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Project to Make Palau a Carbon Neutral Destination Launched by Palau Bureau of Tourism, Sustainable Travel International, and Slow Food

The project will combat tourism’s carbon footprint by working with local food producers and launching a carbon platform for tourists

PALAU (August 11, 2020) The Palau Bureau of Tourism, Sustainable Travel International, and Slow Food have launched a new project in Palau that aims to mitigate the tourism sector’s carbon footprint and establish Palau as the world’s first “Carbon Neutral Tourism Destination.” The project is taking an innovative destination-level approach that includes promoting local food production within tourism and developing a carbon management program for tourists. This project supports the objectives of the Coalition of Fragile Ecosystems (COFE) and has been endorsed by various government agencies, including Palau’s Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism; Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs; Ministry of Education; the Our Oceans 2020 Organizing Committee; and the Office of the President.

Known for its unspoiled natural beauty and pristine seas, the Pacific Island nation of Palau is regarded as one of the top marine tourism destinations in the world. Last year, more than 89,000 international tourists visited the country, which has a population of just under 22,000. As such, tourism represents the islands’ main source of economic income and employment. 

As a small island destination, Palau is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which threaten the islands’ marine ecosystems, coastal communities, and tourism industry. While tourism is the economic lifeblood of the island, it also contributes to the climate crisis. Tourists are responsible for a significant portion of Palau’s carbon footprint as they travel to the remote island by plane and consume food imported from overseas. 

In recent years, Palau has taken extensive measures to further environmental protection and responsible tourism. This includes establishing one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries; creating the world’s first mandatory eco-pledge (Palau Pledge) that all visitors are required to sign upon entry; banning tour operators from utilizing single-use plastics and styrofoam; and protecting its marine environment through the adoption of the world’s strictest national sunscreen standard. This bold new initiative, which is being led by Sustainable Travel International, builds upon the country’s past efforts to specifically address the tourism sector’s climate impact. 

This project will reduce the carbon footprint of tourism in Palau by increasing the proportion of food that is sourced from local producers and reducing the industry’s dependence on imports. Among other activities, the project will accomplish this by celebrating the islands’ gastronomic heritage and building the capacity of farmers and fishers to market their products to tourists. Along with combating climate change, this will create income-generating opportunities for local communities and improve food security on the islands. A specific emphasis will be placed on sustainable production and empowering women producers to participate in the tourism value chain.  

To compensate for tourism’s unavoidable emissions, the project will develop a first-of-its-kind carbon management program for tourists to Palau. The new online platform will allow visitors to calculate and offset the carbon footprint associated with their trip, including both their travel to and activities in Palau. In line with Palau’s leadership in marine conservation, the offset contributions will be invested in blue carbon initiatives, such as mangrove restoration, or sustainable production activities in the region that reduce CO2 emissions. It is estimated that this program has the potential to raise over USD $1 million a year for these carbon reduction initiatives. 

“If the current COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it’s that we must strengthen our nation’s resilience to external threats – the greatest of which is climate change,” said Kevin Mesebeluu, Director of the Palau Bureau of Tourism. “Palau is blessed with some of the world’s most pristine natural resources, inherited through culture and tradition, and placed in our trust for the future generation. We must work to actively protect them, while also investing in our people. Palau embraces sustainable tourism as the only path forward in the new era of travel, and we believe that our destination can and must be carbon neutral.”

“This project has enormous potential to transform the traditional tourism model and is a notable step towards lessening the industry’s climate impact. Destinations around the world face these same challenges of balancing tourism growth with environmental protection. Carbon neutrality is the future of tourism and the direction that all destinations must head as they recover from COVID-19. We commend Palau for their continued leadership, and hope this inspires other destinations to strengthen their own climate resilience strategies,” said Paloma Zapata, CEO of Sustainable Travel International.

“The rapid growth of an unsustainable tourist industry based on broken food systems has been a key driver of the climate crisis and ecosystem destruction. This project represents the antithesis, a solution that strives to strengthen and restore value to local food systems, reduce the cultural and environmental damage caused by food imports, and improve the livelihoods of food producers both in Palau and beyond,” said Paolo di Croce, General Secretary of Slow Food International.

For more information on this project, please contact Kaitlyn Brajcich at [email protected]. Project updates will be shared regularly on www.sustainabletravel.org.  

