Why WOW Air's sudden collapse is a good thing for Iceland

I flew WOW just two days before the airline suddenly went out of business. Spare the fact that they don’t give out plain water free of charge, I don’t have anything bad to say about the airline itself. In fact, I was quite pleased with their new planes and the purple colors of everything from seats, to lights and carpeting. But despite what most media articles say, WOW’s demise will be a very good thing for Iceland in the long run.

I first visited Iceland in 2014, back when Icelandair was pretty much the only airline flying to Iceland. The airfare was affordable, but not dirt cheap. Over the last five years, WOW’s cheap fares have allowed unrestrained tourism - crowds of people who have no respect for the land, the culture or others started arriving in Iceland. When I visited last week, instead of finding solitude during what should be, “low season”, I found crowds of tourists trampling over meadows, photobombing landscape views, and driving recklessly on Iceland’s narrow roads.

Iceland has been experiencing an enormous tourist boom over the last few years, so much, in fact, that Reykjavik airport recently planned a $1B expansion project. While tourism growth is a positive for most Icelanders, it’s important to remember that quality is more important than quantity. Does Iceland want to be a mass-market, low-quality, dirty, trampled over, polluted, overrated destination? Or does it want to cater to folks who will come there to experience nature, solitude and the Icelandic culture? WOW’s demise will hit Iceland’s tourism, and that’s a great thing. It will bring over a higher quality tourist, and it will make Iceland be more competitive once again in their lodging, food, and services.

Because of the recent tourism trends, the prices of food and services in Iceland became unbelievable. In Reykjavik, you will be hard-pressed to get dinner entree for less than $30/person. The famous Blue Lagoon, which only cost me $60 in 2014, now costs $100. That’s $100 to sit in a hot spring. These prices benefit Icelanders in the short term, but will turn people off from coming in the future.

So RIP WOW,

and RIP, views like this:

Iceland Tourists