Place branding

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Closed for Maintenance

After several years of very successful campaigns, Faroe Islands tourism has increased to the point of becoming a burden. Therefore, the campaign of the year had to balance between consideration of the vulnerable islands, and the need of tourism. The solution? ”Voluntourism”.

In 2017, Visit Faroe Islands launched Google Sheep View. The campaign was a huge success, and significantly boosted tourism. One year later, Visit Faroe Islands launched Google Translate, which likewise created a global impact and further increased tourism. So what to do? In the wake of those two campaigns, tourism has grown 100%. But the infrastructure of paths, signage, fence, and waste management is far from geared to this powerful increase, and part of the population therefore regard tourism as a bit of a challenge.

This created a paradox for the tourist organization Visit Faroe Islands. Their job was to increase tourism in a country not geared to receive any further tourists. We therefore had not just one challenge on our hands, but three:

– To improve infrastructure.
– To improve the relations between tourists and the local population.
– To increase tourism.

And all on a very limited budget. The Faroe Islands had a very real need of help. Luckily, there were many signs that travellers desire more authentic and culturally oriented travel experiences and feel the urge to engage more in the places they visit.

For example, 84% of the participants in the 20 to 40 age group, said that they would travel abroad to engage in voluntary activities, and Lonely Planet labelled eco-tourism one of the major new travel trends. Simultaneously, investigations revealed that many travellers expressed a desire to better get to know the local communities. We decided to do a bold, strategic move. We changed our focus from tourists to idealists. People ready to help the Faroe Islands, rather than merely visit them.  

But how to capture the attention of the world without a gigantic media budget?

We shut down the country!

On 20 February 2019, the Faroese prime minister announced that during the last week of April, The Faroe Islands would be ”Closed for Maintenance, but Open to Voluntourists”. This meant shutting down all tourist locations. Instead, the volunteers were invited to help along ten specific projects. The volunteers were given free board and lodgings but had to pay for the flight trip themselves.

Select results.

  • The ”Closed for Maintenance, Open for Voluntourists” press release resulted in more than 500 news stories all over the globe, with a total online readership of 3.760.000.000 (measured and indexed by Coverage book).
  • In a short while, more than 3,500 people had signed up, the equivalent of seven times the number of people who normally visit The Faroe Islands on that particular weekend.
  • In April volunteers from 25 different countries arrived to help maintain the islands. Today, ten of the top attractions have been renovated. 
  • ”Closed for Maintenance” inspired a large number of tourist organizations across the world to come up with similar initiatives.
  • The Faroe Islands turned this into an annually repeated event, and in 2019 5,000 people signed up in a mere 24 hours.
  • World Economic Forum voted the campaign one of the 10 best initiatives for the planet in 2019.

Do you want to know more?

Rune Hørslev-Petersen

Contact Rune Hørslev
Phone: +45 31 34 57 69