Iceland’s tectonic MICE plates are shifting



# tags: Incentives , Meetings Industry , Destinations

Event Point international's MICE Correspondent, Ramy James Salameh finds wellness, sustainability and optimism within Iceland's MICE industry on a recent visit.

"Turn off your head-torches and just connect with nature" stated Mathieu Tari of, our incentive guide. Our group had just made a 200m subterranean trek into the ‘Leiderendi’ lava tube cave, heralding the start of several adventure-filled days in Iceland embracing its number one asset, NATURE. 

Tari emphasised the point, that nature and these few moments of inky black meditation, was the 'unconventional' and ‘out-of-comfort-zone experiences’ Iceland offers to companies looking to inspire, reward and challenge employees. This particular caving incentive was a mere 40-minute drive from Iceland's capital, Reykjavik; such is the ease of access into a wild and dramatic natural environment, which feels other worldly. It is also a reflection of just how sparsely populated Iceland is with 370, 000 people spread across 103,000sq km, 80% of whom live in the capital region.

Driving forces attracting new audiences

There is a palpable sense of optimism within Iceland’s MICE sector, with emerging markets taking hold, new investments in infrastructure and a sense that the country is ahead of the curve in terms of the trends and demands of the modern global MICE industry.

The fundamental reason is that everything connects with nature; Iceland’s unique landscape pervades, influences and drives every part of Icelandic life, especially in terms of sustainability, wellbeing and cultural authenticity. These traits have been nurtured through generations and sit alongside environmental and climate preservation, liberalism towards gender equality and human rights.

Significant events, such as the World Geothermal Congress 2021, Arctic Assembly 2022, and Women Leaders Forum 2022 reflect these values and have formed into specific knowledge-clusters. ‘Meet in Iceland’ attracts many Nordic meetings and association business, which revolves between these regional countries, but is also looking to secure more international events and has helped to bring the European Association of Neuroscience Nurses to Iceland in 2023.

“We specialise in anything to do with renewable energy, geothermal and glaciology, gender equality, Sustainability of course and some medical fields such as ‘sleep research’ which is quite big here” stated Hildur Bjorg Baeringsdottir of ‘Meet in Reykjavik’.

Iceland’s enviable geographic location between Europe and the US, has been supported by Icelandair’s increasing route network and ‘connectivity’, which has always been built around its Icelandic hub, meaning that on the shortest flight path between Europe and North America, the carrier offers many of the quickest transatlantic elapsed times.

Criss-Crosing between the Eurasian & North American Tectonic Plate

Emerging markets & new infrastructure investments

Iceland is looking to become a top five esports nation by 2025, having firmly placed itself on the map of this specialist and demanding market. Iceland showed it has the logistical, technical and production skills to meet these demands, when Reykjavik played host to the ‘League of Legends World 2021’ last year; with four major international esports events under Iceland’s belt, this market is proving to be a key part of ‘Meet in Reykjavik’s’ growth strategy of attracting large scale global events to Iceland’s capital city.

The multi-ward winning ‘Harpa Concert & Congress Centre’ can be classed as the beating heart of Iceland’s MICE industry. Ever since inauguration in 2011, figures have consistently seen an upward trajectory; it is Iceland’s largest facility, a cultural and social hub and landmark that is home to the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. It is an outstanding piece of modernist and angular architecture, wrapped in a mosaic of 10,000 geometric glass windows, the vision of Icelandic-Danish visual artist Olafur Eliasson.

Harpa holds the Nordic Swan Eco-Label, where conference organisers can request an ‘Event Impact Calculation Report’ measuring the environmental, economic and social impact of their conference via, for example, the electricity, waste and water consumed:

“Organisations are demanding this, many are not allowed to hold the conference unless it is sustainable, and I see this shift across the entire conferencing sector” mentioned Asta Olafsdottir, Harpa’s Director of Sales, Business Development & Marketing.

The Reykjavik EDITION, opened in 2021, is the city’s first official 5-star property and sits opposite Harpa; The Grand Hotel Reykjavik has plans to extend their current footprint with a building adding 120 rooms and a conference centre by 2026. The Hilton Reykjavik Nordica is part of the ‘Icelandic Hotel Collection by Berjaya’, with a market share in Iceland of 13%. These major hotel chains, also have properties across Iceland as new accessibility and the growing popularity of areas outside the capital region continues.

Reykjavík-Keflavik Airport’s expansion plans were agreed in 2021 and building has started on expanding the current terminal by 30%, with completion set for 2024; the new building will have three floors and basement, to cope with increasing demand and popularity of Iceland.

