Vagar Airport Faroe Islands: A Fast-Growing Destination

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On the back of national carrier Atlantic Airways announcing a record number of direct destinations to and from the Faroe Islands, Scandinavian Airlines for the first time initiates flights to and from Vagar Airport — further boosting tourism.

[Bui Tyril & Eir Nolsøe]

It seems like the investments in an extended runway and a new terminal have paid off for Vagar Airport, with recording-breaking numbers of passengers arriving by air in the Faroe Islands last year (2016). At the same time, a new development in the Faroese avation business took place in the spring of 2017 with Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) opening a daily route to Vagar from Copenhagen.

Unsurprisingly, Jákup Sverri Kass, the CEO of the Faroe Islands’ only airport, is optimistic about the future—passenger numbers have increased rapidly in the past years, and as of this spring, customers are able to choose from a greater range of destinations and departures. Since 2011 the number of airborne travelers to the Faroe Islands has increased by 90,000. As many as 292,393 travelers went through Vagar Airport in 2016, a 5.8-percent rise on the previous year. Last year likewise saw the best financial performance to date with the company reporting an operating profit of 7.7 million dkk (1.035M eur). The improved profit and loss account is largely attributed to the successful launch of the new and larger Duty Free shop in the new passenger terminal building, as the company owns a 50-percent share in the store.

“We’re expecting the number of passengers to rise some 8 percent in 2017, perhaps even more,” Mr. Kass said. “Increased competition, a strong domestic economy with low unemployment rates, the steady consolidation of the tourism industry—several factors have influenced our estimate.”

Atlantic Airways will fly directly to and from a record number of destinations this summer, while SAS is flying daily between Copenhagen, Denmark and Vagar since late March 2017.

“Airlines and tourists seem to consider the Faroe Islands an interesting destination,” Mr. Kass said. “What’s in particular pleasing about having new destinations, two scheduled airlines and a record number of ad hoc charters is that it brings new passengers to the islands and increases the number of seats available to and from Vagar. It’s limited how much Faroese people travel; we’re only a country of 50,000 people, therefore for continued growth it’s vital to make the Faroe Islands more accessibility and thereby see more tourists and business travellers.”

He added: “Both Atlantic Airways and SAS have a lot of business travelers, who are now able to fly to the Faroe Islands via Kastrup or other hubs from destinations all over Europe. As a result the Faroe Islands become more open and more visible because we’re now part of a larger global network. This is a good supplement to the destinations and onward possibilities provided by Atlantic Airways today. Still we lack some direct connections from Central and Eastern Europe, so that’s where we focus our efforts at the moment.”

Stirring more interest

The surge in the number of passengers reflects a healthy growth in Faroese tourism in recent years, with the Faroese Government doubling funding for Visit Faroe Islands to 16.7 million dkk in 2013, alongside a major redevelopment project to revamp and modernize Vagar Airport, most of which was completed in 2014.

“The Faroe Islands is an exotic travel destination with all of the necessary facilities,” Mr. Kass said. “Excellent food, nice hotels, amazing nature… We may be a relatively expensive country to travel to but we have something to offer that you can’t get elsewhere in Europe. Faroese salmon production and the fishing industry have been doing very well, which makes us attractive to business travelers, too.”

Meanwhile, a new 800-capacity parking lot is in the works, scheduled to be completed in late 2017. Together with other recent improvements such as new passenger check-in ciosques, and more to come, it will add further to the airport’s capacity.

Earlier, foreign airlines were reluctant to fly to the Faroe Islands due to inadequate airport capacity, with a notoriously short former landing strip, which was extended by 50 percent in 2012.

“Indeed much has changed in the last five years,” Mr. Kass said. “The runway has been extended, our technology has been upgraded and the airport itself has a lot more to offer. Also, restaurants and hotels in the Faroe Islands have improved and so has the general level of service offered to tourists and business travelers.

With two scheduled airlines in place, Mr. Kass predicts that increased competition will stimulate unprecedented growth as it can stir more interest in the Faroe Islands as a travel destination.

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