NEW YORK—The pristine Faroe Islands—a group of volcanic islands in the North Atlantic, halfway between Iceland and Norway—welcome approximately 100,000 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 spring 2019 and in celebration of Earth Day, the Faroe Islands will be taking a time out from tourism.
Why? The Faroese people are keen to keep their green islands pristine.
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 preserved and sustainable.
Their idea is, quite simply, to “close for maintenance and open for voluntourism” over the weekend of April 26 to 27, 2019—and to repeat and expand on this idea each year if it works well.
Only Volunteer Workers Allowed
The Faroese have announced that only those prepared to work with locals over the maintenance weekend will be able to visit. There will be a series of projects led by local people, aimed at delivering a touch of tender loving care (TLC) to the Faroese countryside and to ready it for visitors in 2019.
Just 100 visitors will be able to sign up to volunteer with the local Faroese Crew. In return for their services to the country, they will be gifted both accommodation and food over the three-night preservation period by the Faroese. Maintenance projects will take place on Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27. On the Saturday night, there will be a celebratory meal for all those who have joined forces to help—Faroese and overseas visitors alike. Volunteers can also choose to extend their trip to the Faroe Islands should they wish to do so.
Projects will include creating walking paths in well-trodden areas, constructing viewpoints that help preserve nature and birdlife sanctuaries and erecting signs that help with wayfinding. Projects will be of various difficulty levels, meaning volunteers do not need to be highly skilled. A willingness to assist is the only criteria.
“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 Højgaard, director of Visit Faroe Islands. “You can find peace and quiet wherever you go, even in our lively capital city, Tórshavn.”
She continues: “For us, tourism is not all about the 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 aims are to preserve and protect it, ensuring sustainable and responsible growth.”
Prime Minister Invites Volunteers to Help
The Faroes’ Prime Minister, Aksel V. Johannesen, has joined the campaign by inviting volunteers to lend a helping hand.
The campaign will work with local villagers and farmers to identify several areas where a little TLC will help to preserve the infrastructure and will pave the way for a sustainable future for the islands.
The Faroese hope that their new project may inspire other countries to follow suit and set up their own “Maintenance Crews,” thereby encouraging tourists to help in whatever way is needed to preserve those destinations.
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 wants to ensure that over-tourism never becomes an issue.
For more information or to sign up to be part of the Maintenance Crew, visit www.preservefaroeislands.com.
To learn more about the Faroe Islands, visit www.visitfaroeislands.com.