Iceland eruption frightful for tour operators

The eruption which started in Grimsvotn Lakes in Vatnajokull glacier in the southeast of Iceland about 350 km from Reykjavik on Saturday night reminds many of last year's eruption in Eyjafjallajokull.

“It’s a frightful situation for us and the tourism industry in Iceland,” said Rannveig Gretarsdottir, the CEO of Elding Whale Watching Company in Reykjavik, “We’re at the start of the tourist season, and I am afraid that the eruption will physically, or mentally, discourage foreign tourists from visiting the country. All we can hope for at this stage is that the eruption ends soon and for flights to return back to normal.”

“In our first year, we dealt with the banking crisis, in the second year, we dealt with the eruption in Eyjafjallajokull, and now, in our third year, we get to deal with another eruption,” said Ursula Spitzbart, the CEO of Reykjavik Bike Tours, “These are trying times for us in the bicycle tour business, as well as everyone else in Iceland involved in tourism.”

Last year’s eruption in Eyjafjallajokull started on March 20 and petered out in May. Visitor numbers compared to the previous year dropped by 20 percent in April and May due to cancellations and disruptions of flights. The end result for visitor numbers in 2010 was on par with 2009, which was a record year.

It is difficult to predict how long an eruption can last. The last eruption in Grimsvotn Lakes in Vatnajokull was in 2004 and lasted for a week. There have been several eruptions in Grimsvotn Lakes in the last decades, and they have all been relatively short lived. An eruption in 1873 lasted 7 months, but intensity was relatively low during that time. After a forceful start to this eruption, it started to show reduced activity on day 2 (Sunday).

This article was written by Stefan Helgi Valsson, first published on eTurboNews 23 May 2011.


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