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Gold Rush Signs Worry Hotel Veteran

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Gold Rush Signs Worry Hotel Veteran

Keflavik International Airport

From Keflavík Airport. Photo: Zoë Robert.

A veteran of 50 years in hotel management worries about the lack of policy and thought in the tourism industry in Iceland. Wilhelm Wessman, former hotel director at Saga Hotel, was interviewed by RÚV this morning. He’s especially concerned about plans to increase the number of hotel rooms in Reykjavík by 2,000 in the next four years an compares the situation to a gold rush.

“We have no staff for this. We import labor, who can‘t speak Icelandic, and not even English. As in a gold rush, he remarked, “ when one person starts something, everyone follows. There is no thought and everyone can do anything.That‘s the big problem.”

He said the foundation behind building all these hotels is weak. What’s lacking is a concept to build on, planning and better educated staff. He worries that we might end up with buildings we have no use for. An exception to this, he said, is the luxury hotel planned to rise beside Harpa concert hall. That in itself is a magnet to attract international conferences. For the most part, hotels are constructed and charter flights expected to fill them up. As soon as market conditions deteriorate, those hotels are in trouble.

“This is like any other business: Selling for the first time is easy, but staying in business is difficult,” he concluded.

Wilhelm pointed out the lack of planning in the tourism industry in general: No agreement has yet been reached on a nature pass to cover the cost of maintaining our natural treasures, and meanwhile some of them face the risk of being downtrodden.

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