The Falkland Islands are among the most remote places on earth: an untamed expanse of boundless landscapes and wild ocean, where penguins outnumber people one hundred to one.
But they’re also a place of inspiring and resilient local businesses, run by enterprising locals. And now, the Falkland Islanders are running and growing their businesses with the latest technology from Square and Mastercard.
Building the Network
The Falkland Islands are a distant archipelago located in the freezing waters of the South Atlantic Ocean. The islands are the same size as Connecticut in the United States, or half the size of Wales, both places where around 3 million people live – yet only 3,300 people inhabit the Falklands.
Stanley, the capital of the British Overseas Territory, is one of the most remote capitals on earth. It is where most of the population works and lives, and it’s known to adopt modern technologies later than the rest of the world. Mobile phones were only introduced in 2005, and the first card payment with Square was taken in 2018, a decade after Square was founded.
Remote life has its challenges but also presents opportunities. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, expanding tourism trade meant thousands of tourists would arrive from across the globe each year. The arrival of a cruise ship during the summer months can cause the islands’ population to more than double in a day – all customers for local businesses to serve. While sellers anticipate reduced tourism trade for the 2020 summer season, they are feeling resilient and confident that domestic trade will see them through these unprecedented times.
Much like towns outside large metropolitan areas, many local Falklands businesses have historically been heavily reliant on cash. With only one bank and one cash machine on the island, businesses often went to great lengths to never miss a sale, including accepting nearly any international physical currency. For those accepting cards, the options were limited and the technology fragmented. After recognising the need for businesses to easily and affordably accept card payments from tourists, the Financial Secretary to the Falkland Islands Government (FIG) contacted Mastercard to see if they could help, who in turn partnered with Square to accept the challenge.
In partnership with the FIG, Square and Mastercard began to equip businesses in the Falklands with the ability to take card payments, many for the first time.
The next challenge was to get Square tools into the hands of sellers who needed them yet were 8,000 miles away. Working with the Falkland Islands Chamber of Commerce, a small and nimble team at Square started by setting up sellers remotely, one by one. Square tools are self-serve, requiring no physical installation or maintenance, so sellers can focus on running their business.
Many Falklands businesses are seasonal, so being able to accept all major credit and debit cards with no contracts gives them financial freedom. In addition to Square tools, some businesses now have Mastercard sonic branding which plays when customers make a payment on a Square Terminal. From a sleepy cash-filled town to an early adopter, the Falklands are now leading the way with the latest payment technology.
Why did we do all this? Because no one should be left out of the economy because the cost is too great or the technology too complex. Square and Mastercard have shortened the distance between having an idea and making a living from it.
Connecting the Falklands
The Falkland Islands are far, but today they feel familiar. While rooted in tradition, the community exists because the people dream of going places. The destination changes depending on who you speak to. Here are the stories of some of the small businesses making a mark in the Falklands.
The Challenges of Coronavirus
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought numerous and unprecedented challenges for the Falkland Islands and the rest of the world, including testing times for global tourism. However, the self-sufficient and resilient spirit of the Falklands community is rising to meet these challenges, as local businesses shift their focus to domestic trade, learn new skills and complete the many tasks on their to-do lists, in preparation for the eventual return of tourists. Additionally, all of the sellers featured on this site are pivoting their businesses and operating safely and securely during this time.
The Falkland Islands Government (FIG) has implemented robust measures in order to keep the community safe and well. You can learn more about the latest government information and guidance here.
FIG also continues to work with businesses both locally and internationally, to consider the ongoing implications for the tourism sector, develop mitigations to support those affected throughout the coming season, and better position the sector for the future.
Wherever local businesses are, they can help local communities and economies thrive. That’s why we took on the challenge of bringing the latest payments technology to the Falkland Islands.
Daily life is busier than you might expect. Browse the seller gallery to learn more about how these entrepreneurs have come to live, work and thrive in the Falklands by bringing their visions for their businesses to life.
A wide range of small businesses are now using Square and Mastercard’s technology, and sellers have now accepted cards issued from 89 different countries from around the world. Since first adopting Square, Hattie and Kevin from Bluff Cove now take 80% of their annual revenue through Square and have grown their gift shop offering with the capabilities to track inventory. Julie at Studio 52 now sells online and in-person with Square so she can reach customers everywhere and manage her accounts in one place. Before this project, Sparky from Falklands Helicopter Services was cash-only – a deal-breaker for the bulk of international tourists. Now Sparky and his team take payments online, over the phone and onsite for walk-up bookings, and run their business on the move. For Richard at Falkland Islands Distillers, business admin is no longer a manual process. Finally he has the flexibility to focus on his craft and customers.
The Falklands are open for business.
The islands have always attracted people who see the world a little differently: hardy and enterprising folks with an eccentric streak, drawn to the freedom of building a home and a livelihood from scratch.
Square and Mastercard are helping drive the new economy in one of the world’s most isolated and challenging locations. This project has made fair, affordable and modern payment technology accessible to local sellers for the first time. We hope these tools will help their businesses remain resilient during these uncertain times, and look forward to following their journeys for many years to come.