Gauja Hlín New Chair of NW Tourism Alliance

The North West Iceland Tourism Alliance elected Gauja Hlín as chair at its recent AGM.

Gauja is a tourism graduate from Hólar University College, and Manager of the travel agency Seal Travel; a subsidiary of the Icelandic Seal Centre.

We offer Gauja our best wishes in her new role.

Vistor numbers Q1 2018 down 14%

The tourist information centre for Hunathing vestra at the Icelandic Seal Centre welcomed 1679 guests during the first three months of 2018. For the same quarter (Q1) in 2017 we welcomed 1958 guests. This is a Year-on-Year (YoY) 14% decrease in visitation.

Number of tickets sold to the museum also decreased in Q1 2018, by 10% YoY.

Decreases in visitation occurred in all 3 months, with January down 17%, February down 16%, and March down 13%. The decrease in visitation is partially explained by bad weather in January and February, as mountain passes to the North were frequently impassable, but this was not the case in March.

Q1 and Q4 is where the fewest visitors come to the centre, so this decrease does not have much significance to our total number of guests for the year – but these numbers may provide an indication of a cooling of the tourism sector in peripheral regions.

Visitors 2017

At the end of the year, it is time for a little retrospective. In 2017 the Húnaþing vestra Visitor Information Centre here at the Icelandic Seal Centre welcomed a total number of 42,481 guests in 2017. This is an 8% year-on-year (YoY) increase, and represents a significant softening of visitor number growth, as 2016 YoY growth was 44%, and 2015 YoY growth was 35%. In and of itself, a lesser growth in sheer numbers is not particularly concerning, but what is of concern is the 29% YoY decrease in turnover that the Seal Centre experienced last year according to our provisional numbers.

 

13,417 guests paid to visit our museum, which is a 12% increase YoY, and we are delighted that the number of visitors paying to enter the museum grew faster than the number of guests to the visitor centre – although, it must be noted that the aforementioned decrease in turnover occurred in spite of this increase in museum visits, it is therefore safe to say that in 2017 travellers clutched their purses tightly, when it came to leisure activities and souvenir shopping, at least.

Interactive grey seal pup exhibit opened

A new interactive exhibit, which uses GPS data from a grey seal pup that Seal Centre scientists tagged in 2016, has openend at the museum. Many guests joined us for the occasion, and the exhibit, designed by Gagarín, went down a storm.

The project is funded by the National Marine Aquarium in the UK, the Regional Development find of North West Iceland, and the municipality of Húnaþingi vestra.

Visitor numbers and turnover for the museum and travel services section of the Icelandic Seal Centre, H1 2017

Turnover down 27% in June Year on Year (YoY)

YoY comparison is difficult for the first four months of the year, as the Icelandic Seal Centre had regular and advertised opening hours for the first time during the winter in this winter just passed. As a result, the period of January-April shows a healthy increase in total visitor numbers and turnover. Total visitor number includes guest that only visit the Information Centre, as well as those guests that paid an entry fee to the museum. Total guests in January were 301, in February 438, in March 1,219, and in April total guests were 1,283. The total number of guests for the first four months of 2017 was therefore 3,241, compared to 1,860 for the same period in 2016 – or a 74% increase, during the same period turnover increased by 58%. It is worth reiterating, however, that the opening hours YoY are not comparable and these numbers need to viewed in that context. It is also worth pointing out that the total number of visitors for these 4 months is lower than that for May alone.

Opening hours in May and June are comparable, however.

In May 2017 the total number of guests was 3,312, which is a 1% decrease YoY. During the same period total turnover decreased 17% YoY. Interestingly, the number of guests that paid to enter the museum increased by 6% YoY for the same period, and the museum is therefore a larger part of total turnover than before.

In June 2017 the total number of guests was 6,941, which is a 6% increase compared to 2016. During the same period total turnover decreased 27% YoY. Interestingly, the number of guests that paid to enter the museum increased by 14% YoY for the same period, and the museum is therefore a larger part of total turnover than before.

Entry fees for the museum have not gone up since 2012, products from Icelandic suppliers have remained static in price in ISK YoY, and a stronger Icelandic króna and changes in customs have resulted in products imported by the Seal Centre itself being cheaper this year than last in ISK.

 

Arctic Research Grant

The Seal Center’s Tourism Research Department was successful in obtaining the grant titled “Cooperation in the Field of Arctic Studies Between Iceland and Norway.” Monday, 29th November, was their first international meeting. This grant was awarded for preparatory support for the initiation of joint grant applications to fund future research projects. This is the first of many future efforts in working internationally with other tourism and marine biology experts. Jessica Faustini Aquino directs this research group. 

New Report

Sandra Granquist, head of the biology department at the Icelandic Seal Centre, recently published a new report alongside Erlingur Hauksson.

The report is called MANAGEMENT AND STATUS OF THE ICELANDIC HARBOUR SEAL POPULATION: CATCHES, POPULATION ASSESSMENTS AND CURRENT KNOWLEDGE and can be found here: http://www.veidimal.is/files/Skra_0075605.pdf

 

New Researchers

On the 1st of July, two new researchers started here at the Icelandic Seal Centre. They will be led by Sandra Granquist, the head of our biological research department.

The researchers are Dr Alastair Baylis and Jóhann Garðar Þorbjörnsson.

Dr Alastair Baylis

Al gained his PhD in 2008 from the University of Adelaide (Australia) studying the foraging ecology of New Zealand fur seals in South Australia. His recent posts include the Pribilof Islands, Alaska, where he worked with the UBC Marine Mammal Research Unit on Northern fur seals and the Falkland Islands, where he has developed research projects on the little studied populations of southern sea lions and South American fur seals. His main interests in pinniped ecology include historical ecology, population dynamics, population genetics and foraging behaviour. Over the past decade he has also developed a keen interest in pinniped anaesthesia.

Jóhann Garðar Þorbjörnsson

Jóhann graduated with a B.Sc. degree in biology from the University of Iceland in 2013. In 2015, he finished his M.Sc. studies in freshwater ecology from the Hólar University College, where he researched the impacts of scuba divers on the Silfra groundwater fissure ecosystem. During his masters, he became an exchange student in Svalbard, focusing on Arctic biology. Jóhann is especially interested in the impacts of humans on biological systems.

 We are excited by these new additions to the team, and wish them all the best in their new roles.