Icelanders urged to log on to save crippled tourism sector

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The Independent Online

Iceland's government called Wednesday on all 320,000 nationals to log on to the Internet for one hour Thursday to help repair the damage done to its tourism industry by a volcano eruption in April.

Icelanders are being urged to use social networking website Facebook, microblogging site Twitter or a newly created tourism promotion website to boast of their country's attractions.

"It's a worldwide campaign to let the rest of the world know that Iceland isn't completely covered in ash," Icelandic tourist board director of marketing Jon Gunnar Borgthorsson said.

"The eruption has indeed had very little effect here in Iceland, it's only about three to five percent of the country that's been affected by it," he told AFP, adding "the volcanoes are all far from urban areas, and anyways, we are well prepared for eruptions."

Still struggling to overcome the deep crisis that set in when its major banks collapsed in late 2008, Iceland had put virtually all its hope for future prosperity in its booming tourism sector, as a growing number of visitors flocked to see its myth-like volcanic landscapes and geysers.

But the Eyjafjoell volcano's eruption in April changed all that. At its highest activity peak in the week after it began erupting, it released enough ash to cause the biggest aerial shutdown in Europe since World War II, affecting more than 100,000 flights and eight million passengers.

Iceland's government said in April it would provide 300 million kronur (1.8 million euros, 2.3 million dollars) in aid to the country's tourism industry, which was bracing for mass cancellations due to the ongoing volcano eruption.

"We believe Iceland is a country that can inspire everyone who comes here. The stunning geography and wonderful scenery, the warmth and kindness of the people, the unique culture ... we want the world to know that," Icelandic Industry Minister Katrin Juliusdottir said in a statement.

The web campaign's Internet site is http://www.inspiredbyiceland.com/

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