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Iceland welcomes Chinese soccer fans: ambassador

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Iceland's surprising soccer team is spurring more Chinese to consider visiting the country and Icelandic Ambassador to China Gunnar Snorri Gunnarsson says his country is more than willing to accommodate them.

"We welcome Chinese tourists and we are very happy that last year almost 20,000 Chinese tourists came to Iceland," Gunnarsson told the Global Times in an inclusive interview, adding that his country is improving visa processing.

After Iceland's soccer team made its debut in the FIFA World Cup and earned a point against two-time champions Argentina, many Chinese netizens said they were impressed by the team's performance and curious about the island country.

Articles on Iceland circulated online after the game, with netizens saying they are eager to visit the country.

An employee from a Beijing-based travel agency told the Global Times that the number of people inquiring about tours to Iceland has increased.

"The Iceland soccer team has provided dividends for Iceland. Iceland and other northern nations used to be the choice of only a small group of Chinese because they are more expensive than European countries," the employee said.

In response to news that Iceland may restrict the number of tourists due to its inadequate infrastructure and environmental concerns, Gunnarsson said: "I think we can manage to receive many more tourists but we just need some time to organize ourselves. We will not restrict the number of tourists."

"But right now if you go to Iceland, you have to reserve your hotel room in advance to make sure you have somewhere to stay, and it could be difficult to find a hotel room or an apartment in the summer," Gunnarsson said.

The ambassador said citizens in his country were glued to the television when Iceland played Argentina. Events were canceled and shops were closed, and couples even postponed their wedding as they knew few people would be willing to attend.

Some media reported that many players on Iceland's soccer team have other jobs, including the team's goalkeeper, who is a film director. But Gunnarsson said that all the players on the national team are professional soccer players.

"Our football players all prepare to do something once their football career is over," he said.



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