Why is Justin Bieber being blamed for the closure of an Icelandic canyon?

25th Mar 19 | Lifestyle

The natural wonder of Fjaðrárgljúfur looks to be the latest casualty of overtourism.

Capital FM Jingle Bell Ball 2015 - Sunday

Fans of Justin Bieber – known as Beliebers – are known for being particularly dedicated to their cause. Most of the time, this translates into packed arena tours and Bieber’s songs being constantly on the radio, but it could very well be having some more negative side effects.

Some don’t think it’s a coincidence that the canyon of Fjaðrárgljúfur in Iceland has been closed a few years after Bieber shot his 2015 music video for I’ll Show You there, which has over 440 million views on YouTube.

The Icelandic Review reports that the Environmental Agency of Iceland initially intended to close the canyon for two weeks as a brief recovery period, but it’s now being extended until June 1 due to environmental damage caused by visitors.

The number of tourists visiting the canyon nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017,  which the newspaper says is: “In part due to Justin Bieber’s music video for I’ll Show You, filmed at the location.”

With these kinds of numbers, it’s safe to assume Bieber is responsible for introducing Fjaðrárgljúfur to a lot of people. However, it was already a popular tourist destination known for its exceptional natural beauty. Located in the south of Iceland, it’s a huge canyon about 100 metres deep and two kilometres long.

When you see photos of Fjaðrárgljúfur it looks like something out of the Ice Age – it’s peppered with waterfalls and is a popular hiking spot with some pretty phenomenal views.

In fact, the tourism agency Visit Iceland doesn’t think it’s quite fair to blame celebrities or even overtourism for Fjaðrárgljúfur’s closure. Inga Hlin Pálsdóttir, director of Visit Iceland, tells CNN: “It’s just a natural wonder that wasn’t meant to be that popular. We need to build a better infrastructure there so we can invite people all year round.”

She also thinks the changing seasons can cause problems, saying: “In Iceland you have extreme weather conditions – for example, springtime can be very difficult for the nature when the snow is melting and everything gets more wet and muddy.”

It’s not just Fjaðrárgljúfur which has been growing in popularity – tourism in Iceland as a whole has been on the rise. According to the Icelandic Tourist Board, there was a 24.2% increase in foreign travellers leaving Keflavík  International Airport from 2016 to 2017, the country’s main international transport hub.

It’s not like Fjaðrárgljúfur is the only popular tourist destination to struggle with mass tourism. Last year the Thai beach Maya Bay – which you might recognise as the setting of Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2000 film The Beach – was shut for four months in an extreme effort to conserve the area’s natural beauty. This came hot on the heels of the six-month closure of Boracay Island in the Philippines, whose waters President Duterte described as a “cesspool”.

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Hopefully closures such as these will help preserve these areas of astounding beauty, so tourists can visit for years to come. Being closed for a few weeks or months a year might be the best way to prevent these spots from becoming lost to us forever.

© Press Association 2019