Iceland is pulling out the stops to bring new travelers to the country with the help of social media, and according to a spokesman involved with its marketing campaigns, it seems to be working.
In fact, Iceland has experienced a nearly 20 percent increase in tourism in 2011 as a result of its marketing efforts over the past year, according to Kristján M. Hauksson, the founder of Nordic eMarketing, which is working with the country's tourism campaign "Inspired by Iceland."
"The door opened by the volcano eruption was huge in regards to branding and general awareness of Iceland," Hauksson told TechNewsDaily. "With the help of tech-savvy marketing campaigns, we are attracting more people to our little island in the north, and the door is still just opening."
The country continues to rebound since its economic meltdown in 2008, when it decided not to bail out the financial businesses that were partially responsible for its crisis. Iceland's unemployment rate is down to 5.9 percent in the latest quarter from 8.5 percent earlier in the year.
As it resurges, tourism continues to grow. Hauksson noted that more airlines have expressed interest in wanting to fly to Iceland, with Easy Jet being the latest addition. Last month, the country launched its "Inspired by Iceland" campaign that provides visitors the unique opportunity to learn more about the area from its own residents, from taking tourists to go bird watching to even meeting the president.
"I would like to invite you to come and have pancakes with me and my wife Dorrit at the Presidential residence, Bessastaðir," said Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson on the Inspired by Iceland tourism site. "Come and spend a nice afternoon with us."
The president is gearing up to open the presidential palace in Reykjavik to tourists on Friday (Nov. 11). He will be serving pancakes with whipped cream and rhubarb jam.
For those interested in the invitation or any other activity on the site, travelers can RSVP with a Facebook message or email InspiredbyIceland.com directly.
"People are very interested in meeting the president — there are now close to 800 likes for that invite alone," Hauksson said. "Other tourists have already gone foot bathing in our geothermal springs with the minister of industry, energy and tourism."
Katrín Júlíusdóttir, the minister of industry, energy and tourism, is also engaging with tourists on Facebook by commenting on their wall posts when they express interest in the program.
Beyond social media
Hauksson said the company plans to grow its social media and tech presence to not only attract more tourists but also to obtain more business opportunities. Despite the economic crisis, Iceland recently ranked ninth in the world as having the most business-friendlyeconomies, up from 13th last year, according to the World Bank International study, Doing Business 2012.
The country has opened a large data center powered by renewable resources and it hopes similar facilities will follow. Iceland’s climate and its availability of natural energy resources make it an attractive option for businesses. [Read: Iceland Promoted as Future Data Haven]
"Iceland is a perfect location for data centers," Hauksson said. "We have great sources of green energy and it’s fairly cold here — though not as cold as the name implies — so the temperature for these facilities are just right."