At the time of writing (April 2020 – updated March 2021) 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 travelling just yet for some, but perhaps now is the time to at least 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-19) 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 and continued to intermittently serve customers when cases were low
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 were confident that our reopening was the right choice. However, with a new surge and tightened border controls in September 2020 we found ourselves again not running tours. This lasted until 2021.
Thankfully, with almost zero cases in Iceland throughout February and March, we found a new stream of customers who favoured our educationally focused adventure tours, Iceland based international students. However, with the border restrictions at their most severe, there was little expectation of travellers from outside of Iceland joining us.
Iceland allows international travellers with a vaccine or antibodies to enter Iceland
That all changed on the 19th of March 2021 when the Icelandic Authorities announced that anyone with a double dose vaccine or antibodies could travel to Iceland without quarantine. And with Delta and Icelandair set to have daily flights to and from the US we are expecting a surge in tourists this summer. The specifics are being ironed out as I write this so please check the COVID-19 website out for exact measures.
With that said, 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. With the guidance of the Icelandic Authorities and our own strict safety procedures we believe we can cautiously welcome travellers to Iceland again.
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 – Tips for Customers
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, 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 few minutes 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. 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.