Berlin, March 7, 2019 – The Republic of Palau has won the prestigious ITB Earth Award at the 2019 Sustainable Top 100 Destinations Awards, organised by Green Destinations and hosted by at the world’s largest travel trade event, Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB), in Berlin.

The ITB Earth Award is the world’s most prestigious award for tourism destinations.

The award, accepted on behalf of Palau by Palau’s First Lady Debbie Remengesau and Palau Visitors’ Authority (PVA) Board Member, Olkeriil Kazuo, recognises, “a destination showing global leadership in combating climate change and environmental degradation.”

The award is decided by an expert jury and places Palau at the top of the Green Destinations’ Top 100 Sustainable Destinations List.

Palau was presented with the top honor based on its efforts to create national policy and laws to prevent damage to its fragile ecosystems by tourism and educate its visitors on the importance of protecting Palau’s unique environment, culture and heritage.

The Green Destinations’ judges took a number of Palau’s initiatives into consideration including: Republic of Palau’s, Responsible Tourism Education Act; its Bureau of Tourism’s Sustainable Tourism Framework; and Palau’s historic record of conservation world-firsts including its National Shark Sanctuary, Palau National Marine Sanctuary, and the globally-awarded Palau Pledge scheme, that educates visitors on the importance of protecting Palau for future generations.

The ITB Earth Award recognises and celebrates the joint efforts and innovation of country’s public and private sectors in protecting and preserving Palau, whilst also addressing sustainable management of its tourism sector – the country’s main economic driver.

Palau is also home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site – one of only 35 countries in the world to have two UNESCO designations protecting both its unique environment and culture. Palau’s global positioning statement, Pristine Paradise Palau, recognises its unspoilt natural environment and unique culture as the country’s greatest tourism asset: encouraging locals and visitors to keep Palau pristine.

Speaking about Palau’s ITB Earth Award win, Albert Salman, President of the Green Destinations Foundation said “Palau leads the world in sustainable tourism, providing a road map for other countries and destinations to follow. Palau is not alone in the issues it faces due to growing tourism numbers impacting its fragile environment and culture. The country’s innovative, creative approach to solving what is now a global problem is inspiring; already its methods are being adopted by other destinations and countries facing similar issues.”

The Awards Jury Statement said: “Over the years Palau has become well known for its innovative approaches to conservation. In 2009, Palau created the world’s first shark sanctuary and in 2015 the country’s leaders announced  the world’s sixth-largest marine sanctuary: establishing the largest percentage of fully-protected maritime territory in the world. In 2017, Palau was the first nation to change its immigration laws with the introduction of world-first initiative, the “Palau Pledge”: a mandatory pledge to the children of Palau that every visitor must sign in their passport on entry, promising to care for the country’s unique environment and culture during their stay. Palau’s latest law is the Responsible Tourism Education Act, which holds businesses accountable for their impact on the environment, bans “reef-toxic” sunscreens containing chemicals that can lead damage corals and marine life and eradicates single-use plastic. The Jury is proud to recognise these ground-breaking efforts for sustainable tourism by offering the ITB Earth Award to the Republic of Palau. Congratulations.”

Upon receiving the award on behalf of her country, First Lady Remengesau congratulated every destination that made the Top 100 List and said, “I accept this honor on behalf of the Palauan people and most especially, the children of Palau: it’s their future we are working so hard to protect. Conservation is at the heart of our national culture: it’s in our DNA. The initiatives that led to us winning this award are modern expressions of that ancient cultural wisdom and our traditions that have been passed down through generations. Through bold, tourism-based education legislation like the Palau Pledge and our Responsible Tourism Education Act, we hope to set world-leading examples that create real and lasting change toward conserving our precious planet. We know this kind of change can only be achieved in partnership with our visitors – working together to protect and conserve our Pristine Paradise. Today, the global tourism industry has a huge opportunity and a huge responsibility to the environment and to future generations. Everyone in this room is working toward a more sustainable world, and on behalf of our children, I thank you all for that.”  (PR)