Upon my return from Iceland, I deffinitely had a case of the holiday blues. The main word I can associate with the visit was magical. From start to finish, the trip was truley amazing and a life changing experience, far exceeding the expectations I held before I travelled.
Now that I am home and not as swept up in the magic, I wanted to explore more deeply where these emotions were stemming from. What made Iceland so magical?
Firstly, I beleive the weather made a significant difference on the appearence of the country, as well as the comfort of the travellers. Shortly before our visit, Iceland had experienced the heaviest snowfall they had had in decades (Metro, 2017). Luckily, the snow storms had settled by the time we arrived and flying over the beuatiful snowy, but sunny landscape gave us our first glimpse of what was to come. The snow deffinitely made the landscape feel more unique and the sun allowed us to see clearly the amazing views from the coach throughout the entire trip.
Secondly, the appearence of the Northern Lights played a significant factor in the experience of the trip. Everybody hopes to see the Norther Lights when visiting Iceland, but some many stories are heard of dissappointment, resulting in it being fairly difficult to get excited about seeing the during a short visit. We were extremely lucky in that not only did we see them on the first night on a tour, we saw them again on the second night, simply whilst strolling around the centre of Reykavik. This night was truly amazing and quite possibly one of the best nights of my life. That moment we looked up and saw the sky covered in dancing lights, of the rare purple shades, I felt overwhelmed with excitement, amazement and glee. I couldn’t beleive our luck!
From this point on, their appeared to be a hype amongst the group, everyone was talking about the lights; sharing pictures, sharing stories. Everyone appeared to be in a better mood and even more excited about what was to come.
Reflecting on this has encouraged me to quesion whether I would have been as positive about the trip if we hadn’t of been so lucky to see the lights and have the weather we had. An article by Bigne, Sanchez and Sanchez (2001) concludes that the more satisfied a tourist is with their experience, the higher their liklihood of reccomendation. I have to question this. As delighted as I was with my experience, the pesimist in me is aware that we were extremely lucky as to the conditions we had during the trip and I am doubtful that I would be as satisfied if we had visited a week later, so a reccomendation would be headed with this caution.
I also must question whether if I had higher expectations of Iceland, my opinions would have been different. I went with very low and confused expectations of the country. I believed it was likely to be cloudy, little snow and seeing the lights wasn’t a given. The country truley amazed me, but could this have been simply becuase I wasn’t expecting to be as impressed. This theory can be demonstrated in standard service quality models such as SERVQUAL (Parasuraman et al., 1988) which uses the gap between expectations and perceptions to measure service quality. This can arguably be related to this scenario and applied in just the same way.
This was evident from conversations with other tourists whilst on our travels. Towards the end of the trip, I spoke to a couple who had missed both appearences of the Aurora and they appeared underwhelemed with Iceland’s offerings at that point. They also found the snow to be a hindrence on their ability to walk in the countryside and this also dampened their mood. This just goes to show how the experience really can be affected by the expectations one forms before travelling.
Bigne, J., Sanchez, I. and Sanchez, J. (2001). ‘Tourism image, evaluation variables and after purchase behaviour: inter-relationship’. Tourism Management. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261517701000358. Accessed 28th March 2017.
Metro. (2017). ‘Snow in Iceland makes us realise how bad we cope with weather’. Available at: http://metro.co.uk/2017/02/28/snow-in-iceland-makes-us-realise-how-bad-we-are-at-coping-with-the-weather-6478467/. Accessed 28th February 2017.
Parasuraman, A., Ziethaml, V. and Berry, L.L. ‘SERVQUAL: A Multiple- Item Scale for Measuring Consumer Perceptions of Service Quality’. Journal of Retailing. 62(1). pp 12-40. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225083802_SERVQUAL_A_multiple-_Item_Scale_for_measuring_consumer_perceptions_of_service_quality. Accessed 28th March 2017.