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Around 700 thousand foreign passengers in 2021

Photo: Hildur Helga Pétursdóttir
Photo: Hildur Helga Pétursdóttir

Departures of foreign passengers from Iceland via Keflavík Airport were almost 688 thousand in 2021, or about 209 thousand more than in 2020, according to the Icelandic Tourist Board and Isavia. The increase between years is 44%. 

Following the lifting of travel restrictions in June 2021, the number of international visitors increased, but about 95% of departures in 2021 were in the second half of the year.



Departures in 2021 as many as in 2012

The traffic to Iceland 2021 was similar to the traffic nine years ago in 2012 when the number of departures was 647 thousand. 

The number of departures was highest in 2017 to 2019, or between 2 and 2,3 million. 





Departures of foreign passengers by periods

44.3% of the foreign passengers visited Iceland in the summer (June-August) or about 304 thousand passengers. This is almost three times more departures than in the previous summer, but less than half of the numbers in summer 2019. About half (51.1%) of the departures were from September to December, or about 351 thousand. This is a 13-fold increase in departures from the previous year, but almost half as many as 2019. In total, departures from June to December accounted for 95.2% of total departures.


Departures by months

The table to the right shows a more detailed explanation of departures by months. Departures increased in nine months of the year 2021 or in April to December. The lifting of travel restrictions in June 2021 resulted in many more visitors in the second half of the year.

Most departures were in July, August, September and October or around 100,000 each month. Departures in July and August were more than twice as many in 2021 as in 2020, departures in September were ten times more and departures in October were 17 times more. When the year 2021 is compared to 2019, it can be seen that departures were more than 100 thousand fewer each month in the period January to August but the decrease was between 55 and 75 thousand in September, October, November and December.  


The largest nationalities 

Most departures in 2021 were Americans, 227 thousand or about a third of all departures. This is four times more American departures than in 2020, but almost half as many as 2019. German departures followed, but they measured almost 64 thousand in 2021 and increased by 20 thousand from the previous year or by 46%. German departures were halved compared to the 2019 departures. In third place were British departures, about 54 thousand in number, a decrease of almost 48 thousand from 2020 or by 46.7%. The number of departures from the UK was almost five times higher in 2019.

In total, the departures of the United States, Germany and Britain accounted for about half of all departures from the country in 2021. This was followed by the departures of Poles (7.6% of the total), French (5.3% of the total), Italians (4.1% of the total), Danes (3.5% of the total), Spaniards (2.8% of the total), Dutch (2.5% of the total) and residents of the Baltic countries (2.2% of the total).


The largest nations by months

The distribution of departures of the seven largest nations¹ by month in 2021 may be seen here.

  • 70.8% of US departures were in the period June-September, 25.4% October-December, and 3.8% in other months.
  • 63.4% of German departures were in the period June-Sept., 32.1% Oct.-Dec. and 4.5% in other months.
  • 37.5% of British departures were in the period June-Sept., 61.5% Oct.-Dec. and 1.3% in other months.
  • 52.1% of Polish departures were in the period June-Sept., 35.4% Oct.-Dec. and 12.5% in ​​other months.
  • 56.8% of French departures were in the period June-Sept., 40.5% Oct.-Dec. and 2.7% in other months.
  • 66.5% of Italian departures were in the period June-Sept., 31.8% Oct.-Dec. and 4.5% in other months.
  • 53.3% of Danish departures were in the period June-Sept., 41.9% Oct.-Dec. and 4.8% in other months.

Together, the seven largest nations in 2021 were 70.7% of the total.

Icelanders' travels abroad

The number of departures of Icelanders was about 219 thousand in 2021, or about 89 thousand more than in 2020. The increase is 68.5% between years. Most departures occurred in the second half of the year (July-December) or 85.2%. Not considering last year, fewer Icelanders have not traveled abroad since the Icelandic Tourist Board began counting in 2002.

Further Information

Further division between nations can be seen in the table below and under the Numbers of foreign visitors here on the web.