Icelandair recognizes the wonders that its country has to offer. The airline has expressed that there are plenty of tourism opportunities across Iceland, and it aspires to play an integral part in the nation’s progress in this field. Simple Flying recently had the opportunity to speak with the chief executive officer of Iceland’s flag carrier, Bogi Nils Bogason, about these prospects.

The outlook

Altogether, Icelandair firmly believes that Iceland will be a particularly attractive tourist destination after the pandemic. It feels that there is a demand to visit the Nordic country. The carrier is concentrating on connecting its core markets, and as conditions improve, more travelers will fly into Iceland from these regions.

“Our strategy will be to focus on our current markets. We are operating in three markets: the market to Iceland, from Iceland, and then we are connecting Europe and North America via Iceland. This will be our focus going forward and we see a lot of opportunities for our network and our airline.” Bogason told Simple Flying.

“I believe that changes in the competitive landscape with less direct flight offers across the Atlantic will also provide opportunities for our products and services as we provide numerous connecting possibilities via Iceland where we are both connecting what we call primary and secondary cities. So, we just firmly believe there will be a lot of opportunities for our business model post-COVID, both to and from Iceland and by connecting Europe and North America.”

Challenging conditions

Iceland relies heavily on tourism across its economy. However, the global health crisis has taken its toll on this sector amid all the flight restrictions. Icelandair was initially flying approximately 2-3% of its planned schedule for the summer because of the border measures in place. During this period, the carrier focused on keeping vital routes to and from Iceland open, serving its core markets in the likes of Boston, London, and Copenhagen.

However, once authorities lifted the restrictions in the middle of June, the carrier slowly ramped up its schedule. It saw huge interest in travel to Iceland from European markets. It was soon serving approximately 30% of its planned schedule. This progress wouldn’t last too long as the virus spread increased again, and country officials voted for more strict measures at the border. In turn, this move caused Icelandair to operate a minimal schedule again.

Nonetheless, the return of activity in the middle of last year proves that there is a demand for travel if conditions allow it. Therefore, Icelandair has been having an ongoing dialogue with the authorities in Iceland about how the measures at the Icelandic border could progress in a safe way depending on the status of the pandemic at any given time, especially in relation to the coming high season.

Tourism is part of the package

Bogason highlights that Iceland has been able to handle the pandemic quite well compared to many other countries. The nation’s strong infrastructure has helped with this. Notably, the country’s size is considerable compared with its population. Only approximately 364,100 people live on the land, which has an area of 103,000 km².

With an abundance of natural beauty, locals have catered well to those arriving from around the world to see the sights. It’s evident that Icelandair is keen to develop tourism in the country. Across its platforms, it heavily promotes excursion packages across the country,

The health crisis has forced Icelandair to take a backseat in certain areas. However, it will continue to advance as the decade progresses.

“Our goal is to grow our business and our network in a profitable and a sustainable manner. Responsibility will continue to be one of our core focus areas, towards our customers, our employees, the environment and society. We aim to generate profitable organic growth in the coming years and focus on our core operations,” Bogason informed Simple Flying.

“Over the past decade we led the expansion of the Icelandic tourism industry with the development of quality hotels across the country as well as other tourism services. Although we continue to have an important role within the tourism sector with continued focus on our markets to and from Iceland, we have been gradually moving our focus to our core business, aviation. This coming decade our focus will be on growing our route network in a profitable manner. If we have been able to generate profitable organic growth at the end of this decade, then we have achieved our goals.”

Collaboration is needed

Before 2020, over two million people visited Iceland. They would have been keen to experience scenes such as the northern lights, the Blue Lagoon, the glaciers, the shores, and several other natural phenomena.

However, in order to facilitate travel again and for Icelandair to transport passengers to experience what Iceland has to offer, Bogason believes it’s important for nations to collaborate to provide a unified and consistent approach across the globe to ensure safe travels.

At the moment, COVID measures and travel restrictions vary between countries. However, joint global guidelines on requirements and documentation needed to travel safely in the current climate could open up travel again. Nonetheless, passenger activity will eventually return to healthier levels. So, when this time comes, Icelandair is prepared to transport travelers to see its homeland’s wonders.

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