The tourists returned to Iceland. But so is the pursuit of the whale

Reykjavik, Iceland (CNN) After a four -year hiatus, Iceland’s last whaling company, Hvalur hf., Is resuming its search this summer, much to the chagrin of tourist officials.

While Covid-19 disease has had a serious impact on Iceland’s tourism industry, the backlash on the whale is the last thing tourism officials want.

“The tourism industry’s desire to tarnish Iceland’s image as a tourist destination is well known and expressed,” said Jóhannes Þór Skúlason, director of the Icelandic Tourist Board. “Just look at the way the whale is portrayed in the foreign newspaper.”

“It’s often featured in big books with hot covers,” Jóhannes continued. “In the tourism industry, in independent organizations and in public elections; in letters, phone calls, and other conversations, the whale has a very direct effect, and the tourism industry thinks it’s time to re -engage. the whale in the discussion. “

Representatives of the group expressed outrage over the planned whale hunt. “The tourism industry and most of Iceland’s citizens are against whales,” said bergsberg Jónsson, CEO of Travel Connect, a large travel services company based in Reykjavík.

“It is sad and humbling to hear that this Hvalur group intends to continue killing these animals in Iceland.

Stakes are as high as tourism in Iceland during the high Covid-19 disease. “We’re an island, so the barrier to travel here is much higher than for those visiting a nearby country,” said Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, head of Visit Iceland.

Confidence in tourism

Whale watching is a popular tourist activity in Iceland.

Whale watching is a popular tourist activity in Iceland.

Matthew Williams-Ellis / VWPCS / AP

Although Covid-19 has devastated nations around the world, countries do not rely as much on tourism as Iceland. Leading the way to chronic illness, tourism is the most important thing in the country.

According to data from the Iceland Chamber of Commerce, the region’s growth increased in 2017 when tourists accounted for 42% of the country’s total exports.

With the onset of the disease, GDP has grown in the past year. Activities related to travel, air transportation, accommodation and restaurants will be reduced by 50-75% from 2019.

Hvalur later sent his ships to follow in the summer of 2018, and 146 whales were caught during the season. Due to the light, the whaling season begins in June and continues until September. It is estimated that there are about 150 people working on whaling ships at the whaling station in western Iceland and at the company’s factories outside Reykjavík.

The tails of two 35-tonne Fin whales were killed by predators in June 2009.

The tails of two 35-tonne Fin whales were killed by predators in June 2009.

Halldor Kolbeins / AFP / Photo Credit

Some argue that whales are part of Icelandic culture and need to start all over again.

“Whales have a long tradition in Iceland, and I think hunting is allowed,” said a worker at the whaling station, who did not want to be known because it could interfere with his work. told CNN Travel. “Only about 125-150 whales were hunted each year in the seven seasons since Iceland started whaling again in 2006. That year, I think there were only eight whales being chased. “

Bad emails

Tourism officials said the whale was damaging Iceland's reputation.

Tourism officials said the whale was damaging Iceland’s reputation.

Mayall / photo gallery / Getty Images

Many are surprised that Hvalur, which is led by CEO Kristján Loftsson, continues to hunt for whales due to environmental concerns and its poor finances.

“It’s hard for us to understand why whaling isn’t just a crime, it’s not a financial investment,” said Travel Connect’s bergsberg.

Hvalur’s Loftsson denied the allegations.

About 3% of all whales hunted worldwide, Iceland’s whale production according to a 2019 report from Iceland’s Ministry of Industries and Innovation. In 2017, the total revenue of whale watching companies was 3.2 billion Icelandic krona ($ 26.5 million). Currently, Hvalur’s revenue from whaling operations in 2017 is $ 1.7 billion ($ 14.1 million).

However, whale tours are more lucrative because they are a popular activity for tourists all year round.

Many are dissatisfied with the outcome of a project, even as tourism companies this summer expect to return to a “pre-Covid” number of tourists, and a controversial issue such as whale hunting.

“Overall, our travel team didn’t know much about this, but every now and then, we get bad emails about the topic,” Ásberg said. “We always explain that as a group, we don’t support whale hunting. Everyone needs to see these amazing things that grow in their natural habitat.”

A final hurray?

The tour of Iceland was filmed by Covid.

The tour of Iceland was filmed by Covid.

Photos by Ryan Pyle / Getty

The year 2022 is probably the last year for Hvalur because the whaling license will expire in 2023, and then Iceland’s Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture will decide to end the issuance of whaling licenses. whale license from 2024 onwards. It seems that the demand for whale products is not small and the industry plays very little for the Icelandic economy.

“Every whale in Iceland’s waters is about science and according to world law,” Sigríður said. “Hvalur has the required license to do whaling this summer. It is up to the pilot and the owners to decide if they will use it and it is up to the Icelandic people and the government to decide if the whales will be given. “In the last three years, there has been only one Minke whale and no large whales have been caught.”

All Covid-19 holders will be released in March 2022, and tour officials have high hopes for a good summer.

“Tourism is back in Iceland,” Sigríður said. “In our forecast, we expect near-normal numbers this summer and a full return next year.”

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