Our very first Destination Dialogue forum was on Iceland. Hosted by Selling Short Breaks & Holidays magazine as part of our We're Backing Agents campaign, the event brought together representatives from the Iceland tourist board, airlines and several tour operators to update agents with the latest product news, trends and valuable sales advice. Here you can read what agents who attended the event discovered and gather some fast facts to help you sell:
ICELAND IN CONTEXT
The ash cloud crisis in 2010 raised the country's profile, while a devaluation of the currency has helped Iceland become a more affordable destination.
- Clients are interested in seeing the Northern Lights phenomenon but you cannot guarantee they will see them as they are weather dependent. Best chance is during October to February. Visitors can see them from Reykjavik but it is better to head out of the city for the best views.
- Clients think Iceland is very cold. Iceland is warm in summer and relatively mild in spring and autumn too. For those travelling in winter the climate can be harsh but with warm clothing everything can still be enjoyed.
- Iceland has a reputation for being expensive – it is relatively expensive but counter this by explaining prices have come down significantly and the quality is high. Prices are comparable to Stockholm.
- There are no problem with language barriers – everyone speaks English. Icelanders like to shop so there is plenty for shopaholics - plus VAT is refundable at the airport.
- Icelanders are crazy about Christmas and celebrations begin at the end of November so this is a great time to recommend the destination to families.
- Prices on the street are the most expensive so clients will benefit by pre-booking excursions with you.
- It’s a good destination for self-drive holidays.
- The volcanic eruption in March 2010 caused airline problems worldwide but infact only affected a very small area of Iceland. It was very pretty and helicopter tours sold well. Now visitors are very interested in the usual geology of Iceland and this has become an asset.
- Government funding is in place to increase tourist appeal and get visitor numbers back so now is a good time to understand Iceland and recommend it.
Icelandair offers three classes of travel to Reykjavik with departures from Heathrow, Manchester and Glasgow, bookable through the GDS (one per cent commission).
Iceland Express offers two daily services from Gatwick in summer and flies daily in winter. Vicky Joyce of Iceland Express said: “The only thing low-cost is price. Seat allocation and baggage is included.”
"Iceland is the perfect destination for tailor-making an itinerary because it's hard for people to put together themselves. It’s a popular destination - the ash cloud has brought the country to people’s attention and they are beginning to see its appeal. There are not many places you can scuba-dive in the morning and dog-sled in the afternoon.” Oliver Blacklay, Kirker Holidays
“Iceland is a real land of contrasts between the north and the south. It’s really wild in parts and comparable to New Zealand.” John Bennett, Nordic Experience
“You can do so much in a very short period of time. Everything’s very accessible.” Ray Steward from Regent Holidays
We’re a small country but our appeal is growing, and word of mouth recommendations is one our greatest assets.” Sigga Groa, UK & Ireland area manager, Visit Iceland
The Travel Uni Iceland Informer training programme is available for agents who want to learn more and those who want to visit can also get heavily discounted accommodation in Iceland. www.icelandinformer.co.uk
“Pre-book trips to the famous Blue Lagoon and tell clients to pack their trunks at the top of their case so they can head there straight from the airport and unwind after their flight." Oliver Blacklay, Kirker Holidays
Regent Holidays www.regent-holidays.co.uk
All Iceland www.all-iceland.co.uk
Kirker Holidays www.kirkerholidays.com
Titan Hitours www.titanhitours.co.uk
Nordic Experience www.nordicexperience.co.uk
Reykjavik Excursion www.re.is
ICELAND - FAST FACTS
Size: Iceland is roughly the size of England (not UK)
Top two destinations: Reykjavik and the Blue Lagoon
High season: June to September
Northern Lights viewing: Best October to February – but remember daylight hours are short during this period
Transfer times: Airport to Reykjavik - 45 minutes
Average costs: Meal out - £30-40
Suitability for vegetarians: “Ten years ago it was not so good, now it’s outstanding.”
Nightlife: Starts late – Icelanders often don’t go out until midnight
Average length of stay: Four nights in winter and seven in summer
Accommodation choices: Reykjavik has 4,000 hotel rooms with choice and availability growing - boutique hotels are the newest addition to the mix. Outside the capital accommodation is mainly three-star hotels, but some four-stars.