Research projects

Post-trip survey amongst AEY-KEF passengers

A post-trip survey conducted amongst passengers on connecting flights between Akureyri Airport and Keflavik International Airport. Collaborating partners are Visit North Iceland, Air Iceland Connect and University of Akureyri Research Centre.

Project manager: Eyrún Jenný Bjarnadóttir - ebj[@]



Responsible Tourism in Arctic Seascapes (ReSea)

In 2016, with combined efforts between the Icelandic Seal Center, Hólar University College, the Icelandic Tourism Research Center, and the Arctic University of Norway (Tromsø) we were awarded a grant titled, Cooperation in the Field of Arctic Studies Between Iceland and Norway. This was a 12-month grant divided between mobility and preparatory work.

Since 2016, a working research group was established titled, Responsible Tourism in Arctic Seascapes (ReSea) and has grown to include other national and international partner organizations both in academic and the industry in Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Greenland, and Australia.

ReSea’s long-term purpose is:
1. To develop a research group that will connect with international experts and stakeholders to address the need for sustainable tourism development and responsible tourism practices in Arctic coastal communities and seascapes.
2. To coordinate projects that strive for excellent research and training that empowers postgraduate students by connecting them with stakeholder groups, government organizations, tourism industry organizations, academic institutions, non-profit organizations—both locally and internationally—for critical research on responsible tourism practices of Arctic coastal communities and seascapes.

ReSea’s Overarching research theme is Sustainable Tourism and Responsible Practices of Arctic Coastal Communities and Seascapes
Since its inception, the ReSea team has applied for several grants with project start dates in 2018.

ReSea is co-directed by Dr Auður H. Ingólfsdóttir - audur[at] - researcher at the ITRC and Dr Jessica Faustini Aquino, Assosiate Professor, Hólar University Collage and Head of Tourism Research Department, Icelandic Seal Center.



Cruise Ship Tourism

At the ITRC, the country's fast growing cruise tourism sector is under investigation in ongoing research projects. 

Project management: Þórný Barðadóttir - thorny[at]

Cruise Ship Tourism in Northern Iceland

An interview research amongst stakeholders in three communities in Northern Iceland. The research aim is the collection of first-hand knowledge and experiences from those taking part in the receiving and servicing of cruise ships and their passengers. The research aim is also to collect insights into to process of service, planning and policy making in regards to cruise ship tourism. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with local and nationwide representatives from harbours, municipalities, shipping agents, tour operators and local tourism. Questionnaire was set forth to capture the interviewees experiences and viewpoints on i.e. benefits, challenges and opportunities related to the Icelandic cruise traffic, as well as cooperative partners and as whether or not regulations and restrictions are needed in regards to cruise traffic. Thematic analysis was conducted to investigate emergent issues. Final report (in Icelandic) to be published by the end of 2017. 

Are we Poles apart? Cruise ship tourism in Iceland vs. New Zealand

An interview research conducted in Akureyri, North Iceland and Napier, New Zealand. A comparable questionnaire utilized in face-to-face interviews with local and nationwide stakeholders in two cruise ship destinations in the two hemispheres.

The Icelandic part is partly built on the research on cruise ship tourism in Northern Iceland, described above. A peer-reviewed paper, introducing the research’s findings to be published in 2018. 

Passenger survey

Exploratory pilot survey amongst cruise ship passengers in Akureyri harbour, conducted late summer 2017. Questionnaire on the passengers’ attitudes, expenditures, reasoning for travel etc. The research’s motive is partly the possibility of comparison between cruise ship tourism vs. land-based tourism in Iceland. Report introducing the results to be published early 2018.

Sustainable awareness of cruise operators

Joint research proposal on sustainable awareness and practices of the cruise sector in the Arctic. The project has received funding for preparatory work on joint grant appication to international competetive research programs. Final project description and submission expected spring 2019.



Tourism impact in Icelandic communities

Tourism development can be both an enabling as well as a threatening force for the well-being of local communities. Thus, it is important to explore local views on cohabiting with tourists and how tourism development impacts residents’ quality of life.

The project focuses on the social sustainability of tourism in Iceland, both on national level and in small communities. The project was originally initiated in 2014 with by the Icelandic Tourist Board in collaboration with the Icelandic Tourism Research Centre and Hólar University College. In 2014 a telephone survey was conducted amongst residents in Iceland followed by a case study based on in-depth interviews and observations in four Icelandic communities. The project was financed by the Icelandic Tourist Board.

In 2016 the Ministry of Industries and Innovation financed a study in three small communities; Hornafjordur, Siglufjordur and Myvatn. Through in-depth interviews and a telephone survey, residents were asked about their attitudes and experience of tourists and the tourism industry in their community. The study was conducted by the Icelandic Tourism Research Centre and the University of Akureyri Research Centre. The results were published in Dec. 2016 in 2 reports (in Icelandic)
Analysis of tourism impact in Icelandic communities/Greining á áhrifum ferðaþjónustu

Tourism impact in Icelandic communities / Áhrif ferðaþjónustu

In late 2016 the Tourism Task Force (isl. Stjórnstöð ferðamála) asked the Icelandic Tourism Research Centre to prepare a new survey amongst residents in Iceland. The ITRC delivered a complete list of questions and a research plan in spring 2017. The survey was conducted in autumn 2017 and a final report will be published in February 2018.   

