The recent merger of the Trade Council and the Tourist Board into one Trade & Tourism Council is likely to remain high on the new managing director’s agenda for a while—but it doesn’t stop her from bringing scores of innovative ideas to the table.
By Búi Tyril, Faroe Business Report 2007
It was widely seen as signifying at least a generational change, if not ushering in something profoundly new, when Elin Heinesen in early 2007 was appointed managing director of the recently formed Faroe Islands Trade & Tourism Council—the merged Faroe Islands Trade Council and Faroe Islands Tourist Board.
Not that selecting a female as head of a government agency will necessarily lift eyebrows in a modern society; it’s rather the person, seen in her potential as an inspirational leader and charged with combining the two separate bodies into one unified organization.
Known as a business entrepreneur and something of an artist as well, with a firm footing in media and corporate communications, Ms Heinesen will doubtlessly encourage fledgling creatives to realize their international ambitions. Beyond that, she will be likely to motivate those whose new ideas may offer anything from incremental process improvements to breakthrough business models. Her job will probably consist in facilitating international business contacts to help Faroese companies build their exports, and last but not least, assisting the Faroese develop their incoming travel business.
Speaking of promotion and tourism, before her first day on the new job—which entailed leaving her position as editor of a major Danish in-store magazine and moving back to her native islands in the North after more than twenty years of expatriate life—Ms Heinesen aired an idea that immediately caught the attention of many: Why not make some spectacular tourist attraction out of the soon-abandoned military radar installation on the summit of the Sornfelli mountain. Hey! did you get that one? (See separate article.)
With good management experience—originally trained as a screenwriter, by the way—Ms Heinesen will no doubt use her new position to influence the development of the Faroese business scene. To this end she’ll be backed by the fact that the former Trade Council offered business development advice and vital export promotion services for Faroese companies in the last twenty-five years, while the former Tourist Board invested decades of work and financial resources in market and product development to help build what now is an up and coming tourism sector in the Faroes.
Progressive thinking has ever been at the heart of Ms Heinesen’s personal values. “Nobody can be an expert in every subject,” she says, “but the ability to take a bird’s eye view is often very valuable. I believe in the idea of looking toward the future with confidence yet with realism. In today’s extremely fast-changing world, it’s essential to develop and apply strategies for staying on top of things. Using information and communication technology effectively can make virtually any project so much smoother, quicker and less expensive and what’s more, it will define the very nature of projects—you can’t afford to miss out on it.”
But technology alone won’t do the job; it’s people that shape technology and business processes and, according to Ms Heinesen, the human element remains the most important element in any organization.
“This is interesting because everything is about people and how we interact… But information, communication and technology is forging a new reality; it’s the ‘leveled playing field’ where small companies and nations can be the winners in a myriad markets. Things like innovation and creativity are becoming pivotal in every area of business, and a country like the Faroes has a distinct strength in this context. But I think it’s crucial that we use this as an opportunity.”
As people living in an increasingly globalized environment the Faroese, much like the rest of the world, need to embrace change to whatever extent necessary, and the ability to cooperate effectively and develop strong networks is becoming more important.
“To stay competitive, we have to be inventive and learn how to develop new concepts and think in new terms, to do things in a different way. And when setting our goals and objectives, we have to be strategic and think ahead yet in following through on plans we have to be steady. But nobody can be an expert in every field and that’s why networking is so important… knowing whom to turn to in which situation. With all the new technology—and the Faroes is incredibly well connected—we’re looking at something very interesting.”