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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The truth about Iceland

Ice News reports today that members of the Icelandic travel industry believe that the spate of cancellations and the reluctance of visitors to confirm bookings due to the volcano could be turned to an advantage if the country plays it cards right and keeps the world up to date on what is really going on on the ground.

Fridrik Palsson, owner of a chain of hotels, which incluces Hotel Ranga near the eruption site told RUV’s (the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service) Kastljos current affairs programme that this summer need not be a total disaster if the industry pulls together and makes use of the effective free advertising that the volcano has provided. Many countries after all, would give their eye teeth for this amount of free publicity, and I for one believe that he makes a very valid point. Iceland has a lot to offer the traveller, whether they want to rent a car and stay in five star luxury or as I will be, use public busses and take a sleeping bag. Iceland is one big adventure playground for nature lovers of all ages, with hot springs, bird life and 24 hour daylight in which to enjoy it all.

To this end, the Icelandic government has invested some ISK 350 million (USD 2.7 million) in a global publicity campaign aimed at boosting the travel sector during this crucial year. As Palsson though said, the funds need to be used wisely, to keep the world updated as to truth about how the violcano affects day to day life and what the country is really like, after a frenzy of media attention amd many mistruths. Facebook in particular (I myself am a member of several Icelandic groups and pages) could be an important tool in getting the message across.

Where a volcanic eruption of this nature would spell disaster to some, the Icelanders have picked themselves up and literally dusted themselves down. Headlines such as "Volcanic dust cloud closes air space" may be more attention grabbing than "life as normal", but the latter is closer to the former in truth, and the world needs to know this. As Palsson quite rightly says, people will continue to visit the country if they are aware of the facts, and the facts are that no one has died, shops and other facilities are functioning as normal, and the travel chaos that was reported throughout Europe has for the most part, not affected Iceland itself. Both Icelandair and Iceland Express, the two airlines based in Reykjavik, continue to operate, finding ways around the recent closure of Keflavik airport, by diverting services to Akureyri in the north.

Of course there is no way to predict what the volcano may do next, or for long it may keep erupting, but that in a way is part of the fun - and for me at least makes my own forthcoming visit all the more appealing.

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