After taking a big hit during the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland’s economy is bouncing back thanks to booming tourism, government reforms and a strong fishing industry.

This year, the number of tourists to Iceland is expected to reach nearly 1.5 million people — that’s about 4.5 times more than the country’s entire population. It seems as though the world got a memo that said “Go to Iceland.” And after videos showing the hero’s welcome Icelanders gave their Euro Cup 2016 soccer team made their way around the world, the number of tourists is set to grow even more.

As a Scandinavian country, Iceland has an economy based on free-market principles coupled with a strong social safety net.

While tourism accounts for a good deal of its economic growth in recent years (increasing by an average of

20% annually), fishing provides 40% of merchandise export earnings, accounts for 12% of GDP and employs almost 5% of the workforce.

The 2008 financial crisis hit Iceland hard, with its three largest banks collapsing within less than a decade of being privatized. Today, the government owns most of the shares in two of three banks established after the collapse, but intends to privatize them. The government is addressing Iceland’s financial instability through capital controls, deficit reduction and restructuring.


1. Easy access. Iceland is a sparsely populated country, so it’s easy to gain access to high-ranking businesspeople.

2. Hospitality rules. Icelanders are very hospitable. If you visit someone’s home, you’ll be offered coffee and something to eat.

At meetings, you will be offered a drink at least. Icelanders are friendly, if not warm, on first meeting, and have a self-deprecating sense of humour.

3. Time crunch. Icelanders are punctual and may want meetings to move along more quickly than they do in Canada. They can also be direct in their speech. If they’re speaking English — their second language — they may seem impolite, but it is not intended.

4. Dress it down. Sports jackets are more common than suits, although suits are sometimes worn by both men and women. Ties are optional.


1. Reykjavik is the capital and financial centre.

2. Iceland ranks 19th out of 189 countries on the World Bank’s 2016 Ease of Doing Business index.

3. It is the world’s 115th-largest exporter and 129th-largest importer.

4. Iceland is ranked 13th out of 144 countries surveyed in Forbes’ Best Countries for Business list.


1. Gratuitous gratuities. Tipping is not done. If you see a tip jar, it’s because of the number of foreigners who ask to tip, but it’s not expected.

2. Stay connected. Hotels, restaurants and coffeehouses usually have Wi-Fi.

3. English access. The official language is Icelandic, but children start learning English at age eight so it’s prevalent throughout the country.

4. Getting around. You can fly at reasonable prices to all major destinations from Reykjavik. There are also buses that operate across the country.

Iceland chart