Industries in Depth

These islands are using tourists to help offset the effects of tourism

A bridge spans a narrow channel between Streymoy and Eystruoy islands near the village of Oyrarbakki October 18, 2007. REUTERS/Bob Strong (FAROE ISLANDS)

110,000 people visit the Faroe Islands as tourists each year. Image: REUTERS/Bob Strong

Charlotte Edmond
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Industries in Depth?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Travel and Tourism is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Travel and Tourism

This article was updated in November 2019.

Image: Statista

Stark, rugged and sparsely populated, it’s not difficult to see why the Faroe Islands have become a draw for tourists in search of solitude, outdoor pursuits and nature.

The mountainous archipelago sitting in the North Atlantic between Scotland and Iceland welcomes around 110,000 visitors each year. In a place where inhabitants are outnumbered by their sheep, that’s a fair number of people. And the fragile environment is starting to see the effects.

Have you read?

So, in April 2020 the Faroe Islands plan to close their popular tourist sites for a repair and clean-up mission. A hundred keen volunteers will be selected to be part of the maintenance crew, and will be given food and housing over the two-day initiative.

The move builds on a pilot project in spring 2019, where 100 volunteers from around the world helped repair and future-proof some of the islands' most popular tourist spots.

The “closed for business, open for voluntourism” trial initiative closed several key sites for maintenance over a weekend. Teams worked to create walking paths in well-trodden areas, erect signs, and repair ancient stone structures.

Volunteers also got to sample local food and drink and take part in traditional dancing. The Faroe Islands were overrun with applicants for the initiative, with over 3,500 people vying for places.


Full to capacity

In 2017 tourism contributed $8.2 trillion to the global economy. It creates a huge number of jobs, and enables economic growth and development across the globe. And the industry is predicted to keep on growing.

But over-tourism is a problem for the world’s top sites: as the chart below shows, many cities are now struggling under the mass of visitors. Various definitions of over-tourism exist, with most focusing on the excessive and negative influence of tourists on the lives of local citizens and the experience of other visitors.

Image: Statista

Vulnerable habitats such as Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands are placing restrictions on the size of cruise ships and number of people disembarking, in a bid to ensure sustainability. Peru’s Inca trail restricts the number of trekking permits available, and Rwanda limits passes to see its mountain gorillas.

The diversity of countries in the World Economic Forum’s latest Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report rankings demonstrates there is no one-size-fits-all answer to solving the burden of too many visitors. But perhaps in the future we’ll see other destinations taking the Faroe Islands’ lead in asking visitors to help look after the sites they’ve travelled to see.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Industries in DepthGeographies in DepthSocial InnovationNature and Biodiversity
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

The energy transition could shift the global power centre. This expert explains why

Liam Coleman

June 4, 2024


About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum