[IQP] Promoting Reykjavik as a Tourist Destination

Samantha Grillo
Coulter Quinn Ralson
Kenneth Rhodes
Rachael Sallie

Abstract: Visit Reykjavík is the official tourism organization for promoting the activities in the capital city area. They would like visitors to participate in local events instead of attending primarily nature-based activities. As a result, the goal of this project was to determine how to better market Reykjavík as a tourist destination. We evaluated how organizers advertise events in Reykjavík and how tourists discover events through interviews and surveys. The team recommended changes to Visit Reykjavík’s website in order to improve the user and event organizer experience. Improvements included targeted website marketing, an interactive activity map, and a simplified event input form. We further suggest utilizing Google Analytics to verify the website’s effectiveness.

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Executive Summary

Imagine missing out on any number of amazing experiences the city of Reykjavík has to offer because you were uninformed about events in the city; how would your experience change? Could the marketing of Iceland as a nature destination be limiting visitors’ exposure to activities in Reykjavík?

The volatility and sudden growth of tourism in Iceland can be traced to the recent, dramatic history of the country. In 2008, after a nearly catastrophic financial collapse, Iceland identified tourism as an industry to boost its economy and utilized its unique geological features as a focal point to attract visitors (Jóhannesson & Huijbens, 2010). However, nature-based tourism results in a fluctuating number of visitors, as seen in Figure A. While the tourism industry has been successful, both tourists and Icelanders have concerns about the effects of uncontrolled sight-seeing on Iceland’s environment. An evaluation conducted in 2000 found that many hiking trails in Iceland had already reached their capacity of human exposure (Minister of Tourism, 2018, p.4). As more visitors come to Iceland’s nature, sites begin to lose the untouched feel that tourists expect. Promoting Reykjavík as a destination is more in line with sustainable tourism. Reykjavík has made efforts to promote itself as a cultural hub as an alternative to Iceland’s focus on nature-based tourism. For example Reykjavík has already joined the European Capitals of Culture (ECOC), and local activities are advertised through online sources such as Visit Reykjavík.

An outline of our goal, objectives, and methods can be seen below in Figure B. We used several strategies to complete objectives that aimed to better market Reykjavík as a tourist destination. These methods are listed below their objective in dark blue.

During our assessment of advertisements to meet objective one, we made the following observations:
▪ 80% of physical advertisements posted in downtown Reykjavík were for local activities.
▪ 47% of social media posts were for local activities.
▪ 27% of events on tourist websites advertised local activities.
▪ 28% of advertisements across all mediums were for local activities (Figure C).

During our surveying of visitors to meet objective two, we discovered:
▪ A majority of respondents use online resources to seek information (Figure D).
▪ Nature tours are the most popular tourist interest, but tourists are interested in other events as well (Figure E).
▪ ~50% of respondents booked or attended a nature tour, often more than one.
▪ ~25% of respondents booked or attended a cultural event, usually only one. During our interviews with event organizers to meet objective three, we learned:
▪ Many organizers cited limited marketing resources, such as time, money, or human capital.
▪ Many organizers said they were not advertising on VisitReykjavik.is.
▪ Some organizers thought the form for submitting events on VisitReykjavik.is could be improved.

We also accessed Visit Reykjavík’s Google Analytics and were able to view a large amount of statistical data about their website. This data was useful in determining user demographics and how people actually use the website.

Website data exhibited the largest disparity between local activities and nature activities, having 34% more nature advertisements than local ones (n=3961). Our survey results showed that tourism websites are the most popular source of information. If online sources are skewed towards promoting nature activities, then this could influence the perception that Iceland is only interesting as a nature destination. Businesses we interviewed often had limited resources for marketing. Their workforces typically consisted of small teams where marketing was a secondary job responsibility. Many places could not afford a large marketing budget, leaving businesses to advertise mainly online through websites and social media. However, with so many specialized apps and websites, searching for activities to do in Reykjavík can be difficult. This sentiment is well expressed by one source stating, “We are only a country of 400,000, why are there so many apps?” (Rebekka Sigurðardóttir, personal communication, September 5, 2019).When we walked around downtown Reykjavík, we were surprised to see the lack of physical advertisements. We learned that advertising on the streets was expensive and that there is also a cultural stigma associated with physical outdoor advertisements. In general, advertising on the street is seen as intrusive and is not a commonly used method, and therefore does not represent all the events Reykjavík has to offer. An example regarding large advertisements can be seen in the H&M Case Study.

The following recommendations are designed to improve tourist interaction, measurability of the Visit Reykjavík website, and event organizer involvement. We have created a sample mock website to provide a visual example of these recommendations. Figure F displays main focus areas, as well as specific recommendations within these focus areas that serve as components to accomplish the ultimate goal of better promoting Reykjavík as a destination city. To ensure the sustainability of our recommendations, we also included two areas of ongoing consideration. It is worth considering potential consequences of bringing more visitors to the city. A first step could be for city planners, local agencies, and permanent residents to identify a model city in order to maintain the cultural image of Reykjavík. Secondly, the alignment of Reykjavík with the UN Sustainable Development Goals would help establish sustainable urban planning and tourism practices that can be carried on in all dimensions of the economy. We believe the results of our recommendations will allow Visit Reykjavík to become an effective and responsive bridge between event organizers and visitors. Digital improvements will connect visitors to activities they are already interested in. This change will not only generate attendance and engagement in the city, but will also help to broaden Iceland’s tourism sector as a whole. By balancing strain on the environment and encouraging sustainable interest in Reykjavík’s activities, the tourism industry can continue to be a reliable source of income for Iceland.