Faroe Islands, Population 50,000, Lure 700,000 Virtual Visitors With Gamified Tours

'Remote Tourism' attracted viewers from 197 countries

A virtual tour guide walks to a cliff in the Faroe Islands
Kirstin Vang / Visit Faroe Islands
Headshot of T.L. Stanley

The remote Faroe Islands continue to show the rest of the world how it’s done on the marketing front, attracting 700,000 visitors from 197 countries with its recent gamified, live virtual tours.

For context, the sparsely populated Nordic nation—where its 80,000 sheep far outnumber its 50,000 human inhabitants—had about 130,000 real-life visitors in 2019.

During the hourlong tours, more than 1,000 people used a first-of-its-kind game feature to tell the resident guides where to go, which way to turn and whether to walk, run or jump. Despite the heavy traffic, no Faroese were harmed in the making of this stunt.

“We’ve been blown away by the global response to ‘Remote Tourism,’ which has demonstrated just how much our beautiful and unspoiled environment appeals to a broad range of people,” says Guorio Hojgaard, director of Visit Faroe Islands. “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!”

The participating Faroese, while being tremendously good sports, also have proven to be hale and hearty, spending six weeks showing tourists around the sweeping, rugged landscapes of the 18-island archipelago via foot, horseback, kayak and helicopter. The top five countries they hosted: the U.S. (54,983 visits), Russia (38,830 visits), Italy (19,360), Ukraine (15,597) and the U.K. (12,385).

The campaign, which kicked off in April amid the Covid-19 pandemic, boosted engagement through the tourism board’s social channels and snagged widespread exposure for the destination, located between Iceland and Norway.

It’s the latest in a years-long hot streak for Visit Faroe Islands, masterminds of “Sheep View 360,” which strapped videocameras onto the local flock and landed the nation on Google Street View for the first time, and “Closed for Maintenance, Open for Voluntourism,” a genius program that shut the country while volunteers restored its wild coastline. Both programs went viral; the former generated 2 billion media impressions and an estimated $50 million in PR value on a $200,000 budget.

The results of “Remote Tourism” come as the Faroe Islands have reopened for in-person visitors. (However, only those from EU countries and the U.K. are allowed. Sorry, Americans.)

@TLStanleyLA terry.stanley@adweek.com T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.