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Sustainable Travel International

Sustainable Travel International is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and conserving our planet’s most vulnerable destinations. We are transforming tourism’s impact on nature and people by working alongside local communities, engaging travelers and businesses in responsible practices, and strengthening destination management. Through our work, we aim to safeguard nature, combat climate change, and empower communities to preserve the integrity of destinations around the globe. Sustainable Travel International has implemented sustainability projects in more than 100 destinations around the world, and has 10+ years of experience facilitating carbon management in tourism. To learn more visit www.sustainabletravel.org

Palau Bureau of Tourism

The Bureau of Tourism (BOT) was created in 2014 to regulate the tourism industry, provide policy guidance to the President, and to be the destination management office of the Republic of Palau. In line with this mandate, BOT has promulgated national tour operator regulations, adopted a groundbreaking regulatory approach to sunscreen based on the precautionary principle, developed a unique Public Private Partnership with every private boat owner engaged in tourism transportation, and weeded out front businesses. Palau’s Responsible Tourism Policy Framework guides BOT by defining the vision for the tourism sector in Palau, that of a sustainable, high value, and low impact visitor industry. 

Slow Food

Slow Food is a worldwide network of local communities founded in 1989 to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions and to promote sustainable food systems. Since then Slow Food has grown to become a global movement that involves millions of people in more than 160 countries, all working to ensure that everyone has access to food that is good, clean and fair. The organization has a long-standing experience of implementing grassroots projects in collaboration with UN agencies.

Coalition for Fragile Ecosystems (COFE)

The Coalition for Fragile Ecosystems is a young global alliance created by the UN Mountain Partnership and the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), focusing on the synergy between sustainable tourism and sustainable food systems as a vehicle for change. COFE aims to create an international network of fragile ecosystems that promotes sustainable tourism and sustainable food systems for increased resilience and improved livelihoods in mountains and islands. This effort by Palau is an important foundation activity that will help demonstrate what is possible in mountains and islands.

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Meet the Newest Faces of the Heart of St. Kitts Team!

The Heart of St. Kitts Foundation is a travel philanthropy fund established as a collaborative effort between the St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism, St. Kitts Sustainable Destination Council, and Sustainable Travel International. Day in and day out these three ambitious women are helping to make St. Kitts a more sustainable place to live in and experience! Read on to get to know who they are.
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Investing in the Development of St. Kitts’ Tourism Workforce

Facilitating a Train the Trainer Workshop focused on sustainable tourism

Tourism destinations such as the Caribbean island of St. Kitts are only as strong as the people and businesses who make them up. From tour guides to hotel housekeeping staff, the local workforce are the building blocks of St. Kitts’ bustling tourism industry.  

A competent workforce is essential to an excellent visitor experience. From the moment a visitor steps foot on the island, the tourism and hospitality workforce shapes their experience. Was the immigration officer welcoming? Did the front desk agent provide helpful information about the local culture? Was their hotel room clean? Each of these micro-moments that take place throughout a trip affects a visitor’s overall perception of the destination. One interaction can make or break whether the traveler returns home raving about their trip or vowing to never come back.

Thus, in order to strengthen a destination and ensure its long-term sustainability, it is important to invest in the people who propel the industry forward. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to make sure that those in leadership roles are adequately prepared to support their staff’s professional development.

Our Role

As part of our ongoing partnership with the St. Kitts Ministry of Tourism we hosted a Train the Trainer Workshop with a focus on sustainable tourism in the Kittitian context. This workshop was geared toward managers in tourism businesses, particularly those with regular training and human resource responsibilities.

On a sunny St. Kitts day in late October, 10 enthusiastic and ambitious participants joined us for the two-day workshop. Most participants held supervisory roles and came from various tourism-related organizations including accommodations, attractions, and restaurants.

To kick off the training, participants were asked a simple question: “What one word represents what being a trainer means to you?” Uplifting words such as “inspire” “change” “leader” “educator” and “guide” were just some of the words that came to mind.

Over the course of the workshop, our team supported participants in becoming the trainers that they aspired to be. The workshop focused on developing essential skills that will help participants be more effective communicators, leaders, and mentors – both on the job and in their personal lives. Participants learned about topics such as engaging different learners, creating supportive environments, and handling challenging situations. In addition, a particular emphasis was placed on how trainers and managers play a key role in bolstering business sustainability, both through staff development and other operational improvements.  

