When visitors stroll up to passport control in Palau, they aren’t just issued an entry visa and waved through. Instead, they are asked to sign a pledge, stamped directly into their passport, promising to preserve and protect the island for the sake of the children of Palau. The first-of-its-kind eco-pledge is the brainchild of the Palau Legacy Project, a group of four female with business and marketing backgrounds. Helped by both Palau’s first lady, who chairs the board, and the Havas advertising agency, the Palau Legacy Project works alongside the government to help communicate Palau’s conservation message.
It’s a bold move for Palau, which relies on tourism to drive the economy in the world's 13th smallest nation. The effort aims to preserve the natural beauty that inspires visitors to travel to the island in the first place. The compulsory pledge isn’t just a gesture, either. Tourists risk fines for failing to follow the rules laid out in an in-flight video and checklist of dos and don’ts (for example, don't touch the coral). In addition to the pledge, every international plane ticket to Palau now includes a $100 environmental fee earmarked for protecting the country's natural environment. To give more teeth to the eco-push, the country has also banned coral-harming sunscreen ingredients, increased policing and reporting efforts, and strengthened its environmental protection laws.
Palau has a long history of environmental trailblazing—it was the first country to create a national shark sanctuary, the first to ban bottom trawling, and in 2015, it created the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, the largest fully-protected, no-take zone in the world.