April 29, 2019 | Visit Faroe Islands
From Australia and China, to the USA and the UK, this weekend (26-28 April) the Faroe Islands welcomed 100 volunteers from around the world to join forces with locals to lay the groundwork for a more sustainable future for their unspoiled islands.
With over 3,500 applications to take part received from around the world, the pilot project saw the temporary closure of ten popular tourist sites in the Faroe Islands, with key maintenance projects identified by local municipalities, tourism centres and villagers.
Welcoming the volunteers with open arms, the Faroes’ Prime Minister, Aksel V. Johannesen said: “We feel honoured and privileged that so many people around the world wanted to give us their personal time to participate in this very important project.
“We have a huge responsibility to our community and the beautiful environment that surrounds us. While we welcome people from all over the globe to experience the Faroe Islands, we also need to preserve and protect what we have to ensure a sustainable future.”
Projects completed by the Maintenance Crews over the weekend included creating walking paths in well-trodden areas, constructing viewpoints to help preserve nature and protect birdlife sanctuaries, re-building ancient cairns and erecting signs and posts to aid wayfinding.
The 100 volunteers stayed in villages where they met and dined with locals. Jenn Nelson, a volunteer who travelled from New York, USA, to join the project, recently fell in love with the untouched beauty of the Nordic countries.
Explaining why she wanted to join the Maintenance Crew, Jenn said: “It seemed like an amazing opportunity to partner with others from around the world and the Faroe Islanders to help protect the archipelago’s beauty for years to come, and also to spend time with the local people rather than just being a tourist.”
Although the Faroe Islands currently do not suffer from over tourism, the fragile natural environment in a few popular tourist locations has felt the effects of around a 10% growth in visitors over recent years.
This archipelago, nestled halfway between Iceland and Norway, now sees around 110,000 visitors each year, attracted by the volcanic islands’ dramatic scenery, abundance of birdlife, friendly Faroese people and their 80,000 sheep.
Guðrið Højgaard, Director of Visit Faroe Islands, added, “It has been wonderful to see so many faces from around the world come together with local villagers and farmers with one united mission and a ‘roll-up-your-sleeves’ attitude.
“Over just two days, our 100 international volunteers, alongside local Faroese people, made a notable impact on some of our top tourist areas, helping to prepare us for our 2019 visitors. A big thank you to all those involved and to the many thousands of people who applied.”
On the Saturday night of the two-day project, the volunteers and local teams enjoyed a celebratory meal for all those who came together to help. Participants sampled local beer, enjoyed Faroese DJ sets and took part in traditional chain dancing – a Faroese folk dance accompanied by ballads sung by the dancers.
The Faroese hope that their new project may inspire other countries to follow suit and to set up their own Maintenance Crews, encouraging visitors to help in whatever way is needed to redress the impact of tourism.
Following a successful pilot scheme, the Faroe Islands plan to roll out another closed for maintenance weekend in spring 2020, with final dates to be confirmed.
A selection of images can be downloaded here.
Faroes fast facts:
– Population: 51,312
– Number of sheep: 80,000
– Number of islands: 18
– Total area: 1,399 km2
– Estimated number of tourists: 110,000 in 2018
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