Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr joined global leaders in support of a shift towards sustainable coastal and marine tourism to protect the ocean and the livelihoods of those who directly rely on it.
In a joint statement issued by the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel), member countries that include Palau emphasised the critical relationship between a thriving tourism industry and the health of the ocean.
“A healthy ocean provides the foundation for a sustainable ocean economy. A sustainable, regenerative, and resilient coastal and marine tourism sector can deliver protection, production, and prosperity by stimulating new high-quality, year-round, economic opportunities for local communities, restoring and strengthening the resilience of ecosystems in which they operate, and revitalizing the culture and heritage,” the statement said.
President Whipps was in Panama to attend the Our Ocean Conference to tackle issues facing the threats to the world’s oceans.
Whipps in a panel during the conference highlighted the various environmental measures that it had instituted on sustainable tourism and most are pioneering policies such as the Palau National Marine Sanctuary and Palau Pledge.
Palau, whose main economic driver is tourism, is feeling the brunt of mass tourism, especially with a population of only less than 20,000.
“I don’t think we want to have a million tourists. All we want is the right amount of tourists that are providing income and then being able to spread those tourists around Palau. That means not only on in the sea, but in in the on the land, and to enjoy our culture,’ Whipps told the panel.
Through the years, Palau, he said has been stepping up and leading efforts in conservation.
“And one of the things Palau has always tried to do is really step up his efforts in conservation. We have the protected areas network legislation that was passed and we set up marine protected areas around Palau. But an important element of that I think there was getting the financing to sustain those marine protected areas,” Whipps told the panel.
He noted that while COVID-19 has impacted Palau’s tourism industry, it also gave the country an opportunity to diversify its economy.
“We want to build back better so we’re exploring new markets,” he said.
The tourism future of Palau he said is looking bright with a new route from Australia and PNG servicing the nation.
He also said there are two major hotel companies that are building their presence in the country. “We want regular flights from destinations that can bring people that really care about nature and the environment and want to contribute. And I think being accessible to those markets, being accessible to responsible visitors is so important, “ he said.