The Pacific Island of Palau is often thought of as a serene, isolated paradise, but recent stats on tourism indicate that it is far from isolated. Can Palau grow its economy in sync with sustainable conservation? Palau’s president and leading citizens think it must!
2016, saw tourism to Palau grow by over 10% bringing nearly 140,000 visitors to the island nation and becoming its leading economic driver. But can this growth be sustained without stressing the islands’ pristine environment, the very assets that draw tourists to its marine attractions?
Decreasing Tourist Numbers while Increasing Tourist Dollars
Over the last several years the island has learned that simply increasing the number of visitors is not the way forward. More important is shifting focus to high-value visitors. Consequently, although the numbers of tourists dropped by 22,000 between 2015 to 2016 the revenue per tourist rose. Diving is Palau’s main attraction and capping the number of divers, while focusing on more experienced divers can help to lessen the stress on these marine areas.
Palau is respected internationally for its Marine Conservation
In 2015, Palau created a marine sanctuary that encompasses nearly 193,000 square miles or 80% of the nation’s territorial waters and offers protection from commercial fishing and mining. The remaining 20% remains open to fishing by local communities and smaller commercial operators. See our blue Ocean post: Palau approves marine sanctuary to protect dive tourism economy and fish.
Another way to lessen the stress on Palau’s marine attractions and open new economic opportunities, is to diversify its tourism offerings. Ngirai Tmetuchi, chairman of the Palau Visitors Authority says: “There’s a lot to see in Palau other than diving,” this includes bird watching, sport fishing and local cultural activities.
Tmetuchl also adds that “Palau should find ways to use the environment policies for economic benefits.” In other ways to market its reputation for sustainability.
“Our environment is our economy; economy is our environment,”
These are the words of F. Umiich Senegbau the Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism. “Palau’s policy is geared toward sustainable tourism and encourages the same for tourists coming to the island nation to share the same values.”
There is much more to hear from Palau’s leading citizens regarding protecting the environment, growing the travel industry and marketing sustainable tourism in Palau here.
By Bob Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
See These Related Blue Ocean Posts:
How To Get More Ocean-Hearted Intel Delivered To Your Inbox!
We believe ocean lovers can change the world. If you care about the health of the ocean and want to do something about it, then connect with the Blue Ocean tribe: Our growing community of ocean change-makers is turning ocean lovers into ocean leaders. It starts with you. Join us!