You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Iceland

  • July 25, 2016
  • Joey Held

I recently got back from a lovely trip to gorgeous Iceland. After INKer Nicole went there earlier this year, and a few friends of mine are planning vacations later this summer, it seems like Iceland is suddenly the hottest spot on the planet, despite having average summertime temperatures of 10-13 °C (or about 50-55 °F). In fact, the bulk of the visitors I saw during my trip would qualify as millennials, which raises an interesting question: what is Iceland doing to market itself to the millennial group?

Exporting tourism
Alongside fishing, tourism is Iceland’s biggest export. The year-over-year increase in visitors this century is 9.3%, with nearly one million visitors stopping by in 2014. For a country that only has 330,000 citizens, that’s pretty significant. But it’s the sparseness of Iceland that helps attract visitors, as well. More than any other age group, millennials have an innate desire to traverse the road less traveled. Millennials take, on average, 4.2 trips for leisure each year, and spend $200 billion annually on travel.

It’s not uncommon to see a fresh college graduate take a year or two sabbatical to go see the world. Since Iceland still doesn’t have a ton of people living there, there’s still plenty of natural beauty to be seen. That’s appealing to a millennial. The cheap flights don’t hurt, either – one of the country’s airlines, Wow Air, offers direct flights from a number of cities for as low as $99.

Many millennials’ dream: looking out over the wilderness

Many millennials’ dream: looking out over the wilderness

Getting social
Iceland’s social media game is strong, too. Considering 97% of millennials use social media while traveling and 87% use Facebook for travel inspiration, it’s a great move by Iceland to go where their potential visitors already are. In fact, their Facebook page (which, admittedly, could be updated a bit more) is called “Your Friend, Iceland” and includes snarky updates like “Ash Wednesday? How ironic” and “Do you want to know about my seismic activity? It is not as dirty as it sounds.” A brand acting like a human isn’t new, but it’s an effective way to connect with that younger age group. Instead of just posting updates, it’s embracing the “friend” role.

Targeting their audience effectively
Something else millennials enjoy, in addition to travel and social media? Beer. There’s plenty of it in Iceland now, but that wasn’t always the case. For most of the 20th century, beer was banned from the entire country (though, curiously, hard alcohol still remained). The ban was lifted in 1989, and the island is making up for lost time. That’s great news for visiting millennials, who can try any number of refreshing ales from local breweries like Einstök Beer Co. and Egill Skallagrímsson Brewery. Really rolls off the tongue.

The country’s capital, Reykjavic, is littered with bars and restaurants that should be pleasing to a handful of different millennial subsets, whether it’s any number of dark, quirky drinking holes or fancy eateries. There’s even both a Chuck Norris Grill and a Big Lebowski-themed bar for your more pop culture-obsessed millennials.

During my trip, I met a woman who grew up in Iceland, lived in California for several years (just like I did after graduating) and now lives in Texas. She keeps a summer home in Iceland, though, because hey, even if you’re not a millennial, you’d be hard pressed to find better views than this.


Gullfoss Waterfall – Don’t go chasin’ it

Cover photo courtesy of Elizabeth Held.

Other good stuff in here