At the time of writing (early April – updated 2nd of July) we are in the midst of what can best be described as unprecedented times. Global travel restrictions are in full swing and the coronavirus (COVID-19) has paused many small business’s operations. Sadly, this is no different for Hidden Iceland. It may not feel right to even think about traveling just yet, but perhaps now is the time to be inspired. Read on to get a full update on how Iceland is tackling this pandemic and when is the right time to travel.
The travel sector has been hit hard during these trying times. It has inevitably had a knock on effect for all aspects of our community here in Iceland. Small businesses are often the first in line to fall, while larger operators are better equipped to weather the storm. It is this reason that I was motivated to write this blog post, Supporting Small Businesses | A Hidden Iceland (COVID) Update.
However, this post is only partially about Hidden Iceland. I implore you to try to apply the tips and principles to other small businesses too. So many small businesses right now are in dire need of our support, not just Hidden Iceland.
A Hidden Iceland (COVID) Update
Firstly, I would like to say a BIG thank you to all our guests (past and present) who are standing by us and showing their support during these unprecedented times. Whether you have already joined us and continue to promote our great service, or you are patiently waiting to rearrange that planned trip, THANK YOU!
With your support, Hidden Iceland will make it through these trying times. We are truly grateful for your business.
Hidden Iceland reopened on the 15th of June 2020
As of the 13th of March 2020, Hidden Iceland made the difficult decision to temporarily pause all tours. This pause ended on the 15th of June 2020 (updated). With border testing, low active cases and careful controls we are confident that our reopening is the right choice.
Keeping our guides and guests safe and healthy is of the utmost importance. Myself and the other owners of Hidden Iceland staunchly believe that we have a responsibility to provide exceptional service without compromising health and safety. Until the 15th of June we didn’t believe that both were possible simultaneously. Now we do.
Be aware that although you can now join Hidden Iceland tours it is important that you keep any eye on updates in Iceland and, just as importantly, what your country of origin is doing.
Hidden Iceland Will Survive
Hidden Iceland is a small family run company and although we have the cash in bank to survive for some time with zero income we will not be able to continue indefinitely. No company could. But, we are confident that with the steps we have taken, plus the assistance and measures from the Icelandic Government, that we are as well equipped as any to survive this storm.
Supporting Small Businesses
This is why we ask you for your support to help us get through this. We desperately want to get back to running superior small group tours regularly again. The principles that have been detailed below can be applied to any small business in your local community.
An Iceland (COVID) Update
It is with trepidation that I write any update here in regard to Iceland. Mainly because the information could be out of date by the end of today (updated July 7th, 2020). We will do our utmost to keep this post up to date but it’s important not to read this blog post in isolation of other government and scientific websites.
Firstly, to get the most up to date information on the restrictions once you are in Iceland you can go to covid.is. The Government of Iceland website is also a great source of information. Both are in English and Icelandic.
Iceland Opens the borders on the 15th of June (with stipulations)
To summarise some salient points; as of the 7th of July the Icelandic government are still advising a 2 metre social distancing rule. Public gatherings are now allowed up to 500 people or less. Almost all public services like Universities, schools, hair dressers and dentists have now re-opened too. In fact, once you are in Iceland it will perhaps feel like business as normal. Public swimming pools, cinemas and theaters have either already reopened or are ready to do so. In these places the most important thing is that social distancing is possible, even if you personally choose not to.
You don’t have to wear mask in public and you are free to explore the country without restrictions. However, as always, social distancing and respectful gatherings is recommended whenever possible.
Furthermore, from the 15th of June onward, the Icelandic government decided to open the border to travellers from the EU & Schengen zone. This comes with stipulations though. You will need to take a test upon arrival, unless you are born after 2004 or are from a non-high risk country. In the latter case, you would be exempt. At the moment the only non-high risk countries are Greenland and the Faroe Islands. You also need to fill out a form confirming many details that would allow the Icelandic government to monitor the spread of infection if you test positive at the airport.
Additionally, as of the 1st of July there are currently 14 official safe countries outside of the EU & Schengen Zone. These are; Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay. China is set to be added soon, subject to their borders allowing people from the EU/ Schengen zone too. All travellers from these countries will still need to be tested on arrival, unlike Greenland and Faroe Islands.
In the case of testing at the airport, results would be expected within 24 hours of arrival. In the meantime, you would also be expected to download a tracing App to monitor the spread of any infection while in country. While you wait for results you can go to your accommodation or enjoy outdoor sight seeing. If you refuse to take the test upon arrival, then a 2 week quarantine must be observed by all travellers. It is also important to note that if you have been sitting near (less than 2 rows) with someone on the plane then you may need to quarantine too. The above information is summarised but not complete. Please click on the link here to see the full details.
Please note, at present Iceland is not accepting any certificates of recent testing. The only option at time of writing is to be tested at the airport or choose 2 week quarantine.
