I was invited to speak at a conference concerning tourism development in the Faroe Islands. I had met one of the senior managers of the Faroe Islands’ tourist office when I was speaking at a conference in the Azores. Sunvil is the largest operator to the Azores – not that these nine islands are mass-market destination as we only send in the region of 2,000 clients there every year. Sunvil was instrumental in developing the Azores as a high revenue, low impact destination in tourism terms.
The Faroese were very interested as to how we created the market to the Azores and how this market could be controlled so as not destroy the very nature of the islands which is why visitors choose to travel there in the first place.
Tourism is a very complex industry and, more of often that not, those who control the industry at destinations level have no idea how demand is created and how destinations are destroyed or maintained in good health over the long term. I had no intention of having Sunvil operate to the Faroes. Yes, it would fit in with our Scandinavian programme but I had not considered the islands as a possibility.
The weather was poor when I arrived and I found the landscape completely different to anything I had seen before. It’s treeless and the mountains and valleys have been sculpted by glaciers which have long since disappeared. You feel as if you are at the end of the world, as if you are seeing a landscape which does not belong to this earth.
I suppose it was the people I met and the passion for their islands that made me look again at the possibility of featuring the Faroes as a destination. The cliffs are spectacular – some of the highest sea cliffs in the world – plunging hundreds of metres into the ocean. Birds are everywhere and you feel you are part of a culture that has been there, unchanged, for thousands of years.
Yes, the weather is variable but that is part of the experience, because everything around you is ever changing. It’s easy to get around the islands, which have an excellent road network. Undersea tunnels link several of the islands and the maximum ferry time from the central islands to the southernmost is only about 2 and a half hours. Accommodation is homely and comfortable, rather than luxurious – but then that is very much the Sunvil image.
Within a week Rachel and PJ from our staff had also visited and we had the initial details on our web site in just four weeks of my having first set foot on the islands.This will never be a volume destination, as it does not have, and never will have, what it takes to attract the masses. But, the panel of experts from the Royal Geographic magazine were quite right when they judged the Azores to be the most pure and unspoilt island destination in the world.
N. Josephides MD