She canceled her Iceland trip in time. Where’s her refund?

DEAR TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER: I had to cancel a trip to Iceland when my fully vaccinated daughter and her boyfriend, who was supposed to travel with us, contracted COVID-19. I had to cancel all the prepaid components of our trip, which required many emails and phone calls. I was within the cancellation window for all the components of our vacation.

Christopher Elliott, the Travel Troubleshooter ...
Christopher Elliott, the Travel Troubleshooter 

Most refunds were prompt. But I’m having trouble with the Blue Lagoon, a resort hotel, and a snorkeling trip. The Blue Lagoon will not respond to any inquiries, even though I received confirmation of cancellation. I have not seen a refund from them.

DIVE.IS, the snorkeling tour company, claims they never received my emails to cancel. They later responded to my inquiries via email — so the company must be receiving them — and also via Facebook. They said their tech team would “look into it,” but that was more than a week ago, and I have heard nothing since.

I contacted them again but have received no response. I’m just wondering what else I can do to get results from a company in Iceland. I have told them that we will rebook someday, so I want to be able to do business with them again. I am worried that both of these companies will just ghost me, and I have no recourse.

Can you help me get a refund of my prepaid Blue Lagoon and snorkeling tickets?

— Kim Josund, Lake Forest Park, Washington

ANSWER: Both the hotel and the tour operator should have promptly acknowledged your cancellation and returned your money.

And I realize you’ve heard this before, but it merits repeating: Things got a little crazy during the pandemic when it came to refunds. Companies that normally respond to a refund request quickly have taken weeks or months to respond. There’s no excuse for that.

Let’s take these cases one by one. Blue Lagoon appeared to be in business during the time of your visit but apparently deprioritized refund requests. So, when you contacted it, the hotel just put your request on the back burner. You were, indeed, within the cancellation window. You kept a paper trail of your correspondence with the resort, even though no one responded.

It was just a matter of being persistent and polite with Blue Lagoon. That’s really difficult when you’re dealing with a large cancellation like yours. And frankly, you shouldn’t have to wait for a refund. They took your money in a few seconds — is it asking too much to return it in a timely manner?

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Iceland roasts Mark Zuckerberg in tourism video making fun of Meta

Should the video inspire a desire to visit Iceland, go for it. During the coronavirus pandemic, the country was one of the earliest international destinations to accept American tourists, reopening in June 2020. These days, vaccinated travelers from the United States are allowed to visit without quarantine. Unvaccinated people must take two tests and quarantine for five days.

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Breaking Travel News interview: Ólafur Óli Ólafsson, chief sales officer, Guide to Iceland | Focus

Breaking Travel News interview: Ólafur Óli Ólafsson, chief sales officer, Guide to Iceland

Guide to Iceland has been honoured with the titles of Iceland’s Leading Destination Management Company and Iceland’s Leading Travel Agency at the World Travel Awards.

Here Breaking Travel News speaks to Ólafur Óli Ólafsson, chief sales officer with the company, to find out how it feels to have been recognised by voters from around the globe.

Breaking Travel News: Having claimed a top title at the World Travel Awards, how does it feel to have won?

Ólafur Óli Ólafsson: It feels amazing!

While my official title is chief sales officer, throughout the team I’m known as the head of customer happiness.

We strive very hard to provide expert guidance to travellers about Iceland by offering the best experiences and letting customers leave with happy memories.

This means providing the best possible customer service and giving them access to as much information as we can.

We want travellers to understand the culture they will be experiencing and feel excited about seeing in person all the amazing things they have read about.

We aim to empower travellers to take control of their trip, arrive ready to experience everything Iceland has to offer, and know that we are here to help them anyway that we can.

BTN: How will the trophy help you to promote Guide to Iceland as we move into 2022?

OOO: This trophy will not only act as a motivator, but it is also a great showcase of the level of our service excellence.

It inspires us to keep providing the best service and will create an added layer of trust for our customers.

This award reinforces our message that we are experts when we write about Iceland.

We want our travellers to feel confident in what they read on our website and when they book with us.

These awards demonstrate that Guide to Iceland is a dependable company dedicated to delivering the best service and experiences.