With this said, if you are intending to join a scheduled tour once in Iceland it’s important to realise that you will be in closer proximity to other guests than previously advised. This is the main reason that Hidden Iceland continue to pause operations for now (until 15th June). Our small group size (max 12) and spacious vehicles bring the risk down, but not enough in our view to continue operating yet. Therefore we will allow social distancing within the vehicles to minimise potential close interaction.
So, it is possible to travel to Iceland (from the 15th of June) but we advise to take a balanced view on whether or not you should. Consider the option that you may need to quarantine when returning to your home country. Consider that if you happen to test positive when arriving in Iceland you will need to quarantine in Iceland for 2 weeks. As always, we will only recommence operating when it is considered safe and responsible to do so. At the time of writing, with such few cases in Iceland, and with border controls we believe it is safe to do so. If anything changes materially we will not hesitate to close again.
Iceland Leads The Fight Against The Coronavirus
Iceland is being lauded as a great example of countries quickly and effectively putting safety measures in place. The level of transparency from the Police, Directorate of Health, Government of Iceland, Red Cross and other associated bodies is exceptional. Daily press conferences with updates are being held. Decisions are made based on scientific advisement from the Icelandic Chief Epidemiologist, World Health Organisation (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC). Widespread testing in Iceland has also allowed other countries to understand the extent of the outbreak in similar population densities too.
“We are using science and the best evidence there is,” states Iceland’s health director, Dr. Alma Moeller
Iceland continues to implement the Schengen and EU travel restrictions. As safe countries are added to the list of countries able to travel within this zone, Iceland will welcome them too.
Furthermore, to get up to date statistics on COVID-19 in Iceland you can read here. According to the most recent reports cases have diminished to the point that in June, so far, there have been very few cases at all. More and more people are recovering each day with only a handful of active cases in the country.
The most pessimistic forecast suggested that nearly 2700 people in total would be affected in Iceland. In fact, the total number infected, to date, has only been 1847. This number can, of course, still rise. But, the hope is that it won’t reach that pessimistic number now. As of the 2nd of July, of the 1847 confirmed cases, 1823 have recovered.
It would seem that Iceland has well and truly flattened the curve ahead of predictions. Under the leadership of the Icelandic government and efforts of everyone in Iceland we will make it through this.
What happens next?
For now, Hidden Iceland is preparing for the future and doing everything we can to stay connected to our supporters from around the world. Even if travel isn’t appropriate for you right now there are lots of ways to stay involved.
When normal services resume and you can start traveling again, we ask that you, the consumer, be mindful of the power that you hold in a post-C-world. Consider how future trips can have a positive impact on local, independent, family run businesses.
When Is It Safe To Travel?
It is again with hesitation that I write any advice on when you should be booking your next trip to Iceland. This is now a deeply personal choice that requires weighing the pros and cons carefully.
Therefore, Hidden Iceland were not promoting booking any travel prior to the 15th of June. From the 15th of June we welcomed tourists for the first time. Bare in mind, we are physically running tours now but the way we run tours will likely be decided on a case by case basis AND mainly private trips. This may change as the Icelandic government lessen restrictions and the infection rate decreases.
Existing booked tours are being assessed on a case by case basis from week to week as more information is being provided.
If you intend to book any tours in Iceland before August 2020 you should get in touch with us directly at email@example.com to discuss our thoughts and policies. We offer a 100% flexible reschedule policy if your future trips are unable to go ahead. Many believe that fall and winter travel will not be affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic, so planning that special late summer or that winter wonderland trip might be a good use of your time at the moment.
A Little About Hidden Iceland
Hidden Iceland is a small family run business focusing on a personalised service for all their guests. The owners; Dagný Björg Stefánsdóttir (Icelandic), Scott Drummond (Australian) and myself, Ryan Connolly (Scottish) are a close knit group of friends. The three of us met within days of arriving in Iceland. Dagný and Scott have been a couple since 2016 and together care for their son, Máni.
Scott and I met when training as glacier guides in the south east of Iceland. Not long after, we met Dagný, who would later assume the role of CEO. We’ve been inseparable ever since. We quickly realised that with Dagný’s local knowledge, Scott’s scientific background and my marketing experience we could create trips that we’d be proud to take our families on. So, in 2017 the three of us got together to begin our own small business, Hidden Iceland.
Our business plan was simple. Provide tours which focused on customer experience and not sheer numbers. We intentionally keep our groups small with a maximum of 12 passengers on all tours. This ensures that the guide and customers on every tour have time to get to know each other. You can read our reviews on TripAdvisor to see for yourself.
Supporting Small Businesses
Hidden Iceland, like many family run businesses, have a small team. So small in fact that surviving these times is a matter of just that, survival. Larger companies with their flexibility and big marketing spend are poised to capitalise while the little guys slowly recover.
