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Palau launches tourism campaign that rewards responsible travel

Palau – The island nation of Palau has launched a new tourism campaign that rewards those who practice responsible travel in their country, aiming to change the way people interact with the country’s pristine environment and local culture. 

Conceptualised alongside creative agency Host/Havas, the ‘Ol’au Palau’ campaign allows visitors to Palau to be able to accumulate points in the Ol’au Palau app by doing things such as offsetting their carbon footprint using Palau’s world-first personal carbon calculator; using reef-safe sunscreen; frequenting businesses that are reducing their impact on the environment and culture; visiting certain culturally significant tourism sites; eating sustainably-sourced local food; participating in community regenerative tourism projects; and avoiding single-use plastics.

The campaign, rooted from the word ‘ol’au’ or meaning a way of calling out to a friend to invite them into your space, creates a different type of tourism value exchange: one where visitors can accumulate points for demonstrating responsible and regenerative behaviour during their stay. In return, visitors can use these points to unlock some of the best and most unique experiences Palau has to offer, which have previously only been accessible to Palauans and close friends.

Alan T. Marbou, board member of the Palau Visitors Authority and former Speaker of the Koror State Government, said, “Palau’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the pandemic with no visitors entering Palau for almost two years. Despite the economic impact, Palau’s tourism sector is determined to stick to its high-value ecotourism strategy and find a way to bounce back sustainably from the pandemic.”

He added, “By launching Ol’au Palau we get to reward our most conscientious guests and protect our most highly-prized tourism asset: our pristine environment and unique culture. The pandemic has provided our planet with a much-needed wakeup call and an opportunity to see what’s possible when nature has a chance to rebalance itself. We hope that Ol’au Palau will make more destinations think about the true cost of tourism and rethink who they reward with their best experiences.”

‘Ol’au Palau’ was launched in Palau to coincide with the global ‘Our Oceans Conference’, and has already garnered worldwide media interest. Palau had previously worked with Host/Havas with the launch of the Palau Pledge in 2017. The pledge is a first immigration law that requires all visitors to sign a mandatory environmental pledge to Palau’s children that’s stamped into a visitor’s passport on arrival which became the most awarded campaign in the world in 2018.

Jon Austin, executive creative director at Host/Havas, commented, “The ‘Pledge’ did an incredible job of setting the right intent amongst visitors arriving in Palau. Now, Ol’au Palau takes an important step forward in turning that intent into tangible, positive action. The notion of applying gamification principles to ecotourism has been incredibly exciting, and it’s been a privilege to work not just with the amazing Palau Legacy Project team, but also with the private sector and Palauan elders to bring this important initiative to life.”