Glaciers in Iceland have become a popular tourist destination with a wide range of tourist activities including glacier walks, hikes and glacier traversing, ice-climbing, photography tours, boats and kayak tours, and training sessions on scenic flights. The main outlets suitable for glacier-based tourism activities are Myrdalsjokull and Vatnajokull due to their efficient and safe accessibility.
The increasing interest in the tourism activities has led to the emergence of numerous tourist companies, creating recognition of the importance of this field. Some companies specialize in outdoor activities while others cover diverse tour activities. Currently, glacier tours are provided by approximately 4% of the whole tourist companies. Large glacier tourism companies employ over 150 employees during the pick season while the average companies employee around 30 employees, most of whom are located in the nearby town.
In recent days, diverse tourism products are increasing the tourism market in Iceland. The primary motivation to travel is the unique nature based products and novel environment. Glaciers, for instance, creates an iconic status that cultivates a “must see” feeling to many people. Apart from the European foreigners, middle-class travelers and adventurers feel motivated to explore the beauty of nature. Accessibility to difficult terrains is made possible by use of special equipment such as crampons and modified vehicles. Experienced tour guides assist the inexperienced travelers, hence making them enjoy this adventure.
However, glacier tourisms experience direct and indirect challenges in natural environment, most of which the sector has little or no influence. These challenges occur in broad ways: catastrophic, short-lived, and recurrent. With frequent occurrence of volcanic activities, glacier floods, tephra dispersion and emission of poisonous gases are becoming a primary concern in glacier tourism. Internal challenges include booming arrival of tourists, thus causing tourism companies to strain on infrastructures.
Despite the difficulties facing the tourist sector, tourism industries remain focused to develop the sector. Tourism entrepreneurs cope with the demand for glacier based products by maintaining a sublime attention to tourists’ need. This condition underlines the future for the glacier tourism.