Therefore, to finish this update I’ve taken the time to come up with a list of small but significant gestures that you, our supporters, can do to help us maintain a strong brand and weather this global storm. I truly hope that the sentiments expressed below can be mirrored in many other small companies that you perhaps take for granted in your daily lives.
Please take a minute to read the list below:
1 | Online Reviews | TripAdvisor & Google Reviews
First and foremost, at Hidden Iceland, we love to hear all about our clients experiences. It helps us to know if we are on the right path. And, it helps our guides to remain inspired by hearing about the joy they share with you all. At a time when tourism all over the world is suffering, our Hidden Iceland family needs support from our clients, past, present and future like never before.
TripAdvisor and Google Reviews are barometers for so many travellers to make the right choices for their trip. If you have been on a tour with us in the past, share your experience. We will be sure to respond! We even read out the best ones to our staff.
If our tours sound like an experience that would suit you visit our website or send us an enquiry. Our speedy responses and quality advice regularly appear in the reviews too! Plus, going direct removes the ‘middle man’ and allows us to add a personal touch to your itinerary even before you get here!
2 | Social Media Engagement | Facebook & Instagram
Secondly, to really make your experiences come alive, why not share pictures and videos from your time with us. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram and show us and everyone else what a fantastic time you had!
What may feel like a tiny thing for you actually has such a profound impact on small businesses like us. Whether you love or hate the current social media craze one thing is certain, it can allow small businesses to compete in a big business world.
Many like minded, small operators in Iceland are using the hashtag #supportlocaliceland. Follow along here to get updates and provide engagement and support to us and some of our fellow small business partners.
Our favourite thing to do is re-share your stories on Instagram so don’t be shy! Tag @hiddeniceland and you might see your content on the Hidden Iceland stories one day.
3 | Rearrange Your Current Trip
Thirdly, if you are already booked onto a Hidden Iceland tour in the coming months we simply want to ask you one thing. Are you still inspired to come to Iceland?
If the answer is yes, then instead of cancelling your tour altogether consider rearranging to a later date. Hidden Iceland, and many other small businesses, are desperately trying to honour every single trip that is booked in the coming months.
“What this crazy, untameable virus has shown us is we’re all connected.” Juliet Kinsman – Conde Nast Traveller
Your trip might not be possible today due to travel restrictions, but you can rearrange your tour to any time in the future. We understand that deferring may not be possible for some with the impacts of this COVID-19 pandemic far reaching beyond just tourism. However, if deferring and not cancelling is a possibility then you are providing much more than hope to many small operators, as expressed perfectly by Juliet Kinsman in this fantastic article for Condé Nast Traveller.
In general, it’s often only small companies that can offer this level of flexibility. Leaving your trip booked will not only help the small company survive the next few months, it’ll also protect you from any future price rises and currency fluctuations. Consider this approach for all of your daily tasks that have already been paid for. Who knows, you could well be the reason that your favourite little business survives.
4 | Dream, Plan, Book Now and Travel Later
Fourthly, are you still debating whether or not to book a trip to Iceland this year? Well what about an open ticket with 100% flexibility?
You can book a tour with Hidden Iceland or another family run business for later this year. But, if things don’t recover quickly enough then we can simply rearrange to even later in the year or next year. Or even the year after if necessary. Doing this will protect you from any price rises too.
We, and many other small businesses, can offer discounted and great rates now for future travel if you book directly. Aside from savings for you it also gives small businesses a much needed cash injection now.
As with all travel, be sure to get fully comprehensive travel insurance to fully ensure there is no risk to you. Check in with your credit card company too as they may have a policy that already includes forced cancellations.
5 | Word Of Mouth | Tell A Friend
Finally, the more people that learn about Hidden Iceland the better. Simply sending a friend the link to our website can help our online presence stay strong. Reading a few blog posts and commenting at the bottom has a profound effect on our visibility online too. And if your friend is ready to book a trip, all the better. If not, at least it’s inspiration for the future. You can also get in touch by email in the meantime, even if it’s just curiosity at this stage.
So when considering whether to book now or later, chat to us about which date you intend to come if you are unsure. We personally consider any time from mid-summer on wards a safe bet. We are however, at the disposal of the most up to date news, like yourselves. One thing is for sure, when you come, we’ll be ready.
To sum up – thank you for your continued support!
You can contact Hidden Iceland by filling out the form or just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for up to date information. We will update you on our fantastic tours, but also on current Icelandic travel restrictions. And if the time is right we can plan the best trip that will suit you and your companions.
Hi, I’m Ryan Connolly; Co-Founder, Glacier Guide, and Marketing Manager of Hidden Iceland.
I’ve guided in multiple countries around the world and stepped foot on all 7 continents. I’ve made Iceland my home for the past few years. My passion for science, the outdoors, nature, glaciers and volcanoes has led me to study many aspects of my adopted home, Iceland.