The North Atlantic Danish territory is taking virtual travel to new heights with the help of remotely controlled real-life tour guides.
With just 52,000 people spread across 18 isles halfway between Iceland and Norway, the Faroe Islands sounds like a fine destination for anyone hankering after wide open spaces once the current pandemic passes. But for now, the tourism board of this self-governing Danish territory is bringing the raw beauty of the Faroes to the attention of the world via a unique new travel tool, Remote Tourism, which offers digital tours that will be conducted once or twice daily for the next 10 days or so.
As tourism board representatives field questions on what to see and do from users on Instagram and Facebook Live, virtual travelers will get an on-the-ground perspective from a remotely controlled tour guide, a local Faroese Islander who will act as the eyes and ears of the audience with the help of a live video camera. From their computer or phone keypad, armchair travelers can direct their Faroese avatar to turn, walk, run, and even jump, controlling where and how the tour guide moves as he or she wanders the wild landscapes or the streets of the territory’s capital, Tórshavn, and stepping inside local landmarks. Each trip will last for at least an hour, and people will be able to take turns assuming the role of controller for one minute at a time.
It’s not the first time the Faroe Islands’ tourism board has taken an out-there approach when it comes to marketing this wild, rugged archipelago. Google Sheep View was a hilarious and successful attempt to use Faroese sheep to map the islands for Google Street View, while Faroe Islands Translate brought in local residents to do real-time translations of phrases sent in from around the world into the Faroese language.
And in the realm of science, the Faroese should be commended for their innovative response to the outbreak of Covid-19 once it reached their shores. A lab typically used to test for diseases in fish (salmon farming is an integral part of the local economy) was quickly repurposed so that it could process 600 Covid-19 tests a day, taking swabs from 10 percent of the islands’ population—the highest testing rate in the world. Those efforts, along with social distancing measures, have paid off: not a single new Covid-19 case was recorded in the past week, and only 18 active cases remain in the Faroes at time of writing. Given its current trajectory, the Faroe Islands are now on track to become the first European territory to be declared free of the virus.