In just six weeks, the Faroe Islands welcomed more than 700,000 ‘remote tourists’ via live video stream, demonstrating a new fledgling market for virtual travel. Jenny Southan reports
In April, the Faroe Islands launched an innovative new virtual travel tool called Remote Tourism, which allows people to “control” a Faroese guide via live video stream.
Virtual visitors from around the world can transform their phone, tablet or PC into an XBox-style remote control to request their guide to turn, walk, run and even jump during the 60-minute tours of the Faroe Islands.
Just like in a computer game, players using the Remote Tourism tool are invited to take turns to control the moves of the Faroese islanders for one minute each.
Locations are explored on foot, on horseback, by boat and even by helicopter, while guides wear hard hats mountain with GoPro cameras and earphones to hear commands.Remote Tourism launched following the travel restrictions imposed by the Faroese government due to Covid-19 in mid-March, and since then, more than 7,000 people virtual tourists have logged on to see the destination for themselves.It’s a campaign, obviously, but a good one. And demonstrates how clever virtual travel experiences – powered by mainstream adoption of Zoom video-conferencing technology – could now take off in a way they wouldn’t have before.
Guðrið Højgaard, director of Visit Faroe Islands, says: “We have been blown away by the global response to Remote Tourism, which has demonstrated just how much our beautiful and unspoilt environment appeals to a broad range of people from all corners of the world.
“The tool has not only provided that necessary escape for those self-isolating at home, but also a good dose of fun, which so many have been craving. We have loved watching how people haven’t held back when ‘taking control’ – our guides have certainly been put through their paces and kept fit.”Fortunately, the effect of coronavirus on the health of locals has been limited, with just 187 cases in total reported and no deaths recorded. No new cases have been recorded since April 22. Almost 10,000 people (20 per cent of the population) in the Faroe Islands have been tested for Covid-19.
The Faroe Islands will open to visitors from Denmark, Iceland, Germany, Norway and Greenland from 15 June 2020, without the need to self-quarantine.
To experience the Faroe Islands as a virtual tourist through a local’s eyes, go to remote-tourism.com, with tours continuing once per week, every Wednesday at 6pm (UK time) until 17 June.
The Faroe Islands Remote Tourism site is most popular among:
1. USA (54,983 visits)
2. Russia (38,830 visits
3. Italy (19,360 visits)
4. Ukraine (15,597 visits)
5. UK (12,385 visits)
How the Faroe Islands has managed ‘overtourism’
The Faroe Islands (of which there are 18) has a population of just over 52,000 people. Last year, it welcomed 130,000 visitors, although it has been careful avoid overtourism.
Back in spring 2019, it “closed for maintenance” for one month to 100 or so volunteers from 25 countries who were invited to help with environmental restoration projects.
Tom Ecott wrote in The Guardian: “We ‘voluntourists’ (as Visit Faroe Islands calls us) have the task of clearing loose stones from the path, and hammering wooden stakes into the grass to mark a safe, easily visible route over the mountain.
“Historically, clearing loose stones was done by the villagers, but thanks to the road they rarely walk over the mountain these days. It’s being refurbished mainly for the burgeoning numbers of tourists who explore this archipelago of rugged mountains, prolific seabirds and wild-looking sheep.”
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