Iceland Considers Taxes to Deter Floods of Tourists


Once considered the hidden gem of Europe’s tourism industry, Iceland has officially become too popular for its own good. As Bloomberg reports, the Nordic nation is looking to implement taxes and regulations on tourism to provide relief to its overwhelmed economy.

Iceland is one of the hottest travel destinations of the moment: According to the Icelandic Tourist Board, the number of foreign visitors coming into the country more than tripled between 2000 and 2014 [PDF].

Since then, clever campaigns have further boosted its appeal. In 2016, Icelandair launched its “Stopover Buddy” promotion that pairs local hosts with travelers who agree to stay in Iceland for free extended layovers. That same year, Inspired by Iceland released a series of “Iceland Academy” videos instructing potential travelers on subjects like avoiding awkward hot tub moments. The fact that airfare to Iceland is dirt cheap compared to other parts of Europe is also a major draw.

But travelers should expect Iceland to get more expensive in the near future. In an effort to protect the nation’s natural landmarks from the millions of visitors pouring over the border annually, the coalition government is considering requiring tour bus lines and tour companies to apply for special licenses.

Iceland already enforces a hotel tax. It generated roughly $3.6 million for the country last year and could bring in up to $11 million in 2017. The government is now considering raising that particular tax even higher.

Even without the new expenses, vacationing in Iceland can get pricey once that initial plane ticket is purchased. Hotel rooms currently cost about a third more than they do in other Nordic capitals, and alcoholic drinks cost twice the average for the European Union. For up-and-coming destinations that have yet to face tourism backlash, you may want to avoid Western Europe altogether. This handy infographic names countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Middle East as spots to keep an eye on.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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These Are the Top 25 U.S. Cities With the Lowest Cost of Living

Coastal cities like New York and San Francisco bustle with excitement, but residents pay plenty of hard-earned cash to enjoy perks like Central Park and world-class museums—and to pay their sky-high rents. If you’d rather have a full bank account than a hipster ZIP code, consider setting down roots in America’s most affordable region: the Midwest.

Niche, a data analysis company, has ranked the 25 cities with the lowest cost of living across the United States—and the top 10 are all located in America’s heartland. Their selections were based on factors including access to affordable housing, food and fuel costs, and median tax rates, all of which were gleaned from U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Indiana was the most-represented state in the list’s top 10 section, with Fort Wayne, Evansville, and South Bend nabbing the first three spots. The remaining cities were mid-sized metropolitan areas in Kansas, Ohio, Iowa, and Illinois, all of which offer urban conveniences at a fraction of the cost of their coastal counterparts. After that, other cities in the mix included municipalities in Texas, Michigan, Alabama, South Dakota, and Minnesota.

Check out Niche's top 25 list below, and visit their website to view their methodology.

1. Fort Wayne, Indiana
2. Evansville, Indiana
3. South Bend, Indiana
4. Topeka, Kansas
5. Toledo, Ohio
6. Wichita, Kansas
7. Akron, Ohio
8. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
9. Davenport, Iowa
10. Springfield, Illinois
11. Rochester, Minnesota
12. Dayton, Ohio
13. Springfield, Missouri
14. Wichita Falls, Texas
15. Kansas City, Kansas
16. Odessa, Texas
17. Cleveland, Ohio
18. Indianapolis, Indiana
19. Abilene, Texas
20. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
21. Montgomery, Alabama
22. Lansing, Michigan
23. Des Moines, Iowa
24. Brownsville, Texas
25. Warren, Michigan

Switzerland Flushes $1.8 Million in Gold Down the Sewer Every Year

Switzerland has some pretty valuable sewer systems. As Bloomberg reports, scientists have discovered around $1.8 million worth of gold in the country's wastewater, along with $1.7 million worth of silver.

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology examined sewage sludge and effluents, or discharged liquid waste, from 64 water treatment plants and major Swiss rivers. They did this to assess the concentrations of various trace elements, which are "increasingly widely used in the high-tech and medical sectors," the scientists explained in a press statement. "While the ultimate fate of the various elements has been little studied to date, a large proportion is known to enter wastewater."

The study, which was recently published online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, revealed that around 94 pounds of gold makes its way through Switzerland's sewage system each year, along with 6600 pounds of silver and high concentrations of rare metals like gadolinium and niobium. For the most part, these metals don't harm the environment, researchers say.

With gold and silver quite literally flowing through their sewers, is there any way that Switzerland could turn their wastewater into wealth? Scientists are skeptical: "The recovery of metals from wastewater or sludge is scarcely worthwhile at present, either financially or in terms of the amounts which could be extracted," the release explains.

However, in the southern canton of Ticino, which is home to several gold refineries, the "concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile," they conclude.

Switzerland is famous for its chocolate, watches, and mountains, but it's also home to major gold refineries. On average, around 70 percent of the world's gold passes through Switzerland every year—and judging from the looks of it, much of it goes down the drain. As for the sewer silver, it's a byproduct of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, which is a cornerstone of Switzerland's economy.

[h/t Bloomberg]


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