Exercises and activities were woven throughout the training, encouraging interactivity and allowing participants to apply their learnings. Participants were incredibly engaged, eager to learn, and supportive of one another.  At the end of the workshop, each participant developed a training plan related to their individual training responsibilities – one participant created a plan for a culinary training, while another focused on guest services.

Given their positions and roles in the tourism industry, the participants are well-positioned to apply what they learned in their day-to-day lives. We hope that this training will generate a ripple effect of impact and contribute to a thriving future for St. Kitts.

The Train the Trainer Ripple Effect of Impact

  • Improved training abilities of tourism managers

  • Increased staff capacity and more competent tourism workforce

  • Progress towards organizational goals, such as enhanced productivity, resource efficiency, quality of service provided, and staff satisfaction

  • Improved business competitiveness and sustainability

  • Thriving tourism destination

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St. Kitts

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Fiji Women Credit Maggie Boyle / DFAT via Flickr

Sustainable Tourism Enterprise Program for the South Pacific

The islands of the Pacific are a popular destination for many travelers looking to trade in city life for secluded beaches, cultural authenticity and stunning natural environments. While the small size and remoteness of these destinations makes for ideal getaways, these characteristics also bring along many challenges. Visitors often put increased pressure on the already limited supply of agricultural products, water and energy. This results in a further dependence on imported goods and contributes to excess waste production. On top of these challenges, the transportation of imported goods drives up carbon emissions, exacerbating the climate change impacts to which small islands are particularly vulnerable.

The Pacific islands also must cope with economic vulnerability due to their geographic isolation and small size. According to the Asian Development Bank, 31 percent of Fiji’s population and 26.9 percent of Samoa’s population lived below the poverty line in 2014. Tourism is a key driver of economic development in these destinations. The industry has the potential to combat poverty by providing more jobs, growing incomes, and creating markets for local goods and services. However, there is still an opportunity for the tourism sector in the Pacific to be more inclusive of local suppliers and service providers and prioritize capacity building. This will help ensure that local communities are truly reaping the economic benefits of the industry.

What We're Doing

At the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012, Heads of State adopted the 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP), a global framework for action to accelerate the shift towards SCP including resource efficient and low carbon tourism, in both developed and developing countries. In 2015, the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Alliance (PSTA) was formed as a public-private partnership with the South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO) to help fast track sustainability in the region. Sustainable Travel International working with the SPTO under the auspices of the PSTA, was awarded a grant through the 10YFP Trust Fund call for proposals for Sustainable Tourism Programme to implement a pilot project focused on improving sustainable resource management in hotels in the Pacific.

The destinations participating in the preliminary stage of the project are Fiji and Samoa; however the eventual intention is to expand to other Pacific Islands. Through this work, the partners hope to inspire a new commitment to sustainability among members of the local tourism industry and empower them to improve their consumption and production behavior by:

  • Collaborating with local stakeholders to identify the barriers to sustainable consumption and production within the destination
  • Training 100 hotel managers on sustainable tourism best practices such as sourcing goods locally, using resources more efficiently, and utilizing a supply chain that is more inclusive of local people and cultures
  • Raising awareness among hotel managers on the financial and economic benefits of incorporating sustainability practices into their business operations
  • Equipping 100 hotels with a Sustainability Management System (SMS) – a digital tool to monitor energy-use, waste-reduction, water consumption, and sustainable sourcing

Long Term Impacts

By influencing the sustainability behavior in businesses and across destinations, this project will lead to a more robust economy and a better future for people and environments in the Pacific. The anticipated long-term impacts include:

Reduced consumption of nonrenewable resources (water, gas, electricity) and increased resource efficiency through recycling, greywater recycling and use of alternative energy sources

Decreased amount of waste and pollution generated by the tourism industry

Reduced dependence on foreign imports through local production and consumption

Less carbon emissions being generated from the transportation of imported goods

Increased tourism-related job opportunities and income streams for local people

Increased awareness and appreciation of local culture

Our Partners

  • 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme
  • South Pacific Tourism Authority
  • Fiji Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism
  • Samoa Hotel Association
  • Samoa Tourism Authority

Make the World a Better Place

Your gift will help us continue to work towards a more sustainable future for Pacific island nations and other destinations around the globe

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Pacific Sustainable Tourism Alliance

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Climate Change

Learn more about how we’re addressing climate change issues affecting other destinations