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The country Palau has announced that they will be offering exclusive deals to visitors who treat their environment and culture with respect. The program is considered the world’s first.
In a move to emphasize the importance of kindness and hospitality, authorities in Hawaii have launched the initiative, which they called O’lau Palau. The goal is for tourists to treat the country and its culture accordingly.
The Republic of Palau is a pristine destination with over 300 islands that sport white sand beaches. The country’s rich culture has made it first in many things, including adopting an anti-nuclear constitution in 1979, which they still maintain today, as well as launching the new tourism program – another world’s first.
When entering the country, travelers sign a pledge stamp where they promise to both Palau and its children that they will take care of the country’s environment and culture.
O’lau Palau is managed via an application. The program offers a reward system for good deeds like using sustainable products and showing respect towards heritage sites. Good deeds are rewarded with points, and it will be reflected in the application.
The points earned by tourists can be used to grant access to exclusive offers by the locals, including hikes, trips into secret caves and fishing at spots that were off-limits for tourists in the past. Exclusive cultural activities are also open for ‘good tourists.’
Before the pandemic, more than 150,000 tourists visited Palau every year. The number dwindled after the pandemic hit the world. As a country dependent on tourism, Palau’s government ramped up efforts to counter COVID; and, in April 2022, opened their borders to tourists.
Laura Clarke of the Palau Legacy Project said that the current problem of the tourism sector, apart from restrictions relating to health, is to counter under-educated tourists visiting the country. As per reports by locals, several tourists do not treat sites and other people accordingly. Hence, they created O’lau Palau.
O’lau in Palau means to welcome someone, to invite someone. When someone gets called “O’lau,” it means someone is inviting you over. The authorities are hopeful that with this new project in effect, tourists in the future will be more aware and attentive to their treatment of the environment and the culture.
Authorities have also echoed calls to “travel with no trace.” Tourists have to be responsible for their actions, including cleanliness. Palau desires a clean and green ecology to preserve resources, especially amid the climate crisis.
Before going to Palau, tourists are reminded to submit a negative PCR. Once in the country, travelers are tested again for COVID to assure maximum safety of the country from the pandemic.
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