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Iceland closes popular canyon after Justin Bieber music video prompts spike in tourists
Iceland is temporarily shuttering a tourist spot after a Justin Bieber music video brought newfound visitor attention to the area.
The Environment Agency of Iceland announced this month that the Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon, located about 150 miles east of Reykjavik, has seen "severe" damage to vegetation due to high foot traffic, according to a number of reports.
The number of visitors in the area nearly doubled between 2017 and 2018, according to The Telegraph, shortly after it was featured in the video for Bieber's 2015 song "I'll Show You."
Daníel Freyr Jónsson, head of the country's environmental agency, told Icelandic outlet RUV that the video, which has been viewed over 440 million times on YouTube, brought a new influx of tourists to the area, which was already struggling with warmer temperatures.
"This canyon was somewhat unknown," he said, according to Lonely Planet. "But I think Icelanders have known about it a lot longer. The great increase in foot traffic began after Bieber came. There has been an increase of 50 percent to 80 percent between 2016, 2017 and 2018."
But Inga Hlin Palsdottir, director of the country's tourism agency, Visit Iceland, told CNN Travel that Bieber, or his fans, aren't necessarily to blame.
"It's just a natural wonder that wasn't meant to be that popular," she said. "We need to build a better infrastructure there so we can invite people all year round. We need paths that can be discovered all year round. It's not only because of nature, it's a safety issue."
The environmental agency originally planned to close the spot for just two weeks, but announced an extension of the closure until June 1.
Iceland is not the first country to raise concerns of "overtourism," particularly in areas popularized by television shows or films. Dubrovnik, Croatia, a filming site of the HBO hit "Game of Thrones," has placed caps on the number of cruise ships that can dock in the city each day.