BTN: What is it that caught the eye of voters; what do you think it is that separates Guide to Iceland from its competitors in Europe?

OOO: This company is founded on a passion for sharing great traveller experiences.

The employees put their hearts and souls into the company, and it shows.

Founded by locals, there is a sense of pride that comes with showing travellers our home country.

Guide to Iceland is the biggest marketplace in Iceland, combining over 1,500 travel operators in a single community.

Our website is presented in 15 languages, giving billions of travellers the ability to browse in their native language.

Visitors have access to reviewed tours, accommodations and rental cars.

We want travellers to feel like they have all the information they need before experiencing Iceland.

Guide to Iceland is also rich in free travel information such as in-depth travel blogs, articles, and an opportunity to connect with the locals for the most authentic experience when visiting our beautiful country.

Finally, we pride ourselves in putting the customer first and providing the best travel experience possible, ensuring that everyone who books a trip with Guide to Iceland leaves with a positive and authentic Icelandic experience.

More Information

Find out more about Guide to Iceland on the official website.

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Whiteside Forum presents ‘Adventure Travel in Iceland’ | Local News

MORRISON, Ill. — The Whiteside Forum will hold a special event and host Victor Selman as he presents “Adventure Travel in Iceland.”

This event is free and open to the public and will begin at 2 p.m. Nov. 28 in the Community Room of the Odell Public Library at 307 S. Madison St., Morrison.

Selman, originally from Morrison, has been globetrotting for over 15 years and is chief of operations at No Plans Adventures LLC. “No Plans” focuses on the belief that everyone can travel regardless of budget or experience, dealing with small groups and solo travelers. Selman has been to over 75 countries, all 50 states, thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, and is skilled in scuba diving, skydiving, sailboat and bareboat cruising, hiking, and rock climbing. He also is a certified emergency medical technician.

The Whiteside Forum is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit community group that sponsors presentations and discussions of issues of importance and interest to the public to promote a better understanding of the world.

A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation and masks will be required. For more information about the Whiteside Forum or this event, contact Marc Adami at or (815) 718-5347.

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I Spent 3 Weeks Traveling Around Iceland in a Campervan — Here’s How to Plan the Ultimate Trip

I Spent 3 Weeks Traveling Around Iceland in a Campervan — Here’s How to Plan the Ultimate Trip | Travel + Leisure

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Breaking Travel News investigates: Vestnorden returns to Iceland | Focus

The travel trade show for Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, Vestnorden returned this month for its 36th staging on the Reykjanes peninsular. The event opened to nearly 500 guests in person, following a virtual showcase in 2020.

Organised by the North Atlantic Tourism Association (NATA), Vestnorden was held at Hljómahöl Music & Conference Center at the Icelandic Museum of Rock & Roll. Yes, such a place does exist! The event welcomed exhibitors from travel companies throughout the Nordic region and buyers from around the world. Participants were invited to take part in special tours of the destinations pre- and post-event so buyers had the chance to experience all three destinations in person.

After a tumultuous year for the travel sector, representatives from the Nordic destinations were keen to push a sense of optimism and innovation. As Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, head of Visit Iceland, explains to Breaking Travel News: “I think it’s so important, the collaboration that we have between these countries; we see there’s a lot of similarities between us and how we are trying to present ourselves to the world.

“As ‘the cool north,’ or with sustainability and equality – there are so many traits you want people to associate with the Nordics.”

Hjörtur Smarason, chief executive of Visit Greenland, agrees, suggesting multi-stop trips are a great way to explore. He continues: “I think it’s very, very important that we are combining the three countries. There’s a lot of synergy between all the islands. They have a lot of the same market segments and the same target groups – to bring in new agents from all around the world that are interested in this region makes a lot of sense. And here you have the opportunity to meet people in person and get to know them better, build up the relationship between a supplier and an agent. And this is just crucial for development.“

Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, head of Visit Iceland, led discussions as the event returned

The destinations have used the challenges of the past 18-months to push forward and emerge as leaders and innovators in the industry. As Oddný Arnarsdóttir, liaison for Iceland wellness sector, describes: “We shifted our focus. We took time. We dug deeper. We acknowledged our strengths and also our weaknesses. And by doing so, we’ve generated a greater variety in tourism service all around the country, in all the regions, around the year. From new, unique experiences, small scale, local, sustainable, bespoke products – from Michelin-starred restaurants to authentic dining experiences or living room concerts hosted by locals – the Nordic destinations offer experiences that are unlike anything found anywhere else.”

