How can a whole country be PR and marketing savvy? The country in question is Iceland. It helps that the entire population is fewer than 333,000, and that more than two thirds of that population is concentrated in the business-centric capital of Reykjavik and its immediate environs. Despite centuries of seclusion from the rest of the world, modern Iceland may be the most connected place on Earth. Nearly 97% of the population can access the Internet and is busy spreading invitations to come visit and invest.
More than one million people—nearly three times the country’s population—now visit Iceland every year.
Recently, I was one of them. A business trip with lots of pleasure thrown in, found me in Iceland for six days. From the quirky and appealing factoids displayed on in-flight screens by Icelandair.
(“Despite their obsession with modern technology, 80% of the population believes in elves, trolls, and ghosts.”) to the visitor-friendly, multi-lingual service economy, Iceland is on a mission to make visitors—and investors—feel welcome. (WOW Airlines may have the PR edge, however, with its co-promotion with Tinder. “Flirt your way to Iceland.”)
As the country emerges from its 2008 financial collapse, there is still uncertainty regarding the pending lifting of capital controls. The controls are credited with stabilizing the currency, but also are blamed for hampering foreign investment. That investment is beginning to increase.
In the meantime, it seems that public relations and marketing in the realm of encouraging tourism and investment has become everyone’s business.
A visit to the Iceland Ocean Cluster is a prime example. The creation of Dr. Thor Sigfússon, its founder and CEO, the Iceland Ocean Cluster is all about creating greater value in marine-related industries, but it does so primarily by connecting people. Yes, there’s research, invention, and innovation, but those efforts are allowed to incubate and prosper, by making the right connections through networking, tours, and consultation. Investors find what excites them, what’s compatible with their interests and industry, while entrepreneurs find the means to realize their vision for adding value to the marine economy.
What they do at the Iceland Ocean Cluster is covered by media outlets as diverse as Iceland Fishing News Magazine and HA Magazine on Icelandic Design and Architecture.
And Sigfússon has exported his idea to the U.S. He and a local business partner in Maine will open the New England Ocean Cluster House in 2016.
With the possibility of an Arctic route opening a shorter more direct trade path to Asia (thanks, I’m afraid, to the warming climate), Iceland is poised to connect to the rest of the world in ways it never has before. The country with the oldest parliamentary government (est. 930 by its Viking forefathers) is turning out to be the newest big thing.