The Palau Pledge is the only one that is stamped into visitors' passports.
Courtesy of Palau Pledge
  • Tourist destinations tried combating unruly visitors with selfie-stick bans and visitor caps.
  • Today, creating "tourism pledges" is becoming increasingly popular.
  • From New Zealand to Finland, destinations across the globe are asking visitors to sign pledges promising to respect nature and local culture.
  • In Palau, the pledge is a stamp in visitors' passports. They cannot enter the country without signing it.
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Are terrible tourists taking over? It seems like every day comes with a fresh new example of travelers behaving badly - whether they are destroying ancient artifacts,punching Disney employees, or putting their bare feet on the armrests on planes.

But whether this is simply a result of more people traveling than ever before or the 24-hour news cycle, some destinations are fighting back. While it started with selfie-stick bans and caps on visitors, more and more places around the world are now instituting "tourist pledges" - waivers travelers must sign promising to be on their best behaviour and to practice responsible tourism.

Generally, these pledges ask visitors to travel respectfully by not littering, following local rules and customs, and avoiding risks. While not all of these pledges are mandatory, the fact that they have become a thing is telling.

Keep scrolling to see which popular destinations have instituted such pledges and why.

Iceland claims to have been the first place to introduce a pledge, in June 2017.

Iceland has experienced an enormous influx in tourists over the past few years - it has a population of only about 332,000, but sees around 1.8 million tourists a year - and is now struggling to manage that success.

In order to do so, it launched the "Inspired by Iceland" pledge in June 2017, which includes gems such as "I will take photos to die for, without dying for them," and "When nature calls, I won't answer the call on nature."

According to the website, almost 75,000 people have taken the pledge so far, which urges tourists to "respect Iceland's nature and to travel responsibly during their visit."

Palau changed its immigration laws to protect its environment.

Palau's pledge comes in the form of a stamp inside visitors' passports, addressed to "the children of Palau" who helped draft it. Visitors can't enter the country until they have signed it.

Palau claims to be "the first nation on earth to change its immigration laws for the cause of environmental protection." The pledge includes vows such as "I vow to tread lightly, act kindly and explore mindfully," but essentially asks visitors not to collect marine-life souvenirs, not to touch coral or wildlife, not to litter, and to respect local customs and people, warning that violators could be fined.

A press release says that the pledge "was deemed necessary after careless behaviour from visitors started to erode Palau's pristine environment and have a negative impact on its culture."

Almost 240,000 people have signed the pledge at the time of writing.

Finland is the latest country to launch a pledge, which focuses on sustainability.

As the name implies, the Sustainable Finland Pledge focuses on sustainability.

"By taking the Sustainable Finland Pledge you make a promise to respect and treasure the Finnish nature, its inhabitants and culture during your visit," the website for the pledge tells visitors.

Vows include "Its forests and lakes should remain plastic-free, so I will not leave any rubbish behind me," and "I shall also respect the lives of locals, and will be considerate with cameras or loud vocals."

California's "Big Sur Pledge" hopes to get visitors thinking about their environmental impact.

Big Sur's website says a pledge was necessary since a "recent increase in the number of visitors is challenging the safety and wellbeing of residents, visitors, and the fragile natural environment."

The pledge has eight vows, including "Leave no trace and not damage or take what is not mine," and "Be mindful of the impact of my actions."

New Zealand’s Tiaki Promise was launched in November 2018.

New Zealand's Tiaki Promise "is a commitment to care for New Zealand, for now and for future generations." It calls for visitors to keep New Zealand clean, protect nature, and respect the local culture.

Earlier this year, New Zealand kicked out a family of "unruly" British tourists that were wreaking havoc across the country. Over the course of a few weeks, according to multiple reports, the family were said to have littered, stolen items, and treated locals poorly.

Responsible travel and sustainable tourism are at the heart of Hawaii's Pono Pledge, which launched September 2018.

Pono means righteous, and by signing Hawaii's Pono Pledge visitors promise to be just that, vowing to travel responsibly.

"I will not defy death for breathtaking photos, tresspass, or venture beyond safety," one of the pledge's oaths reads.

The pledge in Bend, Oregon, was partly in response to locals' complaints about a perceived shift in culture.

The New York Times reports that the mountain town of Bend, Oregon, created a pledge in October 2017 in part because a population growth spurt resulted in complaints by locals who perceived the local culture to be changing.

"Cross your heart, pinky swear, and make a heartfelt promise you'll leave Bend a little better than you found it," the pledge asks.

Aspen, Colorado, uses humour to get people to behave.

The Aspen Pledge takes a more lighthearted approach, with oaths such as "I will take awesome selfies, without endangering myself-ie," "I will forgo high fashion and dress for high elevations," and "I will not ski in jeans."

The recently launched Visitors Pledge in Sedona, Arizona, also focuses on sustainability.

Social-media safety seems to be a common thread with tourism pledges.

Sedona's Visitors Pledge states: "I won't risk life or limb - human or sapling - for more likes. I won't get killed for a killer photo."

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