Tourist industry attitudes towards wind energy development in Iceland

This study examined the potential impacts of wind energy development on nature-based tourism as perceived by the tourism industry. The study found that land use conflicts between the energy sector and the tourism industry were perceived to be mostly negative as wind turbines degrade the quality of the natural landscape. The abstract and conclusions of the study are provided below. The full paper can be accessed at the document links on this page.


The interest in harnessing wind energy keeps increasing globally. Iceland is considering building its first wind farms, but its landscape and nature are not only a resource for renewable energy production; they are also the main attraction for tourists. As wind turbines affect how the landscapeis perceived and experienced, it is foreseeable that the construction of wind farms in Iceland will create land use conflicts between the energy sector and the tourism industry.

This study shed slight on the impacts of wind farms on nature-based tourism as perceived by the tourism industry. Based on 47 semi-structured interviews with tourism service providers, it revealed that the impacts were perceived as mostly negative, since wind farms decrease the quality of the natural landscape. Furthermore, the study identified that the tourism industry considered the following as key factors for selecting suitable wind farm sites: the visibility of wind turbines, the number of tourists and tourist attractions in the area, the area’s degree of naturalness and the local need for energy. The research highlights the importance of analysing the various stakeholders’ opinions with the aim of mitigating land use conflicts and socio-economic issues related to wind energy development.


This study has provided an understanding of the conflicts which can arise between two land use sectors, that is wind energy harnessing and nature-based tourism. Furthermore, it has identified ways in which both parties can mitigate potential conflicts and minimise the negative impacts of wind farms on nature-based tourism. By identifying five factors which make certain locations more suitable for wind energy development with regard to the interests of the tourism industry, this study facilitates the decision-making of energy companies and policy makers and provides them with tools to achieve stronger tourism stakeholder support for the individual wind energy projects. Energy companies can make an effort to situate wind turbines in areas, where they would have less of a negative impact on the tourism industry compared to other areas. Similarly, the tourism service providers can adjust their operations, either by “telling a positive story” about the importance of renewable energy or, in some cases, change the travel routes of their customers. Overall, this study thus supports Frantál and Kunc’s [39] conclusion that there are no ideal wind farm sites, only “more or less acceptable areas”. It provides an understanding for how to define a “more acceptable area” in the hopes of highlighting ways towards higher compatibility of wind energy harnessing with the tourism industry and preservation of the natural resources which the tourism industry relies on. 


Due to the high visibility of wind farms and their vast impact on the landscape, future wind energy development is likely to pose challenges in areas of high-quality nature and with strong nature-based tourism [7,21]. Wind energy development in such areas will therefore raise important public policy questions with regard to the trade-offs between land use for nature-based tourism and for wind energy harnessing.

Tourist Industry Attitudes Towards Wind Energy Development In Iceland

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JUN 30 2021
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