High demand for whale watching tours

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From Húsavík, North Iceland.
mbl.is/Hafþór Hreiðarsson

The tourism industry in Iceland appears to be rebounding, judging, at least, by the number of bookings received by whale watching companies.

Stefán Jón Sigurgeirsson, Managing Director of North Sailing in Húsavík, North Iceland, says

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that since March, the number of reservations has increased rapidly, and even more rapidly since the national restrictions related to COVID-19 were relaxed in May. He expects this trend to continue.

The company is currently offering three whale-watching tours per day, which will be increased to five per day, starting July 1, to meet demand. Most passengers are foreign tourists.

Stefan says foreign tourists usually book well in advance, while Icelanders arrive on short notice. “At the moment, between 85 and 90% of our passengers are foreign tourists,” he estimates. He says travelers are absolutely thrilled with the whale watching experience. “We can never guarantee whales will be spotted, but in recent weeks we have spotted whales on all of our tours,” he says. “If we don’t spot any whales, we offer a free tour until a whale is spotted.”

Rannveig Grétarsdóttir, managing director of whale-watching company Elding, Reykjavík, seems equally optimistic.

“Things look incredibly good at the end of the summer and through the winter. We can’t keep up with bookings,” she says

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and adds that as of August things look even better than in 2019.

“Provided nothing negative happens in the weeks and months ahead, fall and winter are looking incredibly good.”

Most of the tourists who have booked whale watching tours are Americans, and there are also Israelis. The Germans also began to arrive, says Rannveig.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Elding had between 50 and 60 employees. They are currently 15 and ten more will be hired in the coming weeks.

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