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The Economy

Seafood

The economic backbone has been seafood since the early 1900‘s and the region was built through success in the seafood industry. The infrastructure has been built to accommodate export to demanding European and US markets.  Almost all (99%) of the region´s seafood goes for export and roughly 15% of the seafood is exported fresh and shipped straight to international markets.  The level of know-how in the region is extraordinary for such a small region (population 6.970) and the quality of seafood is outstanding due to the closeness to some of the world´s cleanest fishing grounds for Atlantic Cod.  To add to that the region boasts of an excellent environment for further development of fish farming in many of its long fjords.  There already is aquaculture of cod, arctic char, salmon and mussels to be found in the region.  Salmon farming and arctic char farming has the potential to grow significantly into a very profitable sector.  Fish farming does not have the same strict investment regulations for foreign investment as conventional fishing has.

One of the benefits of the rural nature of the economy is that within it the supporting and service industry for fishing, fish processing and cold storage is to be found within the region.  For instance there is a hi-technology manufacturer of automated processing solutions for fish, shrimp, salmon and poultry in Isafjordur.  The company´s know-how is built around many years of successful service and cooperation with the key firms and has as such, created a knowledge base of solution that is now transferred to other industries and a majority of production is for export.  This example of know-how is applicable to the other sectors of the service industry as well.

 

Tourism

Nature and rural charm are the best ways to describe what the Westfjords have to offer.  For many years the destination Westfjords has been like a hidden treasure in Iceland.  The magnificent natural settings include 3 of Europe‘s largest bird-cliffs, one of which is the most Westerly point of Europe.  The ocean and the deep fjords play a big part in the region´s identity and recent investments in ocean related tourism such as sea angling which has provided a significant growth spurt for the tourism economy.

Tourism is a growing sector in the region but it is far from being within the context of “mass tourism” and probably will never reach such levels.  It is a fact that it is the rural charm and untouched pristine nature of the region that has ignited the tourism growth. The popularity is such that the region is now one of the top ten most interesting places to visit according to Lonely Planet guide (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/travel-tips-and-articles/76174).  This recognition is important but equally important are the opportunities.

 

Although the region is rural (approx. 490 km drive to Reykjavik) it is as self- sufficient as  all the necessary trade and service are to be found in Isafjordur, the capital of the region. Tourism is a relatively young sector and needs further investment and improvements.  Most apparent is the need for long term investments in 4-5 star hotels throughout the region and investments in tour operators or businesses that provide tourists with a unique experience of the Westfjords.    The latter can be in various forms; adventure tours, bird watching tours, arctic fox watching, boating tours, glacier adventure tours etc.