Yesterday, the Minister of Industry and Commerce submitted a bill at Althingi on nature passes that she says will mean a drastical change of the construction of tourist attractions in Iceland. The cost of the three year pass will be 1500 ISK or approximately 12 USD.
Other ways of funding tourist attractions either include discrimination, do not generate sufficient income or are not feasible due to regulations in the European Economic Area and Schengen according to the minister.
The bill on nature passes has been in the making for some time but it has been met with quite a resistance within the tourist industry and the parliamentary opposition and sceptical voices have been heard within the ruling parties.
Do you think that the bill will fly through the parliament, does it not meet some resistance with the ruling parties?
„I don't think it will fly through the parliament. And I've no intention of forcing it through by violence or some accelerated procudure,“ Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, Minister of Industry and Commerce, says, but she introduced the bill to reporters this morning.
On the other hand, she hopes that the bill will be fairly debated at Althingi and passed at Althingi in the springtime.
Will return 5 billions ISK
Ragnheiður says that other ways like supplementary room tax have been looked at, but they generate less income than the nature pass and will only be levied on hotels and are not beneficial for the smallest hotels. The advantage of the nature pass is that it will be paid by anyone who enjoys Icelandic nature and foreign tourists will pay about 85% of the fee for the pass. The pass will return 4.5-5 billions ISK for necessary construction of tourist attractions for the next three years.
„There are many views on this matter. They are all valid to some extent. This is my conclusion and I'm convinced that it can solve a complicated problem we're dealing with. That is why I submit this. I'm willing to listen to all arguments, all points of view. But I also want to emphasise that it must be done objectively and relatively quickly so we manage to finish this at parliament in the springtime. Because this is a very important and urgent matter,“ Ragnheiður Elín says.
1500 ISK for three years
Ragnheiður Elín also says that the public right of enjoying Icelandic nature is not being infringed. There are already provisions that have entered into force, allowing collection of fees intended for nature conservation and also provisions in laws on nature conservation, delayed entry into force last year. The pass shall be valid for three years, hence the equivalanct of 500 ISK each year for each Icelander, 18 years and older. The pass will change a lot for the construction of tourist attractions.
„The funding has not been strong. Therefore, the construction has been more aimless than it needs to be. Now we're funding this in a solid way for a long time. So people can begin local planning, can get organized and prepare projects without the risk of no funding available, if they do the construction with great care,“ Ragnheiður Elín says.
The pass will reach to all tourists in areas of the state and municipalities but Ragnheiður Elín says that they include 90% of tourist attractions in Iceland. Private parties will be invited to be involved in nature passes. But even though they don't, they can apply for a contribution at Tourism Development Fund with a complementary 50% matching contribution. But 10% of the income of the nature pass will be used for such projects.
Then 7.5% will be earmarked the safety of tourists and half of that fund goes to various rescue parties like rescue squads. The bill assumes that the administration of the nature pass may at a maximum cost 3.5% of the income.