REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Iceland has discovered the secret to a booming tourist industry: First have a mammoth financial implosion, then an enormous volcanic explosion.
The collapse of the Icelandic krona after the 2008 financial crisis transformed this Arctic island packed with 35 active volcanoes into a top destination by making it cheap for visitors.
“Iceland has been saved by the crash and the eruption,” said Fridrik Palsson, who owns Hotel Ranga, a luxury resort just 19 miles from the slopes of Eyjafjallajokull, the 16-letter volcano that is often shortened to E-16 by foreigners. “I have never seen anything take off so fast,” he said.
Tourism is now the island’s biggest industry, taking over from fishing and aluminum smelting, much as the financial sector did in the years before the crash.
The number of tourists has risen by as much as 30 percent every year for the last four years, according to Iceland’s Tourist Board. They brought in revenues of $3.2 billion in 2015, a third of the country’s export earnings. Many Icelanders are pouring money into services and new construction.
But there is growing concern that uncontrolled tourism is placing too large a burden on this small island. Housing prices and rents are rising quickly, forcing young people to live with their parents. Car rentals have tripled, clogging traffic. Littering and light pollution are spoiling parts of the landscape, many Icelanders say.
The tourist boom is making some Icelanders uneasy. Another crash like the one that hit the banks is just a matter of time, and many said they are saving money or investing in hard assets.