Excursion: Iceland, 2023

Exploring Iceland's Tourism Industry

Iceland (download our TDS brochure and link to our video), with its breathtaking landscapes and unique natural wonders, has become an increasingly popular destination for travelers seeking adventure and natural beauty. A learning excursion to Iceland thus offers a unique opportunity for our TDS students to gain insights into the country's thriving tourism industry. 19 students in company with Prof. Dr. Klage and our Program Manager Steffi Schnierer started their journey to Iceland on the 14 October 2023 from the International Airport in Berlin to Reykjavík. 7 exciting days were waiting for us.

Exploring Natural Wonders of Iceland

1. Waterfalls: Chasing the Majestic Cascades

We were travelling by bus on our whole trip, this allowed us the flexibility to stop at any station we wanted, and on the other side with a small population of only around 370.000 people on an island the size of about 1/3 of Germany the public transport was not as sophisticated as in Europe, so taking the bus was the only logical option.

Iceland is famous for its stunning and impressive waterfalls, and no excursion is complete without experiencing the might and beauty of these natural wonders.

The first day started off with the visit of two iconic waterfalls: Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss, gaining an appreciation for the geological forces that have shaped the landscape and the challenges of managing the impact of tourism on these sites. And of course, the Gullfoss waterfall, probably the most famous waterfall in Iceland.

Lectures on the road: During our bus trips between our destinations Thilo, our tour expert (an alumni of TDS :-) explained historical, economic, geopolitical and political situations in Iceland which led to even more interest in this mythic and wonderful country. These short seminars kept the bus drive entertaining and aroused the student’s interest to dive deep and explore more of this exciting country.

2. Nature in its finest: Geysers, beaches and wonderful landscapes

The Geyser in Iceland is a natural wonder that has inspired all the other geysers of the world to have the same name. Located at the heart of the popular tourist route “The Golden Circle” which showcases some of Iceland’s most stunning attractions. Sadly, with an eruption circle of 2-3 years the chances were slim to see the mother of geysers erupting. But the neighboring geyser, the smaller Strokkur gave us an opportunity to see a geothermal eruption every 6-10 minutes which reached heights as far as 20 meters.

Natural and untouched environment are rarely seen at a lot of touristic sites nowadays, but in Iceland nature will greet you from its best side. With famous locations such as the “Black beach Reynisfjara”, where Game of Thrones were filmed, or the majestic Diamond beach with sparkling ice diamonds awaits you. 

3. Glaciers and Lava Fields: Witnessing Geological Wonders

The excursions to Iceland's glaciers and lava fields were true highlights of the trip. We explored the areas around the magnificent Vatnajökull glacier lake, the largest in Europe, and visited the otherworldly lava fields, gaining insights into Iceland's unique geological history and the challenges of preserving these fragile environments in the face of climate change and tourism.

Appointment with Fjallsárlón glacier lagoon
After experiencing the exciting boat trip on the glacier lake ourselves, Pavel, CEO of the tour company shared his experience with us. We were welcomed into their facilities to get to know how they operate their business and what challenges they faced during the founding of their now successful company. These first-hand insights were incredible valuable and the sharing of their knowhow helped us to understand different challenges in this industry.

4. Lava Caves: Delving into the Earth

After visiting the magnificent hotspots above the sea level, it was time to dive under the into Iceland's underground lava caves.

The cave Vatnshellir offered us a fascinating journey, where we explored subterranean tunnels and learn about the geological forces that shape the island over hundreds of thousands of years. This adventure provided us a unique perspective on Iceland's diverse landscapes from underneath and the inside. Aegir Thor, from Summit Adventure Guides were so kind to share with us his thoughts about running this business as well as what skills and abilities are needed to establishing such a business.

Moreover, we were able to discuss the impacts of tourism activities on Iceland’s nature when we met with Sigurgeir who is a ranger at the Skaftafell Visitor Centre in the Vatnajökull National Park. Amongst other aspects he described his work responsibilities as well as his observations of tourists’ (negative) behavior during their visit. It was enriching to get Sigurgeir’s perceptive on tourism and its impacts on Iceland’s nature considering that sustainability was one of the cross-sectorial issues during our field trip.

Visiting Stakeholders of the Tourism Industry

Hotel Industry: Understanding Hospitality Excellence
Meeting with Geir Gígja
, Sales- and Marketing Manager of Hótel Cabin, Hótel Örk and Hótel Klettur

The academical journey began with a deep dive into the hotel industry, where our group learned about the role of accommodation in Iceland's tourism landscape. Visiting high-end hotels, boutique guesthouses and small wooden cabins, completed with eco-friendly accommodations allowed us to explore different facets of the hospitality sector. We gained insights into sustainable practices, customer service, and the challenges and opportunities in Iceland's hotel industry.

Visit Iceland: Marketing Iceland to the World
Meeting with Thorleifur Johnson

Visit Iceland, the official marketing and promotion agency for Icelandic tourism, plays a pivotal role in the country's tourism industry. Here, students explore the marketing strategies and campaigns that have propelled Iceland into the international spotlight. They learn about the power of storytelling in promoting tourism and how to showcase Iceland's unique offerings to a global audience

Ministry of Culture and Business Affairs: Policy and Regulation
Meeting with Ingvi Mar Palsson

Understanding the regulatory framework that governs Iceland's tourism industry is essential for students to understand how many stakeholders are in this industry. A visit to the Ministry of of Culture and Business Affairs Iceland provided us valuable insights into government policies, safety standards, and sustainability initiatives aimed at preserving the country's environment while accommodating an increasing number of tourists over the year.

4. Cave exploring and discovering, Glacier Travel
Meetings with Summit Adventure Guides and Glacier Paradise

Our meetings outside the capital city led us to the Snaefellsnes peninsula in the west of Iceland, here after diving into the dark abyss of the Lava Cave and exploring the intense history and scientific background of the cave, Aegir Thor from “Summit Adventure Guides” took time to explain their founding background to let us get a sneak peek into their work and adventures! This gave the students an unique opportunity to ask questions to a real adventurer, who still actively discovers new and unexplored caves, with their lives on the line to provide the best and most attractive destinations.

On the second meeting in Snaefellsnes, we met Vignir, the founder of Glacier Paradise, a provider of Glacier tours and snow mobile tours. The experiences from the owner and managing director gave us a detailed overview of his company, we are grateful for this opportunity and whish all the providers good fortune for the future!

The university learning excursion to Iceland was an immersive and enlightening experience, offering our TDS students the chance to analyze the multifaceted world of Iceland’s tourism industry and witness the beauty of its natural wonders. By visiting various stakeholders, from hotels, Vatnajökull National Park, Jessica from Iceland Pro Travel, further marketing agencies to government ministries, our TDS master’ students gained a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities in this dynamic sector.

Exploring waterfalls, lagoons, hot springs, glaciers, lava fields, and lava caves provided us with an extra appreciation for the unique geological heritage that sets Iceland apart as a premier destination for adventure seekers and nature lovers. This excursion not only broadens our horizons but also let us appreciate the delicate balance between tourism and sustainability in this magnificent land of fire and ice.

These kind of excursions also allows the “new” group to gather valuable experiences between people and increase the group dynamic and social competences. Our time together has flown by so fast, the cooking events where everyone helped to prepare dinner, the gaming nights with boardgames and card games as well as other social events are unforgettable moments.

See you next time or on Islandic “Sjáumst næst”

TDS Master student