The Republic of Palau is the little country that does, when it comes to sustainability. As well as being home to the world’s first shark sanctuary, the archipelago of 500-plus islands in the western Pacific Ocean introduced the world’s first nuclear-free constitution and was the first to turn all of its territorial waters – that’s almost 600,000 square kilometres (230,000 square miles) – into a marine park, and thus ban commercial fishing. And then there is the Palau Pledge. Introduced in 2017 , the law requires all visitors to make an environmental promise to Palau’s children that is stamped into their passports on arrival. In taking the pledge, visitors learn about their potential impact on the environment and local culture, and they are given guidelines to follow to help them keep their promise. The Palau Pledge has since been replicated by destinations such as New Zealand, Hawaii and Finland. Now, ahead of the Our Ocean Conference Palau 2022, the country has done it again. This time in rhyme: Ol’au Palau is a tourism model that aims to influence still further how visitors interact with the country’s environment and culture. According to the press release (and an alert reader who prompted an April 24 update to this article), ol’au is a contraction of the word olechau , which is what one Palauan does when attracting the attention of another before inviting them into their home, for instance. Under this new initiative, visitors are invited to accumulate points in a dedicated app by “demonstrating responsible and regenerative behaviour during their stay”. Post-Covid release, post-cancer skiing: 10 Hongkongers’ life-changing trips The list of approved behaviour includes offsetting one’s carbon footprint using Palau’s personal carbon calculator; using reef-safe sunscreen; patronising businesses that have positive environment and cultural policies; visiting culturally significant tourism sites; eating sustainably sourced local food; taking part in regenerative projects; and eschewing single-use plastics. Further points can be accumulated by quiz fiends who correctly answer questions in the app about Palau’s biodiversity and culture. Points earned can be cashed in for experiences that won’t be available to visitors who don’t join in. Examples include being given access to parts of the islands that are known only to locals; meeting elders and touring historic sites; hiking trails that are off the beaten track; visiting villages for taro patch tours (a taro patch is similar to a rice paddy) and lunch with the community; fishing using traditional methods at secret spots; and swimming in hidden caves. The scheme is aimed at helping Palau – which, pre-Covid 19, relied on tourism for 85 per cent of its GDP – rebound from the pandemic disruption in a sustainable manner, and the authorities are banking on the fact tourists will have become more aware – while deep in contemplation during their various lockdowns – of the damage they do to fragile environments. “The pandemic has provided our planet with a much-needed wake-up call and an opportunity to see what’s possible when nature has a chance to rebalance itself,” said Alan T. Marbou, of the Palau Visitors Authority. “We hope that Ol’au Palau will make more destinations think about the true cost of tourism and rethink who they reward with their best experiences.” The seventh Our Ocean Conference will take place on April 13 and 14 in Koror, Palau’s commercial capital. John Kerry, the United States special presidential envoy for climate, is expected to speak at the conference, the theme of which is “Our Ocean, Our People, Our Prosperity”. Drawing on Palau’s tradition as an ocean society, the pow-wow will focus on islander perspectives and approaches to keeping the ocean healthy. Palau is the first small island developing state – what’s known as a SIDS – to host the conference. What else do we know about Palau? It “could be hit by a devastating earthquake within two years”, according to a story run by the South China Morning Post in February . A paper written by Chinese government scientists and published in domestic journal Progress in Earthquake Science predicts a quake of magnitude 8.0 or higher could hit the southern part of the Palau archipelago before December 31, 2023, as stress has been building beneath the region for more than a decade. In April 2021, the SCMP published an article in which Palau’s president vowed not to bow to the pressure being applied by Beijing to sever diplomatic links with Taiwan. “Taiwan has been with us from the beginning,” said a defiant Surangel Whipps, after returning from a trip to Taipei, the two allies having just set up a coronavirus travel bubble for tourists . Given that scientific consensus holds that earthquakes cannot be predicted, a conspiracy theorist might link those two stories.