Harpa Concert Hall & Convention Centre

Incentives of ‘Fire & Ice’ boost creativity

Visitors to Iceland will often hear the phrase ‘þetta reddast’ translating as ‘it will all work out okay’ or to embrace a challenge and overcome difficulties; in the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ one must truly adopt this Icelandic motto when faced with the innovative, sometimes unnerving range of activities available, but all with the potential to elevate creativity and wellbeing.

Our lava tube caving experience was followed-up with a super-Jeep off-road safari, across the protected Reykjanes Park. With meter-wide tyres, we crunched over the rocks and volcanic debris at alarmingly acute angles, before reaching an expanse of lake where a picnic of smoked and fermented meat and fish, was laid-out on a rocky outcrop and washed down with the famous local liquor Brennivín.

Across the lake, a production company could be seen filming; Iceland has already formed the backdrop to major films and TV series: No Time to Die, Batman Begins, Game of Thrones and Star Wars: Rogue One, to name but a few. A versatile and contrasting landscape married with financial incentives and rebates of up to 35% of the total production cost, is certainly turning heads. A dedicated team within ‘Business Iceland’ has been set-up to drive new film business and the legacy it leaves for film location tourists.

There are also numerous opportunities to criss-cross between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, maybe the most exhilarating is from the seat of a quad-bike and from the saddle of Icelandic horses, who are direct descendants of Viking horses (, one of the purest breeds in the world. Our quad-bike ride was marked-out by the view of distant pockets of steam rising from the landscape, one of which we were headed; from its promontory the snaking line of the two tectonic plates and mid-Atlantic ridge was visible above the ground; it’s even possible to sea dive between these two tectonic plates (

Not all incentives are high-octane or based within the rugged landscape; other options are to be found in the heart of the capital and include connecting with Reykjavik’s gourmet guru, Ymir Björgvin Arthúrsson. When the production team of Rick Stein’s ‘Long weekend’ series filmed in Iceland, Arthúrsson was the person they engaged. With trademark crisp-white shirt and waistcoat, Ymir is to be found at Soho House (Reykjavik), which he often uses as the culmination of a culinary and nightlife tour of the capital’s hotspots for guests (

His tours can include a visit to the ‘Black House’ a perfumery and curated scent experience (, gallery and art space. The four siblings of the Birgisdottir family are a collective of artisans – Perfumer, artist, musician, visual designer; incorporating these skills they produce handcrafted scents, using high-quality Icelandic oils, inspired by the clean and dramatic nature of Iceland. Scents and music hold memory, and one is transported to nostalgic times, through all these elements. This is a meditative-like experience, which again uses nature as the central driving-force.

Even the city’s most famous landmark, the Hallgrimskirkja Cathedral, sits at the highest point in Reykjavik and symbolises mountains and glaciers soaring skywards using imitations of hexagonal basalt columns. From the bell tower’s observation deck, the vastness of nature and Reykjavik’s compactness, is most evident. The whale-watching boats are also visible off the coast, another once-in-a-lifetime activity for most. The main thoroughfare leading up to the cathedral incorporates Rainbow Street, a nod towards the countries openness and inclusivity towards gender equality, the LGBT community and to celebrate their ‘Pride festival’.

Sky Lagoon

Precious geothermal resources

Any visit to Iceland would not be complete without a soothing dip into their world-famous geothermal waters; these resources not only support mental and physical wellbeing, but also provide two-thirds of Iceland’s energy production, powering most of the nation’s homes. Iceland has an aim to be carbon neutral by 2040.

In the capital region, the Blue Lagoon is the grand master of thermal bathing for visitors, but the newest geothermal kid-on-the-block is ‘Sky Lagoon’, a 70-metre infinity pool which looks out to the sea and Fagradalsfjall volcano. Carved out of rock, the combination of ocean spray, crisp-champagne air filling the lungs, whilst submerged in a geothermal bath is simply exquisite. The whole experience is enhanced by Sky Lagoon’s seven-step ritual taking one out of the thermal waters and into plunge pool, sauna, fog-mist, invigorating sea salt body scrub, steam room, cold shower and back into the lagoon.

In many ways Iceland is ‘living our future now’ especially against the back drop of sustainable living, climate protection and renewable energy solutions. All has a bearing on the meetings industry, all of which links to current meeting trends. Iceland’s geology may well continue to re-shape the country and this ensures the people remain adaptive, innovative and creative. Iceland’s tectonic MICE plates are certainly shifting in the right direction!

Meet in Reykjavik –

Visit Reykjavik -

Business Iceland -

Icelandair -

© Ramy Salameh Newsroom