Following the success of this year’s initiative, the Faroe Islands is again going to close for maintenance – from 16-17 April 2020 – and is calling for willing voluntourists to sign up when registration opens on Tuesday, 12 November 2019.
Just 100 participants will be enlisted to give their time for free to help maintain and preserve the breathtaking Faroese landscapes and precious natural environment, in return for free accommodation, food and transport on the islands over the three-night maintenance period (Wednesday 15, Thursday 16 and Friday 17 April). They will need to pay for their travel to the Faroe Islands. This will be alongside 40 Faroe Islanders who will also be given a chance to take part. Maintenance projects will take place on 16 and 17 April. Closed for Maintenance, Open for Voluntourism visitors are, of course, welcome to stay on after the maintenance project should they so wish.
Some 14 popular tourist sites will be closed to the general public, with projects identified by local municipalities, tourism centres and local villagers. These include Slættaratindur, the highest mountain in the Faroe Islands, where the last stretch of the hike to the top is currently difficult to climb safely. An alternative route will be signposted and maintained by the voluntourists over the closure weekend. Other projects will include marking paths with wayfinding posts, mending paths that have eroded and re-building cairns.
To mark the end of the two-day project, on the Friday night, volunteers and local people will enjoy a celebratory meal, with Faroese food, local beer and traditional chain dancing – a Faroese folk dance accompanied by ballads sung by the dancers.
The Closed for Maintenance, Open for Voluntourism project forms part of a move by the Faroe Islands’ tourist board to pave the way for a sustainable future for both the islands themselves and their burgeoning tourism industry. Although the islands do not currently suffer from overtourism, the fragile natural environment in a few popular tourist locations has felt the effects of around a 10% growth in visitors over recent years, taking annual visitor numbers to around 110,000, and still growing.
In April 2019, the Closed for Maintenance, Open for Voluntourism pilot project saw unexpectedly high numbers of volunteers sign up to offer their services, with more than 3,500 applications from people around the world to fill the 100 free places. The 100 voluntourists represented 25 different nations, all working together with the local Faroese, and making a tangible, positive difference to the environment.
Zuzana Chromikova from Slovakia was one such voluntourist who took part in 2019. She explained that her experience as part of the Maintenance Crew was an extremely positive one. She said: “Thank you for the new hope and faith in people this experience gave me. I will never forget this.”
Islanders reacted positively, too, and were delighted at the progress – and friendships – made with their helpers.
The Faroese hope that their project will also inspire other countries to set up their own Maintenance Crews, encouraging visitors to help to redress the impact of tourism worldwide.
Registration to become part of the Maintenance Crew will open on Tuesday 12 November at 15.00 hrs (GMT).
For more information about the Faroe Islands, see www.visitfaroeislands.com.