Palau launches world-first program that rewards ‘good tourists’

Palau has a new incentive for visitors when they show respect and care for its environment and culture. The initiative taken by authorities is the first-of-a-kind tourism program in the world.

In an effort to encourage good tourist behavior, authorities in the country are implementing its new tourism program, which they called O’lau Palau. The initiative stresses that kindness will be rewarded and what it means for people in the country.

Palau is a country of firsts. It’s the world’s first to adopt an anti-nuclear constitution and now offers another program considered to be a world first. The country comprises 300 plus islands and is home to over 20,000 people.

When visitors enter the country, they sign a pledge stamp that promises to both Palau and its children that the undersigned will be careful with the environment and the culture.

The good deeds that a tourist will do in Palau will earn them points. The points are reflected and counted through an application. For example, points can be gained if a tourist engages in bio-friendly practices like using environment-friendly cosmetics, visiting heritage sites, and eating sustainable local food.

Earned points can be converted to exclusive offers by the locals, including hikes, trips to secret spots or caves, and the likes. ‘Good visitors’ might also enjoy cultural activities unique to Palauan culture.

Before the pandemic struck the world, Palau was a thriving tourist destination. Every year, the country rakes in 150,000 tourists. However, the numbers went down in 2020 when the pandemic hit hundreds of countries, closing down businesses and affecting lives.

In April 2022, Palau opened its doors once again. The challenge to the tourism sector of Palau, according to Laura Clarke, co-founder of the Palau Legacy Project, is how to educate tourists properly conduct when in the country. The solution was the O’lau Palau program.

O’lau, in Palao, means inviting someone to your space. Clarke said, “So if you’re on a beach, for example, and someone calls out O’lau, it means, ‘Hey, over here, come be with us.”

Now that the borders are open, the government is doing its best to initiate programs that revitalize the tourism sector while preserving the country’s environment. Clarke said that there had been problems before regarding under-educated tourists who disregard proper behavior when they visit the country. O’lau Palau is one step forward.

According to Scott Arni, a captain who has led many dive expeditions in Palau for ten years, Palau’s pristine corals are flourishing, and the reefs are a sight to behold. Authorities also asked tourists to travel with no trace. Environmental preservation is encouraged in Palau as the country commits to its goal of a steady and green ecology.

When going to Palau, tourists have to be vaccinated. A negative PCR is also needed; it has to be presented days before departure – upon arrival, tourists need to be tested again.