Project manager: Eyrún Jenný Bjarnadóttir - ejb[at]



Ecomonic effects of tourism in Þingeyjarsýslur

Analysis at the sub-national level in Iceland

This study explores the availability of regional statistical data on the tourism industry in Iceland and analyses the economic effects of tourism in the Þingeyjarsýslur region. This was done by gathering regional data from fieldwork in situ consisting of company interviews and visitor surveys in Þingeyjarsýslur during the period of 2013-2015. The method used in this study considered the principles of the Nordic Model as well as the Tourism Satellite Account: Recommended Methodological Framework 2008 and its applicability at the regional level.

The report was published in 2016: Ecomonic effects of tourism in Þingeyjarsýslur: Analysis at the sub-national level in Iceland

It demonstrates the development of visitor numbers in the area as well as the development of regional accommodation statistics. The main economic findings are the total turnover by detailed industries directly related to tourism in the region as well as internal tourism consumption and tourism employment figures. The indirect effects measured in this study are partial and represent only the first round effects of tourism in the area based on purchases and other operating expenses of tourism companies in the region. Municipal tourism revenue sources are analysed and municipal income tax from the tourism industry is also calculated. The applicability of the internationally established frameworks of tourism economic impact analysis in the Icelandic regional context are discussed in this study where it emerges that due to the limited availability of regional tourism data in Iceland, methods such as the Input-Output model, Computable General Equilibrium model and tourism multipliers could not be applied in this study.

Another report about the subject was published in 2014: Tourism Data Collection: Analysis at the sub-national level in Iceland

Project manager: Lilja Berglind Rögnvaldsdóttir - liljab[at]



Distribution of tourists around Iceland

The project Distribution of tourists around Iceland has its origin in a project sponsored by the Icelandic Tourist Board in 2014. The main idea of the project is based on counting vehicles arriving at main tourist destinations in Iceland and computing the number of tourists arriving at the destinations from the number of vehicles.
In May 2018 a report was published:
Distribution of tourists around Iceland – Counting tourists at destinations
The report describes how tourists distributed around Iceland in February, August and October 2017 and how the distribution has changed in recent years. Results from the destinations in the Mývatn region are compared to traffic data collected by the Road Administration on highways leading to the Mývatn region. The number of tourists visiting two similar districts in similar distance from the capital region is compared, Mývatn region and Skaftafellssýsla region. At the end of the report results from the counting are presented for 21 tourist destinations.
The results of the project are valuable when planning tourism on a national scale as well as when managing tourist destinations and planning infrastructure and services at each destination.

Gyða Þórhallsdóttir's academic paper on the research methodology was published in the Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism in September 2017. 

Project managers: Dr. Rögnvaldur Ólafsson og Gyða Þórhallsdóttir []



Tourism, Wellbeing and Ecosystem Services (ToBeWell)

Tourism, Wellbeing and Ecosystem Services is a science and technology network of 29 EU countries managed by the University of Exeter and funded by the EU COST framework.

This COST action is based on bringing together aspects of ecosystem services (ES), which focus on life support systems, with more non-material services such as culture, health and wellbeing through tourism. It aims to link research on wellbeing provided by ecosystems and their use via tourism, leisure and recreation activities. The underpinning issue of this proposal is to produce new and collaborative research on how and in what way can tourism be a catalyst for improving human health and wellbeing, by using in a symbiotic and sustainable way natural resources and services provided by ecosystems. This will be achieved by creating a collaborative European network of research centres based around four key working groups, namely (a) theoretical relationships between tourism, wellbeing and ES ; (b) empirical and methodological research challenges and approaches; (c) interrelations between ageing, wellbeing and ES; and (d) policy frameworks’ analysis and research-informed policy making. Scheduled completion is in the end of 2017. 

The project‘s ITRC co-ordinator is prof. Edward H. Huijbens. 



Slow Adventures in Northern Territories

'Slow Adventures in Northern Territories’ (SAINT) is a joint project between SMEs and Universities in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Ireland and Scotland. The project is funded by the Northern Periphery and Arctic project (NPA) of the EU and is led by the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland. The project works with SMEs to make them more aware of how to capitalise on the business opportunities in guided ‘slow adventure’ experiences, offering simple nature-based, immersive journeys, living and travelling in wild places, through marketing to new, distant customer markets.  Northern Europe’s wide-open, ‘wild’ spaces provide a great, saleable contrast with the target group’s lives in urban centres around the world. The common challenge is for partners to work with SMEs to overcome issues of peripherality, with restricted local demand and difficult access to international markets. The principal objective is to make SMEs more aware of how to capitalise on business opportunities in guided slow adventure experiences, through extending marketing reach. Outdoor adventure micro-businesses typically lack the resources to investigate and invest in the most effective means to attract these lucrative tourist groups. 

In the end of 2016 a report on the slow adventure segment for Iceland was published (see here).

The project's 2017/2018 status-report can be read here.

The project‘s ITRC co-manager is prof. Edward H. Huijbens.