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Tourism in the age of COVID-19: You can now remote control a human tour guide in the Faroe Islands

It’s a heartwarming example of how social distancing can bring people closer together and far-off places nearer.

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As tourism around the globe grinds to a halt, the Faroe Islands have come up with a creative way to keep visitors coming: by letting them remote control a human tour guide.

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[Image: Visit Faroe Islands]

Members of the Visit Faroe Islands team—Faroese locals—are walking through the landscape with a live video camera strapped to their bodies to show off the islands’ unique cottage-core architecture, waterfalls, and rocky cliff sides. Each tour can be led by different “main players,” who control the movements of the guide from their living room for two minutes; an online joypad determines whether the guide runs, jumps, or changes direction. Much like a live chat room or multiplayer video game, this remote tourism experience happens entirely in real time; tourists can ask questions about what they’re seeing as they go. Tours are happening once or twice daily through the month of April.

The Faroe Islands—a lush, remote group of 18 islands between Iceland and Scotland—typically lures 100,000 visitors and rakes in about $75 million a year in tourism revenue a year, but COVID-19 has stalled all in-person tours for the time being. The remote-control tour isn’t offsetting any of those losses—it’s free for anyone to use—but it’s a clever way to get people interested in future visits. The Faroe Islands have had luck with such gimmicks before. In 2017, the Faroe Islands launched “Sheep View,” which gave people a tour of the region through cameras placed on the islands’ 80,000 sheep.