Marketing/management campaign by Visit Faroe Islands launched in February 2019.
Challenge / background
Before Covid, more and more destinations were facing challenges related to an increase in tourists. The same applied to the Faroe Islands. Although the islands did not in any way suffer from “over-tourism”, there were a few selected locations that have felt the impact of more tourists in recent years. These places needed a little tender loving care.
The impact on these popular attractions also resulted in disgruntled locals voicing their concern about the impact on the environment. The importance of locals’ opinions about tourism cannot be underestimated. One of Visit Faroe Islands’ main barometers of success is that Faroe Islanders see value in tourism and want tourism to develop and grow.
The initiative was based on three criteria:
1) Help preserve and maintain popular tourist sites that had felt the impact of an increase in tourists
2) Assure locals that Visit Faroe Islands is considerate of the environment and acts in protecting it when needed
3) Raise awareness about the Faroe Islands as a travel destination through international news/media coverage
Idea and implementation
The solution was to “close for maintenance and open for voluntourism”. Visit Faroe Islands invited 100 tourists from 25 countries to visit the Faroe Islands to help villagers and farmers preserve and maintain 10 popular tourist sites, which were closed to regular tourism during the working days. Regional municipalities in all parts of the country selected areas that they felt were in most need of maintenance.
Together with locals, voluntourists created walking paths in well-trodden areas, constructed viewpoints that helped preserve nature and protect birdlife sanctuaries and erected signs that helped with wayfinding. Projects were of various difficulty levels, meaning volunteers did not need to be highly skilled. A willingness to assist was the only criterion.
In return for their help, voluntourists were offered accommodation and food for the three-night working period – and, in true Faroese style, a party at the end to celebrate the work that was accomplished.
Press all over the world covered the story. Within four days of launching, over 3,500 people from all corners of the globe had signed up. The first 100 to sign up and book their flights were admitted to the Maintenance Crew.
Five international news outlets were handpicked from the many that requested to take part in the maintenance weekend on the last weekend of April in 2019.
The 1,600 hours of work done by voluntourists, local villagers and farmers made a real difference. Walking paths were made, viewpoints were constructed, and wayfinding signs were erected, paving the way for a sustainable future for the islands.
Locals took note; some were surprised at how much could be accomplished in such a short amount of time; others expressed delight at seeing how enthusiastic and engaged the voluntourists were; all were grateful that 100 strangers took time to lend a helping hand.
The campaign experienced two separate waves of international press coverage; first when the initiative was launched, and again after the maintenance working days when the international press that took part in the maintenance work published articles about their experiences. In total, the campaign generated over 500 news articles, and an online readership of over 3.7B and 34M social media actions – all on a media budget of zero.
Watch the campaign film here: https://vimeo.com/317464068.