Published 10 months ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Visit Faroe Islands
Visit Faroe Islands’ innovative strategy and annual ‘Closed for Maintenance’ voluntourism program illustrate the destination’s dual commitment to both promotion and the sustainable development. Lacking relevant legislation, VFI uses tourism to support sustainable development on a broader scale.
During the fourth weekend in April, you won’t see tourists hiking the popular
village path connecting Fuglafjørður and Hellurnar. They won’t be able
to easily access the picturesque lighthouse on Nólsoy or reach the pebble
beach in Froðba, either. In fact, 10 popular Faroe Islands tourist
destinations will be “Closed for Maintenance” — accessible to only a select
group of “voluntourists” as part of a dedicated Maintenance Crew.
For the fifth year in a row, voluntourists will spend three days participating
in maintenance projects as part of the Visit Faroe
Islands (VFI) sustainable tourism
strategy. In exchange for free accommodation, food and transport, the 100
members of this Maintenance Crew will put in manual labor, helping locals with
tasks such as repairing paths, replacing wayfinding posts, installing
information signs, and building benches and steps.
“I think we can say that the ‘Closed’ initiative has been a huge success,” said
marketing manager of leisure and public relations for VFI. ‘Closed for
Maintenance’ was launched in 2019 to showcase Visit Faroe Islands’ commitment to
both development and preservation. “We needed the promotion/PR to make people
aware of the initiative; but the work has always been about maintaining and
improving areas that needed attention.”
Canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 and restricted to only Faroese in 2021, the
initiative is back with a vengeance — with more than 4,300 people signing up
with the hope of being selected through a lottery system for the next
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The destination’s dual commitment to both promotion and the sustainable
development of the country is part of its “preservolution” strategy, launched in
spring 2019. Combining the words “preserve,” “evolve” and “solution,” this is
more than simply a strategy — it is “an evolution and a solution, with
preservation at its core. An entirely new way of thinking about tourism,”
according to the document outlining the vision.
Like many destinations, the Faroe Islands was at a flex point in 2019 as it
grappled with an increasing number of travelers as well as the need to develop
sustainably — with consideration for its people, environment and economy. The
global pandemic gave Visit Faroe Islands the gift of time to reevaluate how to
move forward with its preservolution vision.
Image credit: Visit Faroe Islands
“I think it is fair to say that the pandemic strengthened our resolve to ensure
that the development is good for the country and the people who live here,”
Sørensen said. “We talked a lot about how we could ensure that the re-opening of
the country post-COVID would not all be about numbers. At the same time, we also
acknowledged that the tourism industry was in a place where they needed to
On the other side of the pandemic, the Faroe Islands are in a particularly unique
position. As an island destination, the country is vulnerable to the increased
focus on the climate crisis and flight
yet Sørensen noted the country’s national airline, Atlantic
Airways, has new planes that
use less energy and are more efficient. Recent renovations of the airport and
landing strip have decreased layovers and unnecessary flights, as well.
Yet the Faroe Islands, like all Nordic countries, is also perfectly poised to
welcome travelers seeking wilderness
As part of its preservolution strategy, VFI is taking local residents’ concerns
and insight into consideration in determining what this looks like.
“The increased focus on nature and how to preserve nature now that more people,
both international travelers and locals, use nature as recreation — for example,
to go hiking — has also made more locals ask for nature protection,” Sørensen
said. Lacking relevant legislation, VFI sees this as an opportunity to use
tourism as a means to support sustainable development on a broader scale. “We
believe that we can create increased awareness of the importance of nature and
sustainable use of nature and our resources through
In addition to participating in Closed for Maintenance and voicing concern about
nature conservation, Faroese are more involved and considered when it comes to
tourism infrastructure, logistics and planning. For example, in the small,
scenic village of Tjørnuvík, traffic was becoming increasingly problematic
and dangerous. With generous input from local residents, VFI and the
municipality, several changes were made last summer — including adding traffic
lights on the narrow road leading into the village, sensors in the village’s
parking lots, and a shuttle bus system that now operates in the community.
“We are the process of making a new tourism strategy for 2030; and we have
decided to ask the locals for their opinion on how to make sure the Faroe
Islands develops as a regenerative tourism destination,”
Sørensen said. She believes Visit Faroe Islands’ bottom-up strategy has the
potential to spread the benefits of tourism across the country’s 18 North
Atlantic islands and open up job opportunities beyond farming, particularly for
“Only a few years ago, everyone talked about … how young people did not move
back home after studies abroad and how the population was declining,” Sørensen
said. “Now, we are more than 50,000 people in the Faroe Islands — the most we
have ever been — with young people moving back; and we are increasingly proud of
what we have and who we are.”
Published Jan 18, 2023 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
JoAnna Haugen is a writer, speaker and solutions advocate who has worked in the travel and tourism industry for her entire career. She is also the founder of Rooted — a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact and storytelling. A returned US Peace Corps volunteer, international election observer and intrepid traveler, JoAnna helps tourism professionals decolonize travel and support sustainability using strategic communication skills.