Icelandic Travel Industry Dissatisfied with President

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Icelandic Travel Industry Dissatisfied with President

Executives of companies involved in the travel industry in Iceland are dissatisfied with President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson’s comments during an interview on the BBC’s Newsnight on Monday evening where he described what could happen if the volcano Katla were to erupt.

President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. Photo by Páll Kjartansson.

Grímsson stated that the current eruption in Eyjafjallajökull is only a “small rehearsal” for an eruption in Katla, which would have much more dangerous consequences. Then he went on to say that Katla usually erupts every century and that the last eruption was in 1918.

Fridrik Pálsson, owner of Hotel Rangá in south Iceland, told ruv.is that these comments could cause significant damage to the Icelandic tourist industry. With his comments, the president is evoking fear and now we all have to contribute to minimize the damage, Pálsson said.

After the interview on Newsnight, many tourists canceled their trips to Iceland and bookings dropped.

“It is difficult to say what caused such extreme reactions because a potential Katla eruption had been discussed on the BBC and in other foreign media outlets before,” Grímsson told Morgunbladid.

The president said it had been right of him to discuss the potential threat of Katla on Newsnight. “One of the main lessons from the Special Investigative Commission report is that we have to discuss potential threats. And I believe we Icelanders have learned the lesson in the past years to be on the alert for danger, economic or natural.”

“The way the president spoke is not in the spirit of what we have emphasized, which is to provide objective information and to let scientists comment on matters related to earth science,” said Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir, director of tourism.

Professor in volcanology Thorvaldur Thórdarson at the University of Edinburgh said in an interview on RÚV’s news magazine Kastljós last night that there is nothing to indicate an eruption in Katla.

He pointed out that Katla had erupted 21 times in historical times but Eyjafjallajökull only three times—apart from the current eruption. So it might as well be coincidental that eruptions in Katla had followed the Eyjafjallajökull eruptions.

Click here to watch to the interview on Newsnight.

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