Preliminary results of the Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSAs) indicate that tourism as a proportion of GDP amounted to 3.9% in 2020 compared with 8% in 2019. Total internal tourism expenditure, inbound and domestic, amounted to 220 billion ISK in 2020, a decrease of 58% compared with 2019. Inbound tourism trips to Iceland in 2020 decreased by 81% from the previous year.

Tourism as a proportion of GDP

Tourism Satellite Accounts are produced by Statistics Iceland in order to calculate the contribution of tourism to the Icelandic economy, based on international standards in tourism statistics. TSAs highlight tourism within the national accounting framework and cover both inbound tourism and domestic tourism in Iceland.

Statistics Iceland now publishes for the first time statistics on employment in tourism based on international national accounts standards. Employment in tourism, presented here, is therefore new and not revised previously published statistics. A detailed discussion of results and a comparison of different methodologies for estimating hours worked can be found in a Statistics Iceland’s publication from 2018.

Domestic tourism expenditure amounted to 56% of total internal tourism expenditure
Domestic tourism expenditure amounted to 122 billion ISK according to preliminary figures, a decrease of 14% from the year 2019. The share of domestic tourism expenditure of total internal tourism expenditure in 2020 was 56%, compared with only 27% in 2019 and hasn’t been higher from the start of the time-series in 2009. The largest share of domestic tourism expenditure in 2020 was towards accommodation, a rise of 18% compared with 2019. A close to 32% increase was measured in expenditure towards food and beverage services in 2020, compared with the previous year. The number of overnights by domestic tourists increased by 40% during the same period.

Inbound tourism expenditure decreased by 75%
Inbound tourism expenditures amounted to 98 billion ISK in 2020, according to preliminary figures, and decreased by 75% compared with the previous year’s expenditure. The largest share of inbound tourism expenditure in 2020 was on accommodation but decreased by almost 76% compared with 2019.

The total number of inbound tourism trips to Iceland was 490 thousand in 2020 and fell by 81% compared with 2019. Tourists travelling to Iceland were primarily overnight visitors arriving by scheduled air transportation. The number of overnight visitors decreased by 76% in 2020 compared with 2019, and the number of overnights decreased by 75%.

Internal tourism expenditure

Tourism proportion of GDP compared with other industries in 2020
In 2019, tourism was the third largest industry, by contribution to GDP, but plays a less significant role in 2020. When comparing tourism to other industries’ contributions to GDP, one must bear in mind that tourism is not classified as a separate activity in standard industrial classifications. Tourism as an industry is therefore assembled from a proportion of activities of multiple other industries.

Gross Domestic Product by Industries, percentage breakdown

Employment in tourism
The number of employed persons in tourism fell by 31% in 2020 compared with 2019, but close to 21,000 people were employed in jobs related to tourism in 2020 compared with 30,800 people in 2019. Total hours worked in tourism decreased by 39%, from 41.2 million working hours in 2019 to 25.3 million working hours in 2020.

Change in number of persons employed in tourism

The tourism related industries that suffered the largest proportional drop in the number of employed persons were travel agencies, road passenger transport and accommodation. The number of employed persons in accommodation decreased by 2,500, or by 36%, from 2019. Close to 1,700 fewer people were employed in food and beverage services, 1,500 in air passenger transport and 2,000 fewer in travel agencies in 2020 compared with 2019.

Employment in tourism in 2020, percentage change from last year

A government measure that enabled entitlement to unemployment benefits alongside reduced employment ratio was available to companies due to the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to experimental statistics published by Statistics Iceland on January 18, 2020, the number of people that received the part-time unemployment benefits in the tourism industry in 2020 was around 13,800, out of the 21,000 employed. Thereof 3,800 were employed in accommodation services, 4,000 in food and beverage services, 2,800 in air passenger transport and about 1,600 at travel agencies. Accommodation and air passenger transport had the highest ratio, over 90%, of employees that accepted the part-time benefits.

Revised figures
In parallel to the publication of the results of the TSAs for 2020, the results of the previous years have been revised. As TSAs belong to the central framework of the national accounts and are based on the results of the national accounts’ expenditure approach as well as the production approach, it should be emphasized that revisions made to those results also affect the TSAs.

Due to the TSAs being an economic series, the results have also been made available under economic statistics while remaining a part of the tourism category under business sector statistics. Users who already use Statistics Iceland‘s API service will need to update their connections. Connections providing the old version of data will remain active until 1 September.