Sustainability emerged as a key theme, with Arnarsdóttir describing environmental impact as “the red thread that runs through our operations”.

Guðmundsdóttir elaborates: “We have this for the tourism policy specifically – but we also have this for all export industries in Iceland – to be leading in sustainability. So this is definitely something that the government is very focused on. It was tied into every major action to help. Can we do this in a more sustainable way? And does this fit with our overall goal, which is about sustainability in 2030? And I think that is very important.”

Hjörtur Smarason, chief executive of Visit Greenland, discussed how the destination was recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic

All three regions are acutely aware of the effects of climate change on their fragile and unique ecosystems. Smarason explains: “These are very delicate environments; sensitive environments where you really need to think about the impact of tourism. It’s also a necessity because you won’t survive for long as a tourism destination if you do not include sustainability when everything is so fragile.”

The destinations proximity to the polar region really puts them at the front line of climate change where the effects are visible – but this factor also seems to create an urgency and innovation in the countries’ responses to these challenges.

Guðrið Højgaard, chief executive of Visit Faroe Islands explains: “Our brand is our unique selling point, and the fact that while more and more destinations are getting more and more alike, our islands remain authentic and unique, and we want them to remain so – developing sustainably.”

During the last 18-months, where Covid-19 brought unprecedented disruptions to the travel industry, the Nordic destinations were innovative in creating infrastructure while also using the time to keep the conversations going with their customers. They did this by creating successful marketing campaigns, such as Let it all out from Iceland, which received global acclaim, and the Faroe Islands’ Remote Tourism, a detailed interactive experience which brought a great deal of press.

Guðrið Højgaard, chief executive of Visit Faroe Islands, argued sustainability must be central to the work of the organisation

These fresh ways of approaching tourism in difficult circumstances are indicative of the areas of focus at Vestnorden and the selling points of the Nordic region in general: modern, innovative, inclusive and always with a feel for the environmental impact of every aspect of the industry. Despite talk of overtourism, pre-Covid-19, the destinations are also relatively undeveloped markets with space for innovation and new products. This is particularly the case for Greenland, which celebrates new transport routes opening up the destination for new development possibilities.

The mood at the trade show was elated as many people were travelling for the first time since Covid-19. Around 3,400 meetings, tours and experiences, an opening party held at the Blue Lagoon and a raucous closing dinner kept the conference buzzing throughout. As Guðmundsdóttir puts it: “Last year, we did the first ever virtual version of this, and we had 1,300 meetings. But that doesn’t replace the face-to-face, meeting people to sit together, talk, but also informally, to get together…. So that’s also another aspect of why this is so important. We were very happy that we were able to do in- person.”

It is still too early to see how the industry will change and recover as we enter the post-pandemic world, but feelings are optimistic – with numbers increasing as each market sector opens up and restrictions begin to lift. One trend seems to be a shift towards longer stays and higher spending as consumers seek once-in-a-lifetime experiences and true escapes from the everyday. Added to this, as remote working becomes the norm, travellers will be keen to access destinations for extended stays, with more meaningful and in-depth interactions with locations.

As Guðmundsdóttir concludes: “A lot of people want their travel maybe to mean more, and they’ve been saving up a lot to get to do more things. I think that’s a very positive trend and hopefully that will continue. I think that is more sustainable too. I think people want to get back to normalcy, because I travel is such a joy.”

More Information

For more information on Vestnorden, head over to the official website, or there is more on the North Atlantic Tourism Association here.

Words and images: Sapphire Goss

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Birthday vacation to Iceland turns into 10 days quarantined alone in ‘cruddy’ hotel room

He spent most of his days pacing the 12-foot-by-15-foot hotel room, doing pushups, taking naps, browsing the Internet on his cell phone or staring out the second-story window at the landscape of small, squat houses. The television broadcast mostly shows in Icelandic, with “only one or two channels from Great Britain,” he recalled.

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