Today’s Topic: The Rise of Sustainability Pledges.

Hello Readers,

Second blog post coming up from No Trace Tourism – this time I’ll be looking at a couple of great tourism pledges and examine what makes them resonate or where they fall short.


This topic is worth looking at closer as the Thompson Okanagan, lead by their regional DMO Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, are about to start working on a similar pledge for our region.  A sustainability pledge aims to provide tourists with a set of guidelines to follow when they visit a place, in order to ensure they are sustaining the environment, culture, and economy – the three pillars of sustainability.

It will be imperative that the new Thompson Okanagan pledge resonate not just with tourists about to embark on their visit, but with the people (including the Indigenous groups) hosting them here too.  If it is to be truly successful and meaningful, the pledge will need to take learnings from those already in practice, like these:

Example 1 – The Palau Pledge

Stunning, yet highly vulnerable: Palau

Not long ago, the small pacific island nation of Palau changed their immigration stamp for international passports to include the following pledge:

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Immigration Palau’s passport stamp. (2017)

Each international visitor was required to sign the pledge upon entering the country.  It was a powerful move, and made Palau the first country in the world to change their immigration laws to protect the fragile environment from tourists. The pledge also came with a video, where the children of Palau explained the importance of protecting their island home, through a captivating story of a legendary Giant.  In the case of Palau, they are using legends to preserve the history while at the same time protecting the islands for future generations – no small feat.  The video is superb, check it out by clicking the link below…

Watch: Palau Pledge In-Flight Informative Video

Recently, Palau has also banned sunscreen which is toxic to their coral reefs in an additional effort to protect them from harm.  Since introducing their pledge back in 2017, 147,000 people have signed the pledge and it has garnered media attention from around the world, inspiring many other tourism destinations to look at producing their own similar pledge.

Example 2 – New Zealand’s Tiaki Promise

Aoraki / Mt Cook National Park – New Zealand 

Brand new this fall, New Zealand has followed in the footsteps of places such as Palau and released their own tourism pledge, called the ‘Tiaki Promise’.

Tiaki in Maori means ‘to guard; to care for people and place’.

The Tiaki Promise was designed by Tourism New Zealand not to read like a set of rules or tell people what to do and what not to do, but rather to put people into a certain mindset before visiting New Zealand.  The CEO of Tourism New Zealand explains: 

“Tiaki talks to guidelines or guiding principles about how we would like people to behave when they’re in New Zealand. The idea is that we have a deep and symbiotic relationship with our environment here in New Zealand.You are welcome to come and to experience our landscape, but we want you to please be mindful of the fact that it’s a really important place.”

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The Tiaki Promise (2018)

Similar to Palau, New Zealand has also created a video which will be shown on international flights operated by their national carrier Air New Zealand.  The video can be viewed here:

Watch: New Zealand’s Tiaki Promise Video

What really resonates in New Zealand’s pledge video is the incorporation of their indigenous stories, language, and people.  My favourite aspect of their pledge is the line “respect culture, travelling with an open heart and mind“.  As someone who has lived in New Zealand, it was evident to me almost immediately how much the land is tied to their indigenous culture through their customs, the names of their cities, and simply the way nature is protected before it is exploited in almost all areas of the New Zealand conscious.

I remember one instance, when I was river rafting near Rotorua, the guide (who was himself non-indigenous) recited a Maori blessing prior to us entering the sacred river to raft.  It was a meaningful and important reminder that indigenous cultures have their own stories and histories tied to the places we are now treating as tourist destinations.  It also emphasized that we are only visitors, fortunate to have been allowed to experience something so sacred and intrinsic to their local culture.

The first line on their website promoting their rafting tours is as follows:
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The blessing made me feel a deeper sense of understanding and appreciation for the space we were about to enter into.  It showed me that, even prior to the formal Tiaki promise pledge being created, New Zealanders were living the pledge in their daily lives, something I think is very important in order for a pledge to be authentic.

One of the BEST things about the Tiaki Promise is the feature on their website ( where you can upload your own photo and they will impose the pledge and your name over top, allowing you to share your pledge with other people.

Once again, New Zealand proves why they are some of the best Tourism Marketers in the world!

Tiaki Promise-4.jpg
This is amazing.  Job well done Tourism NZ!

Example 3 – Iceland’s ‘The Icelandic Pledge’

Back in 2017, following closely after Palau, Iceland’s tourism promotion site ‘Inspired by Iceland’ launched their own pledge, simply called the ‘Icelandic Pledge’.  The pledge reads as follows:

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The Icelandic Pledge 

The Icelandic pledge is different to the Palau and New Zealand pledges in that it does read more as a specific list of rules.  They obviously felt it was necessary to be a bit more to the point, perhaps in response to instances where tourists have been known to put themselves into dangerous situations just to get a perfect photo, such as parking in unsafe areas or walking into traffic or into unsafe terrain.  It therefor reads that this pledge is equally about protecting the tourists themselves as it is about protecting the natural environment of Iceland.

Iceland’s tourism marketing style is very unique and because they are a very unique culture, it is not surprising their marketing and pledge would take on a different style / tone.  In the year and a half since it was introduced, 48,000 people have signed the Icelandic Pledge.  They have also created a brief video, which is short and to the point.  It doesn’t include enough, in my opinion, to create that mindset shift that New Zealand was going for, but it is still a good start.  In particular, I like the line about togetherness.

Watch: Inspired by Iceland ‘The Icelandic Pledge’ Video



In looking at the sustainability pledges from Palau, New Zealand, and Iceland it is clear that a pledge will always be as unique as the country or region with produces it.  The critical success factors, from what I can gather, include paying appropriate attention to indigenous groups, ensuring the language of the pledge does not come across too strict or like a rule list, and aligning the pledge with the culture and values of the country/region it represents.  I believe New Zealand is doing an amazing job at spreading their campaign through inclusions such as the ability to impose the pledge over your own photograph – that was highly impressive to me.  By including such a personal element into to the pledge, which firstly aims to bring us all closer together, they are succeeding in fulfilling all aspects of how people find identity these days – personal identity and identifying as part of a larger group of like-minded folks.

As the Icelandic video states,

‘alone, you are just one; but together, we are an unstoppable army’

To conclude:

Pledges seek to bring us all together under a common goal – protection of those places we enjoy visiting so they can be enjoyed by generations to come.  This benefits host communities, visitors, and the environment – bringing together various groups under one common goal; they represent a step in the right direction for sustainability in tourism.

Signing off, and until next time…


Leaving footprints that can be washed away…

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