‘I vow to tread lightly, act kindly and explore mindfully’
SA should emulate the Pacific Ocean archipelago Palau and make its tourists sign a pledge to sustainability
Since the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in 2017, some authorities have changed their immigration processes to target tourists interested in “responsible travelling” and sustainable development.
Palau, an archipelago of over 500 islands in the Micronesia region in the Pacific Ocean, was the first country to change its immigration laws for the cause of environmental and cultural preservation. It has now included a “tourist pledge” as part of its immigration process, which is required to be read and signed by any tourist before entering the country.
Since Palau’s legislative movement to curb the negative effects of tourist behaviour, other countries have followed suit in a similar fashion but have not gone as far as making the pledge part of immigration law. Their initiatives, however, remain the same – to promote a sustainable method of travel that does not compromise the environment, culture or people of a place.
SA should consider an immigration initiative such as the “tourism pledge”. With the festive season quickly approaching, the department of home affairs is said to be ending its regulation requiring parents travelling with minors to present an unabridged birth certificate. This decision would be an acknowledgment that the real cost to SA has been to discourage tourists.
Yet tourism needs to be controlled to ensure tourists have fewer negative effects. The SA tourism sector ought to adopt the spirit of the Palau pledge, which reads: “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.”