Hopeful island hoppers may need to change their plans. The Faroe Islands will be declining callers for a weekend in April, proactively taking time out from tourism to do a little housekeeping. In a forward-thinking act of self-care and in an effort to steer clear of the disastrous effects of overtourism — the pristine 18-island archipelago in the North Atlantic is “closing for maintenance” and opening solely to voluntourists the weekend of April 26-28, 2019.
The volcanic island nation, located halfway between Iceland, Scotland, and Norway, announced that it will restrict tourism in celebration of Earth Day in April, opting instead to allow just 100 visitors to come and join the Faroese Maintenance Crew and assist local villagers and farmers in service projects around the islands for the weekend. The initiative is meant to encourage locals and visitors alike to preserve the Nordic nation’s infrastructure and carefully maintain its natural wonders and popular attractions. Best of all: “a willingness to assist” is the only criteria.
The Faroe Islands have seen a 10 percent increase in tourists in recent years, and launched this project to ensure that overtourism never becomes a problem for the lush, green nation. A press release issued on behalf of the Faroe Islands notes, “Notably — and happily — the Faroe Islands currently have no overtourism problems. However, the fragile natural environment in a few popular tourist locations have felt the effects of an increase in visitors. These areas need a helping hand to ensure they remain preserved and sustainable.”
“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,” said Guðrið Højgaard, Director of Visit Faroe Islands. “… [But] 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.”
Around 100,000 visitors make their way to the islands each year, beckoned by dramatic scenery — cliffs, sea caves, and waterfalls — bountiful birdlife, and sirenic seclusion (there’s 80,000 sheep to the nation’s 50,000 Faroese people). If successful, this campaign will help to ensure that the islands are on the receiving end of careful conservation efforts, sustainably maintained for future generations to enjoy.
Volunteers will get their hands dirty by helping with projects like constructing walking paths in more heavily trafficked areas, setting up viewpoints that help to preserve nature and bird sanctuaries, and erecting wayfinding signs.
And here’s the kicker: The Faroe Islands are footing the bill for those 100 service-minded travelers to come and participate in the weekend of TLC. The first 100 people who responded to the Faroe Islands’ open invitation received an all-expenses-paid trip, with accommodations, meals, and a special airfare rate all included. Plus, after the weekend of service, volunteers will be given the opportunity to extend their trip (on their own dime) if they want to.
As you’d imagine, the islands were met with overwhelming interest in this opportunity; over 2,000 people signed up soon after the campaign was launched, so the 100 open spots are long gone now. The good news, however, is that the Faroe Islands plan to make this an annual event — so mark your calendar for next year.