A plan to charge only foreign tourists visiting Iceland’s biggest waterfall may be against European law, it is claimed.
It does not stand up to Icelandic law, nor European Economic Area equality rules to demand entry fees only from foreign tourists and not Icelandic tourists, says Elías Bjarni Gíslason, Director General of Tourism Iceland.
RÚV television recently revealed that landowners at Reykjahlíð in the Lake Mývatn area of North Iceland plan to not charge Icelanders any entry fees this summer, as they had previously decided to do. On the other hand, foreigners will be asked to pay ISK 800 (USD 7/EUR 5) if they want to see Dettifoss, Leirhnjúkur or the hot springs east of Námafjall. Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe.
Entry fees have never before been charged to any of the sites, but debate over the last year or two about the negative impacts of too many tourists on sensitive places and the cost of their upkeep has emboldened landowners in several areas to talk openly about entry fees.
Ólafur H. Jónsson, the landowners’ spokesman, says the plan is a temporary experiment this summer and they will carefully monitor whether, and how, the authorities and other stakeholders react.
Elías Bjarni did not mince his words, telling RÚV that in his opinion there is no doubt that entry fees, where people are discriminated against based on their nationality, are not in line with the law, or with the rules of the European Economic Area.