Visitors to this Pacific Island now asked to sign a passport-stamped, personal promise
Host/Havas Australia has unveiled a landmark initiative to help the fragile Pacific Island nation of Palau tackle the negative impacts on the environment of mass tourism.
The Palau Pledge is a simple, pioneering solution: all visitors to Palau will now be asked to sign a personal promise, stamped in their passports, to protect and preserve Palau for future generations. This commitment is a first of its kind.
Written with the help of Palauan children, and developed in collaboration with its Government, the country has redesigned its immigration policy and landing procedures. By encouraging visitors to be more conscious about their behaviour while they travel, the Palau Pledge aims to foster a more sustainable form of tourism.
Tourism is Palau's biggest form of income, but as the thirteenth smallest nation in the world, its annual visitor numbers are almost eight times the size of its population. The Palau Pledge is a solution that helps Palau preserve its sensitive environment, while also preserving its biggest economic driver.
Host/Havas led the development of the concept, drawing on its breadth of creative, digital, social and production capabilities and expertise to bring the Palau Pledge to life, alongside its sister PR and social agency, Red Agency and members of the Havas global network. They worked in partnership with the Palau Legacy Project team, a local group of voluntary business and marketing professionals that work alongside the Palauan Government to help communicate Palau's conservation message.
A dedicated website has been set up to provide information for visitors and the tourism industry. The Pledge has also been backed by a number of global figures including Leonardo DiCaprio, HRH Queen Noor of Jordan, political influencers such as Secretary John Kerry and conservation luminary Dr Sylvia Earle. Through their own social channels, they will be asking people around the world to join them in support of Palau and a more conscious, sustainable form of tourism.
A film, shot on location and featuring Palauan children, will be played on every inbound flight to Palau. Inspired by an ancient Palauan legend, it tells the story of a giant who came to visit their islands and who acts as a visual metaphor for the cumulative impact that visitors can have on their home. Signage and information packs have also been developed, which will be placed around Palau's airport and throughout the country to educate and remind visitors and locals alike, about the conditions of the Palau Pledge.
Seamus Higgins, Executive Creative Director at Host/Havas, said: "Palau is a true paradise, with a legacy of taking bold, pioneering steps to preserve it. They know that to solve something no one else has been able to, you can't do what everyone else has been doing. Just what can be achieved with such a truly innovative client is incredible and we are honoured to play a meaningful role in helping to protect their country for future generations to enjoy.
"We knew that to inspire a true and lasting change in behaviour, we had to find a way to make every visitor stop and think, that would transcend culture and nationality. This is behavioural psychology, innovative legislation and creativity coming together to do something that's never been done before."
The philosophy around the Palau Pledge is also being integrated into the children's education by the Ministry of Education, to help them understand the essential role they play in protecting their country's future.
Laura Clarke, one of the four co-founders of the Palau Legacy Project said: "The Palau Pledge is a genuinely innovative solution which provides a significant first step to increasing awareness around eco-tourism practices and what the global community can do to collectively take greater responsibility and make a difference.
"Most visitors are unaware of the serious impact their individual actions have or even what they can do to help. The Host/Havas team has provided invaluable support in helping us to develop this initiative and realise our mission to communicate these important messages in a way that all guests will understand, and that will compel them to protect Palau as a result. We are hopeful that this will help create a long-lasting legacy for generations to come."
The Palau Pledge becomes the latest in Palau's long history of creating world-firsts in conservation. It was the first country to create a shark sanctuary in its national waters; it was the first to ban the destructive practice of bottom trawling; and in 2015, its leadership created the Palau National Marine Sanctuary: the largest fully-protected, no-take zone in the world.