Jón Gunnar Benjamínsson, founder of Iceland Unlimited, has a deep-rooted passion for the outdoors, ignited during his childhood on a farm in Akureyri, Iceland. After culinary studies in Denmark, his interests steered him toward tourism, a field he embraced until a severe car accident in 2007 resulted in paralysis from the waist down. Not one to be deterred, Jón used his recovery period to cross Iceland’s highland plateau on an ATV by 2009, checking accessibility to highland huts, fueled by a grant from outdoor clothing manufacturer 66 North. This journey spurred him to establish Iceland Unlimited, a company dedicated to ensuring accessible travel for all, including those with disabilities.
Reclaiming Adventure After Injury
Jón’s return to adventure travel wasn’t just about rekindling his love for the outdoors; it was also about addressing the lack of resources and accessibility for disabled travelers. His remarkable cross-country ATV trip gained significant media attention, underscoring the capabilities and resolve of wheelchair-bound adventurers.
Guiding with a Difference
Post-injury, Jón adapted his guiding style to accommodate a slower pace, maintaining his quality of service while embracing a more relaxed approach. He believes in gauging the interests of his clients to tailor their tours, ranging from in-depth storytelling to simply enjoying the Icelandic vistas.
Planning for Accessibility
Jón emphasizes the importance of choosing the right hotels and activities to accommodate different disabilities. His operation hinges on close relationships with service providers, ensuring his clients’ specific needs are met. This attention to detail extends to improving accessibility at major tourist spots like the Blue Lagoon.
The Demand for Inclusive Adventure
There’s a growing trend in detailed travel inquiries from disabled travelers, signaling a shift towards more inclusive adventure tourism. Jón works tirelessly to refine details and negotiate with venues to improve accessibility.
Future Trends and Unique Experiences
While the economic downturn may affect travel, Jón believes Iceland’s unique offerings will continue to draw visitors. He prides his company on providing personalized experiences that bigger companies might overlook, such as the West Fjords’ rich culture and music festivals, as well as recommending the serene beauty of the highland plateau to all travelers, including those with disabilities.
Three Pillars of Success
Jón’s nascent yet proud achievements with Iceland Unlimited are based on honesty, personalized and quality service, and financial prudence. He holds the responsibility of managing people’s leisure time in high regard, striving to deliver experiences that resonate deeply with his clients.
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