Iceland targets high-end wellness tourists

 

Iceland has quietly rolled out changes to its remote-work visa programme for citizens beyond the European Schengen Area. Americans and any foreign national not required to have a visa to enter Iceland are allowed to stay for six uninterrupted months, even while the country’s international borders remain largely shut.

But they have to be gainfully employed elsewhere. Iceland requires proof of a million Icelandic krona (US$7,360) monthly salary, or about US$88,000 a year, and applicants must meet supplemental health insurance requirements; details of which are not yet published.

All visitors to Iceland, both within or outside the Schengen zone, may choose between an immediate 14-day quarantine, testing for COVID-19 upon arrival or present a cleared health certificate from health authorities in home countries approved by the Icelandic Directorate of Health. All visitors will be asked to install the “Rakning C-19 ” tracing application on their smartphones.

This visa change is another suggestion that the Iceland of the future will be less focused on catering to the masses, and instead offer luxury tourism to the few.

In 2018, after a decade of fast-paced tourism growth, Iceland counted 2.3 million visitors, with international arrivals outnumbering the local population seven to one, amid rising concerns about over-tourism. The pandemic allows it to reset to sustainable tourism.

The success of Iceland’s first two luxury lodges, the Eleven Experiences -run heli-skiing property Deplar Farm and the wellness-focused Retreat at Blue Lagoon , where rates start at US$2,000 per night, have shown that five-star developments can thrive.

New for 2020 is the Buubble Hotel, with 18 dome-like structures in secret, remote locations throughout the country—some in forests, some along the coast, and others in the Northern Lights domain of the Golden Circle.

Coming soon is also a sprawling resort from Six Senses, on the island’s South Eastern coast, in a little-explored corner of Viking country called Ossura Valley. When it opens in 2022, it will have 70 rooms and a handful of private cottages spread out across 4,000 acres. Six Senses will appeal only to high-end travellers and longer-staying guests.

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