Connecting the Falklands

The Falkland Islands are a remote, weather-beaten archipelago where the penguins outnumber the people 100:1. A British overseas territory, the Islands are located about 8000 miles from the UK but less than 800 miles from the northern tip of Antarctica.

Falklanders are enterprising, inspired and above all resilient; many have grown their own small businesses from the ground up — but they faced a challenge when it came to accepting card and digital payments. 

Last year, Mastercard connected the Falkland Islands Government to Square, and the three organisations formed a partnership to bring card and digital payments to the Falklands’ small businesses

We visited four small businesses in February 2020, following what had been the Falklands’ most successful tourist season yet, to learn how they'd been transformed – a transformation that will only grow more vital as the digital economy continues to accelerate around the world.  

Watch the film and discover their stories below.

Stories of the Falklands

Falklands Helicopter Services

Sparky Ewen is the managing director of Falklands Helicopter Services. “This year, probably 60,000 to 70,000 tourists visited the Islands,” he says. Before taking payments with Square, Sparky ran a cash-only business, which wasn't practical for the international tourists who would arrive by cruise liner assuming they could pay by card.

“We’re the only aviation company in the world I'm aware of that combines helicoptering and penguins.”

This season, Falklands Helicopter Services has been using Square to take payments online, over the phone and on site for walk-up bookings. “It’s been a game changer," says Sparky. "We can run the business on the move and spend less time worrying about cash and more time doing what we love: giving our visitors a bird's-eye view of one of the most beautiful places on earth.”

"We love giving our visitors a bird's eye view of one of the most beautiful places on earth."

Studio 52

Julie Halliday came to the Falklands in 2001. She was only planning to stay for a couple of years, she says. Nineteen years later, she’s proud to call herself a Falkland Islander.

Now, Julie is the owner and artist at Studio 52, a gift shop and gallery in Port Stanley. “What’s not to love about running your own business?” she asks. “If I’m half an hour late, I have to tell myself off.”

"I just love making and creating things."

“I think customers are surprised sometimes when they come in and see that I work behind the counter as well," says Julie. "But I enjoy connecting and meeting people and talking to them about what I do.” 

"I enjoy connecting and meeting people and talking to them about what I do.”

Falkland Island Distillers

Richard McKee runs Falkland Islands Distillers, a local gin distillery. “Setting up a business in a remote location takes lots of leaps of faith,” he says. 

"It's all about planning here. You've got to think for five, six months ahead."

Richard is still growing his business, and technology is enabling him to do so. It’s a balance, he says: “You have to have one foot in the past to keep the traditions and things, but you can't lose sight of the future as well.”

"You have to have one foot in the past... but you can't lose sight of the future as well."

Bluff Cove

Kevin Kilmartin has been living in the Falkland Islands for 40 years. “On my passport, I say I'm a farmer,” says Kevin. “We farm what you can see all around you, from the mountains to the sea.”

Hattie, his wife, settled on the Islands 24 years ago. “There's something very unique and beautiful about the Falklands,” she says. “But you have to be quite a pioneering spirit because you have to do basically everything for yourself."

“We farm what you can see all around you, from the mountains to the sea.”

The Kilmartins also run Bluff Cove, a lagoon tour and penguin sightseeing company with a gift shop, café and museum. They welcome thousands of visitors from the cruise ships that dock in Stanley three or four times a week.

Bluff Cove was the first business on the Islands to trial the Square and Mastercard acceptance technology. “The impact has been significant,” explains Kevin. Their previously cash-only business now takes 80 percent of its annual revenue through Square.

“It's a funny, magical place that carries on. The fundamental Falkland spirit hasn’t changed at all.”

“Running a business is always hard, and these business owners have the added challenge of being in one of the most remote places on earth,” says Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Square. “ Connecting the Falklands is a big step in creating a more inclusive global economy.”

Mastercard's sonic acceptance mark has been integrated into the payment terminals, providing customers with audio reassurance that their payments have been made successfully. 

When the tourist trade returns, this transformational partnership between Mastercard and Square will ensure everyone — locals and tourists alike — continues to benefit from safe and convenient ways to pay.