Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, Iceland’s industry and trade minister, has submitted a bill on the controversial new ‘nature pass’ idea which would force tourists to pay to see Iceland’s natural wonders.
The aim of the pass is to generate enough revenue to massively increase necessary development, maintenance and protection of tourist sites, as well as improving tourist safety, according to a statement from the employment and innovation ministry.
The massive increase in the number of foreign tourists visiting Iceland brings with it a massive increase in the stress placed on many of Iceland’s natural pearls, Vísir reports.
“Last year 870,000 foreign tourists came here and this year the million-guest-mark will probably be broken. Surveys reveal that 80 percent of these foreign tourists name the Icelandic nature as the main reason for their visit,” the statement says.
The natural landscape is showing signs of stress in many popular locations and the construction and maintenance of tourist facilities has not developed proportionally with the increasing number of visitors. The minister believes it is important to quickly begin rectifying the situation and it is estimated that the required investment will be about a billion krónur a year (EUR 6.5 million/USD 8 million).
“All tourist hotspots owned by, or in the care of, public authorities will automatically be part of the Nature Pass. Additionally, private parties can apply for membership to the Nature Pass and they would then be prohibited from charging additional entry fees.”
The Nature Pass will cost ISK 1,500 (EUR 9.75/USD 12) and will last for three years. Individuals under 18 will be exempt from the charge. Policing and administration of the pass will fall to the tourist board and it will have the authority to fine people who do not have a valid pass.
“The predicted takings in the first three years from the Nature Pass are about ISK 4.5 to 5.2 billion (EUR 29-34 million/USD 23-42 million) and it is thought about 85 percent of that will come from foreign tourists.”
Most of the money collected will go to developing facilities and protecting the nature at public owned tourist sites, while ten percent will go on the same provisions at privately owned sites—matched by 50 percent contributions from landowners.
Just 3.5 percent of the money is expected to go on admin and policing the scheme.
The Pass is expected to come into force on 1st September 2015.