves spend vacations abroad.

Tourism in Iceland

Development of the tourism sector in Iceland from 1995 to 2020

The following chart shows the number of tourist arrivals registered in Iceland each year. Anyone who spends at least one night in the country but does not live there for more than 12 months is considered a tourist. Insofar as the survey included the purpose of the trip, business trips and other non-tourism travel purposes have already been excluded. The number of people passing through within the same day, and e.g., crew members of ships or flights are also not considered tourists in most countries. If the same person travels in and out more than once within the same year, each visit counts again.

Tourists per year in Iceland

Revenues from tourism

In 1995, tourism revenues amounted to 309.00 million USD, or about 4.3 percent of the gross national product. This corresponded to about 211,000 tourists at that time and roughly 1,464 USD per person. Within 23 years, the country's dependence on tourism has increased drastically. Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, sales were $3.13 billion billion, 11.91 percent of gross national product. Thus, each visitor spent an average of $1,257 on their vacation in Iceland.

Full figures for 2020, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, are not currently available. However, national and international travel has been restricted worldwide, and some countries have even been closed off from the outside world altogether. Dramatic revenue losses are expected, with some countries experiencing losses of up to more than 80%.

Tourism receipts in Iceland per year

All data for Iceland in detail

YearNumber of touristsReceipts% of GNPReceipts per tourist
20192.20 m
20182.49 m3.13 bn $11.91 %1,257 $
20172.35 m3.02 bn $12.23 %1,285 $
20161.89 m2.41 bn $11.60 %1,275 $
20151.39 m1.62 bn $9.2 %1,165 $
20141.10 m1.38 bn $7.7 %1,248 $
2013900,0001.08 bn $6.7 %1,198 $
2012765,000865.00 m $5.9 %1,131 $
2011628,000751.00 m $4.9 %1,196 $
2010559,000562.00 m $4.1 %1,005 $
2009563,000550.00 m $4.2 %977 $
2008561,000881.00 m $4.9 %1,570 $
2007539,000848.00 m $3.9 %1,573 $
2006477,000702.00 m $4.0 %1,472 $
2005429,000635.00 m $3.8 %1,480 $
2004405,000558.00 m $4.0 %1,378 $
2003348,000486.00 m $4.3 %1,397 $
2002315,000415.00 m $4.5 %1,317 $
2001329,000383.00 m $4.7 %1,164 $
2000328,000386.00 m $4.3 %1,177 $
1999281,000380.00 m $4.2 %1,352 $
1998255,000372.00 m $4.4 %1,459 $
1997223,000314.00 m $4.1 %1,408 $
1996223,000312.00 m $4.2 %1,399 $
1995211,000309.00 m $4.3 %1,464 $

Our data on tourist numbers, revenues and expenditures are based on information from the World Tourism Organization. However, to ensure international comparability, the data for some years or countries were manually researched and corrected if they obviously included visitors without overnight stays. In these cases, the data were taken from the official communications of the respective national tourism authorities.

The World Tourism Organization additionally points out that in some countries, the number of tourists is only counted at airports, while in others they are also counted at border crossings or even hotels. A comprehensive and reliable indication is therefore hardly possible in any country.

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