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‘Good tourists’ are rewarded in Palau with exclusive offers

Photo: Wendy A Capili/Getty Images

The people of Palau are now offering exclusive deals to visitors who treat their environment and culture with care which is considered the world’s first.

The initiative, called O’lau Palau by the authorities, emphasizes that kindness and hospitality are valued above all. Palauans are hopeful that the message will be received positively by tourists who will be visiting the country.

The Republic of Palau, with a population of 20,000 people and an area size fitting more than 300 islands, has been home to many firsts. It was the world’s first country to adopt an anti-nuclear constitution in 1979; now, they’re launching yet another world-first program that will make tourists more engaged with the rich culture and sceneries of the country.

When you enter the country, signing a pledge stamp reminds travelers that they have taken on an important responsibility – to care for and protect Palau’s islands.

The goal of O’lau Palau is to engage visitors with the local culture through a points system. If a traveler shows support for sustainable practices, like using bio-friendly sunscreen and visiting heritage sites while in the country, the application used for the program converts it to points.

Earned points can be converted to exclusive offers by the locals, including hikes, a trip to secret caves, fishing at exclusive spots, and more. ‘Good visitors’ can also enjoy cultural activities that are exclusive to Palauans as well.

O’lau Palau was started to call out tourists who paid little to no attention to protecting Palau’s environment when they visited. However, according to authorities, now that the country is opening its borders, it is making the initiative to impress upon visitors its importance.

Laura Clarke of the Palau Legacy Project said that they are creating these steps to educate people and to notify them that they need to be responsible for their actions.

O’lau Palau means to invite a person to your space. Clarke said that when a local greets you ‘O’lau,’ it symbolizes welcome and connection. “Be with us,” Clarke explains.

Palau is a country dependent on the tourism sector. Before the pandemic, Palau is visited by over 150,000 tourists every year. During the pandemic, many were adversely affected. In April 2022, the country decided to open its borders, and with it, a new gimmick that engages tourists to participate in environmental preservation and cultural respect.

According to Scott Arni, a captain leading many dive expeditions in Palau for ten years, the corals in the country are becoming more beautiful and are flourishing amid the climate crisis.

The Palau Legacy Project also calls out tourists to ‘leave with no trace.’ The government is positive that with the new program in place, travelers will be motivated to take responsibility.

Authorities have announced that tourists need to be vaccinated before entering the country. A few days before departure, travelers need to show a negative PCR. Then, upon entry, they are tested again. The government said that the protocols are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

Opinions expressed by US Reporter contributors are their own.