Sanitation facilities at tourist destinations

The Tourism Task Force, Toilets, WC

Three reports were done regarding the access to and improvement of sanitation facilities at popular tourist destinations. A status analysis was conducted throughout the country and cost estimated for future development, maintenance and operations. Proposals for future actions were likewise made.

About this Project

Tourism Task Force

February-October 2016



The project's objective

The Tourism Task Force asked EFLA's to estimate the need for sanitation facilities across the country and prioritize destinations where sanitation facilities must be improved. Much needs to be done to accommodate the vast number of tourists expected in Iceland in coming years. The varying infrastructure, urban planning and the scope of tourism at each location, and different ownership of tourist destinations, call for a special approach for each destination.

The sanitation problem for the entire country cannot be solved in one phase. EFLA prioritized the destinations where it is most important to improve sanitation facilities. Thus, emphasis will be placed on improving sanitation facilities at selected locations as soon as planning and ownership permits and/or infrastructure and the tourism industry allow for specific actions.

Environmental issues

Increased access to sanitation facilities reduces strain on nature, increases hygiene and reduces trash at and around tourist destinations.

EFLA's role

EFLA wrote three reports on tourists' access to sanitation facilities at various Icelandic destinations. The project was divided into the following stages:

Status analysis: Analysis of the state of sanitation facilities at tourist destinations and access to sanitation facilities along Highway 1.

To gather information about the state of sanitation facilities at tourist destinations across the country, EFLA conversed with tourism industry staff who have personal experience of these places and visit them regularly. In March and April 2016, guides, bus drivers, representatives of national parks, local representatives and others involved were contacted to gather information on the state and condition of sanitation facilities at the country's tourist destinations. More than 50 parties were contacted.

Visitor counts for each location were collected and after conversations with tourism industry staff and local representatives, each tourist destination was placed in one of four categories, depending on the sanitation facilities at each location:

  1. Good: Destinations with adequate sanitation facilities for visitors.

  2. At breaking point: Destinations where adequate sanitation facilities are available, but barely fit the number of visitors.

  3. Lacking: Destinations with sanitation facilities, but which are not maintained or do not match the number of visitors. Also, destinations without sanitation facilities, but are not deemed a priority according to tourism industry staff.

  4. Bad: Destinations without sanitation facilities where such facilities are much needed or facilities that are so small compared to the number of tourists that improvements are necessary.

Demand analysis and cost: Prioritizing of tourist destinations, the scale of sanitation facilities needed at each place and cost estimate.

Following a diagnosis of the situation, priority could be given to tourist locations depending on the severity of the situation, thus helping decision-making regarding financing and construction of sanitation facilities. When prioritizing tourist destinations, multiple indicators were used, such as:

  • Number of guests
  • Seasonal trends
  • Location
  • Visit duration

To adequately estimate the scale of sanitation facilities needed at tourist destinations, information was obtained about sanitation facilities at several popular adequately equipped tourist destinations in Iceland. In determining the scale of the sanitation facility needed to accommodate the number of visitors at a specific destination, experience from other destinations was used rather than the minimum requirements stated in regulations.

The cost estimates for the construction of sanitation facilities were based on EFLA's experience from similar projects over the past recent years.

Operation of sanitation facilities: Operating costs and operational form of sanitation facilities at tourist destinations and along Highway 1.

Cost figures from operators of sanitation facilities at tourist destinations were gathered. To show the scale of the cost of running a sanitation facility and to use it as a reference, EFLA presented the operating costs of several types of tourist destinations as cost-per-month per toilet. Included in these figures were labour costs, purchase of sanitary products and supplies, emptying of septic tanks, and travel expenses to and from the sanitation facilities.

Today, no one is responsible for ensuring that travellers have access to sanitation facilities. It has led to parties pointing at each other, and the notion that the state should ensure these basic services is spreading. Act 20/2016 on a new national plan addresses this problem in part and discusses how state intervention on sanitation matters should be carried out.

Also discussed was the difference between running a modern dry toilet and a traditional water toilet.

The project's long term benefits

These reports will be useful in drafting a national infrastructure development plan (Act 20/2016).