Palau was the first country to embed environmental protection into their immigration laws. The country now requires all visitors to sign a pledge in their passport that they will abide by comprehensive guidelines set out by the government to respect the ecology of the islands.
The pledge includes commitments to protect coral, leave marine life souvenirs in their natural space, support local business and respect traditional customs. Access is thus only permitted to visitors upon the signing of these pledges, making environmental conservation a legal condition of entry with fines of up to $1 million for violations.
Since its implementation in 2017 over 158,000 pledges have been taken, with plans for two million tourists to sign up to the commitments over the next decade. This system has introduced tourist self-policing to a vulnerable destination whereby annual tourist arrivals outnumber the local population eight-fold.
The Rwandan government, in partnership with the Fossey Fund charity, operates a system of controlled visitation to protect the 12 gorilla families inhabiting the Volcanoes National Park, including 365-day a year ranger protection. In this context, a restricted number of high-value tourist permits are issued, with a maximum of 96 permits issued per day, generating an estimated $18 million per annum. 10% of this animal-based revenue then directly sponsors human-centred development providing water access, health centres and schools in neighbouring towns, while the daily protection of the gorillas also provides locals with lucrative employment opportunities.
This unique public-charity partnership has had tremendous success in the conservation of the gorilla population; in 1981, a mere 254 gorillas roamed the National Park, with forecasts predicting that they would be extinct by the millennium. With intensive tracking and anti-poaching operations, however, there are now over 600 gorillas in the Park as the species elevates itself out of the ‘critically endangered’ category.
To ensure the Netherlands’ continued competitiveness in Travel & Tourism, the Prime Minister requested the development of a smart strategy for growth.
The Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions Marketing (NBTC) and Amsterdam Marketing responded to this call with the ‘HollandCity’ Strategy, which aims to spread visitors over time and space by promoting the country as one connected metropolis of activity and persuading visitors to travel beyond the obvious hotspots.
As part of this strategy, nine visual ‘storylines’ were developed, showcasing tourism offerings across the country. These are presented thematically in the form of a metro line (as shown above). While still in its infancy, the strategy is estimated to have already taken 600,000 visitors beyond Amsterdam in 2017.
Malaysia’s Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture launched its Homestay Experience Programme as early as 1995 to create economic opportunities for rural communities to participate and benefit from the tourism sector; in turn reducing the need for rural communities to migrate to urban centres. The programme does not only boost household incomes, create jobs and improve living standards of rural communities, but it offers tourists, through tailored packages, the unique opportunity to experience the rural lifestyle and local culture.
Malaysia’s successful implementation of Homestay Experience Programme has been enabled by developing strong partnerships with NGOs as well as travel operators/agencies, forming of the Cooperative under Malaysia Cooperative Societies Commission, focusing on unique selling points and ensuring that the initiative is community-driven. Capacity building initiatives, notably We Are the Host (WATH) Programme, Homestay Enhancement Training Programme & Seminars and integration visits, were also put in place to provide training to the homestay operators to optimise key aspects of the travel experience from hygiene to safety and accessibility to tourism-related activities. The government has been involved in all aspects including training, infrastructure development, events and marketing.
The Homestay Experience Programme has been beneficial for the participating communities, leading to a significant rise in household income. In 2018, the Ministry has registered 212 homestay clusters throughout Malaysia comprising 4,070 houses that over 5,712 rooms. The total number of tourists visiting homestays increased from 91,533 in 2008 to 372,475 in 2018 and the total receipts from the homestay programme increased from RM 6.4 million ($1.6 million) in 2008 to RM 27.6 million ($6.8 million) in 2018.
Malaysia has been able to successfully brand its Homestay Experience Programme to highlight the experiential and lifestyle elements, while actively promoting the programme to tourists. As a result of this initiative, Malaysia has gained recognition for its leadership across ASEAN for the development of homestay standards. Malaysia continues to work to upgrade the soft skills of the homestay operators, further improve infrastructure and develop attractive packages and promotional campaign to meet the needs of today and tomorrow’s travellers. New and innovative initiatives include, among others, classifying & rating homestays and the Plant a Tree (PAT) programme has been implemented to promote environmental conservation and awareness among homestay operators and tourists by creating nurseries.