It’s tough to outdo yourself as a destination marketer when you’ve already put yourself on the map, literally, by strapping cameras to free-roaming sheep to get footage for Google Street View. Or when you famously shut the island once a year to give it a spring cleaning, closing it to all visitors–except, in a stroke of PR genius, those who volunteer to muck in and help keep its wild coastline pristine.
The Faroe Islands—official tagline: “Unspoiled, Unexplored, Unbelievable”—is a remote, sparsely populated 18-island archipelago in the North Atlantic known for sweeping, rugged landscapes and a largely wet and windy climate. But despite having a population of less than 53,000 (outnumbered by 80,000 sheep), the country sure knows how to pack a marketing punch.
Both of these previous campaigns from Visit Faroe Islands have gone viral, and the latest may make it a promotional three-peat. The new work centers on a gamified, live virtual tour where would-be travelers (cooped up at home because of the coronavirus quarantine) can see the Nordic nation, along with its wide open spaces and rugged cliffs, directly through the eyes of its inhabitants—on foot, horseback, or by boat or helicopter.
The tourism bureau says the work is designed to help people “escape, briefly, the rules of social isolation.” And it works almost like a real-life game of The Sims—virtual visitors can “explore the Faroes’ rugged mountains, to see close-up its cascading waterfalls and to spot the traditional grass-roofed houses” with the amiable Faroese acting as guides.
A built-in game feature means that tourists will be able to tell the residents where to go, which way to turn and whether to walk, run or jump via an on-screen joypad. (The Faroese, who’ve already proven they have a good collective sense of humor, must also be pretty spry and very accommodating). It’s a first-of-its-kind tool, according to the campaign, and safeguards mean the locals won’t to come to any harm.
The virtual tours start Wednesday, when guides will turn on their live video cameras, and run “once or twice daily for about 10 days,” depending on demand. Visitors will take turns to control the activity for one minute each, and there’s no limit on the number of people who can watch and listen. Tourism officials will also be on hand to answer questions about their country via Facebook Live and Instagram.
“When the travel bans began to escalate, we wondered how we could recreate a Faroe Islands experience for those who had to cancel or postpone their trip, and for everyone else stuck at home,” says Visit Faroe Islands director Guorio Hojgaard. “The result is this new platform to enable those in isolation to take a walk across our wild landscapes, to regain a sense of freedom and to explore beyond their own four walls.”
“We believe that our remote islands are the perfect place to inspire people in lockdown,” she says, “and, naturally, we hope to welcome them in person once everyone is free to travel again.”
The marketing stunt, available on mobile, tablets or PCs, comes on the heels of several notable programs from the tiny tourism office, which continues to punch far above its weight class. (Each new effort has increased visitors; tally in 2019 was 130,000).
“Sheep View 360,” with video cameras strapped to the backs of sheep in the local flock, put the archipelago on the map in 2016. Along with attracting Google Street View’s attention, it generated 2 billion media impressions and an estimated $50 million in PR value on a $200,000 budget.
Next came “Faroe Islands Translates,” which had residents translating words and phrases into Faroese live, in real time (because Google Translate didn’t speak the language), and “Closed for Maintenance, Open for Voluntourism,” in 2019 when 100 volunteers were enlisted to refurbish popular sites and attractions—but more than 5,500 tried to get the gig. Following its success, the tourism board plans to bring it back for a second year.