The Faroe Islands welcome around 110,000 visitors each year, attracted by the country’s dramatic scenery, including rugged cliffs, sea caves, spectacular waterfalls and an abundance of birdlife, not forgetting a population of just 50,000 Faroese people and their 80,000 sheep.
But, for one weekend in April 2019, the Faroe Islands will be ‘closed to tourists’ – in other words, many of the most popular sites and attractions will be closed. Why? The Faroese people are keen to keep their green islands unspoiled.
Notably – and happily – the Faroe Islands currently have no over-tourism problems. However, the fragile natural environment in a few popular tourist locations has felt the effects of an increase in visitors. These areas need a helping hand to ensure they remain pristine; sustainability is the goal.
The idea is, quite simply, to close for maintenance and open for voluntourism over the weekend of Friday 26 to Sunday 28 April, 2019 – and to repeat and expand on this idea each year if it works well.
The Faroese have announced that only those prepared to work with locals over the maintenance weekend will be able to visit certain sites and attractions. There will be a raft of projects led by local people, aimed at delivering a touch of tender loving care to the Faroese countryside and to ready it for visitors in 2019.
The campaign, which was created by the country’s tourist board, Visit Faroe Islands, started on the morning of 20 February. Within eight hours of launch, all 100 spots on the Faroese Maintenance Crew were full. Within 72 hours, over three thousand volunteers of all ages from countries all over the world had signed up.
“We’re overwhelmed by the interest from people in helping us maintain and preserve the Faroe Islands,” says Guðrið Højgaard, director at Visit Faroe Islands. “This goes to show that people share our concern for the environment and are willing to use their precious time to help.”
In return for their services to the country, volunteers will be gifted both accommodation and food over the three-night maintenance period by Visit Faroe Islands. Maintenance projects will take place on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 April. On the Saturday night, there will be a celebratory meal for all those who have joined forces to help – Faroese and overseas visitors alike.
Projects will include creating walking paths in well-trodden areas, constructing viewpoints that help preserve nature and protect birdlife sanctuaries and erecting signs that help with wayfinding.
“We are delighted that more and more people are discovering how special our islands are – our scenery, our unique way of life, our food and our people,” says Guðrið. “For us, tourism is not all about numbers. We welcome visitors to the islands each year, but we also have a responsibility to our community and to our beautiful environment, and our aim is to preserve and protect the islands, ensuring sustainable and responsible growth.”
The Faroe Islands’ Prime Minister, Aksel V. Johannesen, joined the campaign by inviting volunteers to lend a helping hand.
The campaign works with local villagers and farmers to identify several areas where a little tender loving care will help to preserve the infrastructure and will pave the way for a sustainable future for the islands.
Visit Faroe Islands hopes that their new project may inspire other countries to follow suit, and to set up their own Maintenance Crews, thereby encouraging tourists to help in whatever way is needed to deal with the particular problem/s affecting that destination.
The Faroe Islands has seen a growth of approximately 10 percent in tourists in recent years and, while the country welcomes visitors with open arms, it also wishes to ensure that over-tourism never becomes an issue.
For more information, please visit www.preservefaroeislands.com.
Words: Levi Hanssen
This article was originally published on Faroeislands.fo