A row of colorful houses in Tórshavn, next to the Prime Minister’s office on Tinganes and the scenic harbor. One house: White front, blue logo, lettering. Boats bobbing on the water while I get closer. Inside: Climbing narrow stairs up to the office of Guðrið Højgaard, director of Visit Faroe Islands.
Vision: Make tourism a new core industry to the Faroese economy, sustainable and compliant with the needs of the Faroese people and the environment. Goal: Double the value of tourism in the Faroe Islands and increase the revenue to no less than DKK 1 billion by 2020.
Guðrið Højgaard, married to Bjørn Floodh (her Swedish husband is in the IT business), two kids, Linn (8) and William (6), Tórshavn-based. Guðrið’s life motto: The world is a book, and those who do not travel unfortunately won't be able to read all pages. Favorite destinations: „Sweden and Spain, to visit friends and family. Also big cities, New York and Tokyo. And I like sunbathing in Thailand and Italy.“
Her career, using the fast forward button: Guðrið grew up in Rituvík, a village in the south of Eysturoy. Pocket money job: packing and cutting fish filets. At sixteen: Exchange student. One fantastic year in Spain. Guðrið is still close to her guest family. Later: Au pair in London, Copenhagen Business School and Stockholm University. MBA’s: Marketing, communication and design.
After having worked as Marketing Manager for VisitDenmark in Stockholm (5 years) and being the Marketing Director of the Stockholm Visitors Board for 7 years, Guðrið returns to the Faroe Islands in 2012, in order to rebuild the Faroese tourism industry as Director of Visit Faroe Islands.
From now on, all strategies of Visit Faroe Islands are tied to a new brand („Unspoiled, Unexplored, Unbelievable“). Prioritized markets: The Nordic countries, Germany, Great Britain, Benelux, Italy, Spain, France and the United States.
Sheep View, the clever PR flirt from Visit Faroe Islands and Atlantic Airways with giant Google, is among the 2017 finalists of the World Media Awards at present. Also nominated in the category „Travel & Tourism“: Airbnb, Destination Canada, London & Partners and Marriott International.
Ever since Guðrið Højgaard and her team have taken over Visit Faroe Islands, tourism numbers have taken a sharp turn upwards. „The bed nights are up to almost 160.000 now, compared to 100.000 in 2012“, Guðrið tells me regarding 2016. „And the turnover is up to DKK 665 millions, compared to DKK 416 millions in 2011.“
Noticeable growth that has led to political considerations and discussions around the Faroe Islands lately. Infrastructure, interests, rural areas and the impact of tourism on people’s lives and the environment – that’s what the debate is about. Steps will be taken in the near future.
The challenging overall assignment: To put the Faroe Islands on the map, as a small, unique destination for the particular, well-off, green-minded traveler, and, at the same time, to leave space for the „Unspoiled, Unexplored, Unbelievable“.
Not all Faroese roads that have been mapped by Google will be visible on Google Street View, Guðrið tells me before we say goodbye. „We decided to keep a part of the area unknown, like a bit mystical.“
As I climb down the narrow stairs, I have Faroese sheep on my mind. Witty walking balls of wool, fitted with 360° cameras. The Sheep View-sheep. The winners of the World Media Awards 2017 will be announced at an Award Reception in London on 6 April.