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Emerging as a viable MICE destination

Backed by recent facility upgrades—and by key strengths in marine, health, and energy related science and technology—the Faroe Islands seeks to build a position in tourism linked to meetings, incentive tours, conferences and exhibitions.

When it comes to tourism associated with corporate events, trade fairs, medical congresses, conventions, meetings and the like, there is a significant international market—one in which the Faroe Islands is claiming an increasing share. According to Annleyg Lamhauge, in charge of the MICE tourism department at official promotion agency Visit Faroe Islands, the Faroese effort to establish itself in this contested market has come a long way, however with some major logistical obstacles still remaining.

“In my view, our work to develop this business tourism can be considered a strategic support function of economic and societal development,” Ms. Lamhauge noted. 

“This also has to do with the fact that the development of the Faroese hospitality sector at any noteworthy scale is still a very new and ongoing process. Promoting and developing, to a very large extent, goes hand in hand. Now if we look back just a very few years, we had only one four-star hotel in this country, whereas today we have four of them; so there’s quite a difference.” 

The Faroe Islands’ total four-star accommodation capacity amounts to about 530 rooms, according to Ms. Lamhauge. Even with the rapid development that has taken place in the last few years, there is still much more underway within the next year or two, including the 4,600 square meter Faroe Arena (Føroya Arena) indoors sports and cultural hall, which will boost the country’s total event venue capacity very substantially. “Hosting international events—whether related to trade, science or technology—is something that helps bring people of influence to the Faroe Islands,” Ms. Lamhauge said. 

“That also helps strengthen the professional or academic career of people who work and live here, as well as empowering their organizations by enhancing their international connectivity. All of this can help establish important relationships and open up avenues of opportunities.”

In this connection, a few primary areas of focus have been calibrated in line with key Faroese strengths that have been identified: marine related, health related, green energy, information and communication technology, and sports events.

Annleyg Lamhauge, head of the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions) department at Visit Faroe Islands. Image credits: Maria Olsen.

“We strive to use our resources prudently and therefore focus on the main fields of knowledge in which the Faroese have already gained some traction and earned international recognition,” Ms. Lamhauge added. 

‘All within reach’

While many meetings and conferences are conducted online today for various practical reasons, in-person event are still superior when it comes to cultivating human connections. 

“You get your information online and you can successfully convey many items and talking points online, which is all fine. But on the other hand, meeting people face-to-face can create meaningful connections, with the potential for more authentic and lasting engagement. In fact surveys suggest that conference goers consider meaningful connections the most important reason for attending in person.” 

Here the Faroe Islands offers a unique advantage: escaping noisy and stressful environments to embrace the peaceful and inspiring vibes of a readily accessible natural environment. 

“The smallness of the place and the fact that it has so much to offer, is a common theme among many visitors’ enthusiastic feedback. They seem to be impressed with the fact that there is no sense of barriers; people are easy to talk to, most of them speak English, and distances are very short so you don’t need to spend much time going from one location to another—it’s all within reach. It’s easy, it’s safe, it’s family friendly.” 

All of that said, some serious logistical barriers remain with limited connectivity between the Faroes and the outside world. Several flights a day to and from Denmark is a lot but beyond that, there’s not that much, even though the number and diversity of scheduled flights to and from the island nation is growing. “It’s obvious we need a few more direct flight connections to some of the main international hubs in Europe,” Ms. Lamhauge added. 

“That would enable us as an agency to reach a much wider audience—it’s a bit much to ask all Europeans to travel first to Copenhagen in order to get on a plane to the Faroe Islands. So hopefully in the not-too-distant future, more such connections will be in place.”

‘The perfect place’

Healthcare, meanwhile, is known as the largest business sector in the Faroe Islands, perhaps surprisingly for some, although this is generally not considered a for-profit area of business here.

“Public healthcare employs many people and represents a considerable part of the Faroese government’s budget,” Ms. Lamhauge said. 

“With a large proportion of their work closely associated with scientific research, some of their people frequently attend medical congresses and conferences. There are quite a few such events taking place in the Faroe Islands throughout the year, and with an increasing accommodation capacity and more and more suitable venues becoming available we’re likely to see this trend continue to grow.”

Teaching conferences of various kinds are likewise a notable trend, according to Ms. Lamhauge. 

“Teaching is big and so is public policy related to, for example, social issues. Still I would say healthcare and medical science remain the largest contributor to meetings and conferences. On the other hand, academia is becoming a larger sector and the new, high-profile campus that is being planned for the University of the Faroe Islands will likely attract more international students and lecturers.”

Hikers viewing Geitaskoradrangur near Bøsdalafossur, Vágoy. Image credits: LittleManShouting—Visit Faroe Islands.

Sports events is another major attraction, even sports related conferences including scientific ones. Thus ‘Football Is Medicine’—a 2020 conference in the Faroe Islands, headed by Magni Mohr, PhD, Dean, professor in Exercise Physiology, Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Faroe Islands, together with May-Britt Skoradal, assistant professor in Health Sciences—received the prestigious ‘Incredible Impact Award’ from the International Congress and Convention Association and Best Cities Alliance.

“The Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic—where 10 percent of the population is a registered footballer—and the perfect place to host an event showcasing the many benefits of playing soccer,” the Incredible Impact Award jury stated. 

“Experts from all aspects of sports medicine, nutrition, and training delivered a compelling program detailing how football can be used to enhance and enrich the lives of people everywhere.”

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