3 Countries to Visit if You’re Serious About Protecting the Planet

Milky Way, Republic of Palau

What if your holiday could make a positive impact on the future of that destination? It’s known as regenerative tourism, the next step on from responsible and sustainable tourism. 

“The main idea behind regenerative tourism is not only to help conserve and protect the natural resources on which the tourism industry depends, but to ensure that places are left better off,”  says Professor Martina Linnenluecke, who leads the Centre for Corporate Sustainability and Environmental Finance at Macquarie Business School.

“Regenerative tourism goes further than not damaging the local environment – tourists actively contribute as part of their travel experience, perhaps getting involved in coral-reef restoration projects, helping communities in reforestation efforts or supporting other local initiatives.”

Macquarie University’s Centre for Corporate Sustainability brings together sustainability and environmental finance experts and its research has demonstrated a clear financial case for action on environmental and social change. “We introduce our students to the idea that radically new business models are required to address the fundamental challenges that we are facing globally,” says Linnenluecke. “This new way of thinking can help our students to explore new and innovative ways to solve sustainability challenges.”

Here are three countries leading the regenerative tourism charge... 

Pledge your support for the planet

Republic of Palau

​​The tiny Western Pacific independent republic of Palau is a paradise for divers and nature lovers. In 2017, the island archipelago introduced unique paperwork for visitors, who must sign the Palau Pledge in their passports when they arrive at immigration. 

“It was a world first,” says Australian-based marketing expert Laura Clarke, co-founder of the project. “We worked with the Palau government to change Palau’s immigration policy and landing procedure to make the Palau Pledge the country’s official passport stamp.” 

In light blue ink, the colour of Palau’s waters and its flag, the stamp in part reads: “I take this pledge as your guest to preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home.” Your signature of attestation is part of your visa, so take it seriously. 

Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio and renowned American oceanographer Dr Sylvia Earle were among the high-profile names who helped promote the eco-pledge campaign, which attracted massive global media attention. 

Palau capitalised on that by creating a digital pledge, letting people from around the world sign up to protect Palau’s pristine environment – and by extension be more mindful about their own neck of the woods… or ocean. 

To date, almost 705,000 pledges have been taken. Coming next is phase two: Ol’au Palau, where tourists can earn points for simple but meaningful actions such as using reef-safe sunscreen, participating in regenerative projects, avoiding single-use plastics and learning about the country’s culture and biodiversity. This behaviour will be rewarded with access to unique experiences with the community that would normally not be available to tourists. The full program will be live in early 2023.

Make a promise to tread lightly 

Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

In 2018, New Zealand launched the Tiaki Promise to encourage travellers – both locals and international tourists – to commit to being more environmentally conscious. New Zealand, or Aotearoa – Land of the Long White Cloud in Māori – presents the promise as a “wero”, a challenge.

“It takes a Māori approach to inspire travel behaviours – Tiaki means ‘to care and protect’ in Te Reo Māori, the Māori language,” says Cameron Hayes, Tiaki brand and partnerships manager with Tourism New Zealand. 

The promise is simple: “While travelling in New Zealand I will care for land, sea and nature, treading lightly and leaving no trace; travel safely, showing care and consideration for all; respect culture, travelling with an open heart and mind.”

The latest Tourism New Zealand Domestic Travel View Report from June 2022 found awareness of the Tiaki Promise in New Zealand is around 22 per cent, an all-time high. It’s resonating with international visitors, too. “Visitors are also able to share their Tiaki Promise via a tool on the Tiaki website, uploading their own images and adding their story. They’re encouraged to join the conversation on social media with #TiakiPromise – it is something to be lived and acted on through people’s time in Aotearoa.”

Sustainable travel to make you smile

Pulkkilanharju Ridge Road, Norway

Pre-pandemic, Finland had a tourism campaign where visitors were asked to: “pledge to be like a Finn … slowing down from within”. Now they have more detailed signposting to support regenerative travel in the country, which has been voted the happiest on the planet for five years running by the World Happiness Report

Sustainable Travel Finland is protecting and preserving Finland’s natural beauty, as well as Finnish culture. Certification of businesses is helping educate locals and visitors alike, and all destinations must have at least 51 per cent of tourism operators certified by Sustainable Travel Finland.

Tourists are asked to look for certification as they plan their trip and if there are two similar operators to choose from, to go for the one with Sustainable Travel Finland accreditation. 

SEE ALSO: The Future of Ecotourism: How Green Travel Is Taking off

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