The Pacific Island nation of Palau now asks every tourist entering the island to sign a promise to protect its fragile environment. The ‘Palau Pledge’ was written with the help of Palauan children and the Island's government, and encourages visitors to be more considerate and aware while travelling through the island.
The Palau Pledge
The pledge is a stamp which is put on everyone’s passports which states:
I take this pledge, as your guest to preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home.
I vow to tread lightly, act kindly and explore mindfully.
I shall not take what is not given, I shall not harm what does not harm me. The only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away.
The Palau Pledge aims to reduce the negative impacts on the environment that mass tourism can have, and is timely given that this year has been declared by the United Nations Global Compact as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
The Palau Pledge has also helped to shed light on the environmental impacts that tourism has on island destinations, issues like the water crisis in Bali. There is very little awareness of the severity or urgency of the situation, where tourists account for 80% of water consumption on this island nation – a nation in the grip of a serious drought.
Surrounded by water, with vast stretches of idyllic resort swimming pools all over Bali, visitors do not appreciate that the island is desperately low in water; this is then exacerbated by tourists who unaware of this important fact and in holiday mode, avail themselves of long, long showers and lots of fresh towels and linen – sometimes to the incredible amount of 1500 litres per person, per night!
Responsible Travel is All About Awareness
The Flight Centre Travel Group places paramount importance on the protection of the environment as it recognises that tourism is totally reliant on the welfare of the Earth's fragile resources. What we have found is that travellers simply are unaware of many of the negative impacts of tourism on destinations.
The good news is that awareness is key and once travellers are made aware of the need of changes in behaviour, and advised to take heed of the responsible travel principles, like those espoused by the Palau children - informed responsible choices are automatic.
Like the Palau community, at Flight Centre we encourage responsible travel and remind our customers when they book, to tread lightly on their journeys, and we do it in a number of ways that include providing five easy tips. The tips are: conserve water, limit waste, go local where you spend your tourist dollar, care for wildlife with an observe but do not touch approach, and respect local people’s culture while visiting in their country.
Our commitment to responsible travel is embodied in how we operate as we appreciate that being such a big player in the travel sector, we have a responsibility to lead by example. And so we have established a Responsible Travel Committee to drive major initiatives in this space, like the animal welfare audit of approximately 15,000 of our travel product suppliers. The audit is to assess our travel products against the rigorous guidelines set out by ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents). We have completed the audit and are in the process of implementing its findings. We know that we are on a much longer journey but we recognise the need for us to continue to drive sustainable travel activities that promote environmental awareness, conserve and protect the environment.
Animal Welfare is a Big Issue in Tourism
Elephant welfare is a big issue especially across Asia where it plays a major part in tourism. For many, riding an elephant is an integral part of the experience, and there is a common belief that training an elephant is like training a horse. Nothing could be further from the truth. The breaking in of an elephant is exactly that – the outcome is to “break” the elephant’s spirit through physical and mental abuse an extended period in order for this magnificent wild animal to allow humans onto its back. Once travellers are made aware of this and the positive alternatives by way of elephant sanctuaries and parks to experience instead – the decision becomes easy.
We are also tackling the issue of orphanage tourism. Once again awareness is key where well-meaning tourists in an effort to do good visit orphanages bringing cash and goods in the belief that they are making a positive impact. The reality unfortunately is much grimmer – more than 8 million children live in institutions globally, despite the fact that over 80% of these children have parents or family. The effects of institutionalisation can last a lifetime and even impact upon following generations.
Unfortunately, the institutionalisation of children is, in many cases driven by the well-meaning but uninformed support of foreign donors, orphanage tourism, and the supply chain of people, money and resources that drive the orphanage industry. Flight Centre has partnered with ReThink Orphanages as part of its responsible travel commitment and has removed all orphanage tourism products from its operations.
So Flight Centre Travel Group applauds the wonderful initiative of the Palau people as a great example of responsible travel in action. The beautiful film narrated by local children will be played on every flight into Palau and information packs will also be distributed throughout the airports.
For more information on Flight Centre Travel Group’s responsible travel commitment and our corporate social responsibility program go to fctgl.com or pick up a copy of the Wow List for 2018 at your local Flight Centre store.