Passport stamp could change your holiday
Tourism is a double-edged sword.
The revenue from tourism is great - and for some destinations, it's an essential economic driver - but the downside is putting up with the tourists themselves, who aren't always on their best behaviour.
Various destinations have tried a variety of measures to keep rowdy, rule-breaking and disrespectful tourists in line.
Last year, Bali warned it would be cracking down on tourists trying to enter its sacred temples, after a photo went viral of a Danish tourist scandalously sitting on a holy throne at Hindi temple Puhur Luhur Batukaru.
Just this week a major tourist attraction outside the Czech capital of Prague - a Catholic chapel famous for its human remains on display - said it was banning selfies over concerns they were not respectful to the deceased.
European cities have been trying to curb bad tourist behaviour with large fines, which include a penalty of about $880 for wearing bikinis and budgie smugglers in the Croatian city of Hvar and $730 for swimming or bathing in fountains in Rome.
Magaluf, Spain has come up with a list of 64 banned activities, including collecting water from beaches, jumping off balconies into pools, and public sex acts. Fines range from $146 to $4400.
But there's a new way some destinations are trying to keep misbehaving tourists in line - by making them sign a pledge on arrival to hold them to account, reports to The Washington Post.
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I don't think I have ever before had to sign a pledge on a country border to be allowed to enter. The police officer however stamped the pledge upside down in my passport. Is it still valid? ;) That was coincidentally the last page in my passport, it lasted 366 days. RIP. #Koror #Palau #PalauPledge
Palau, an archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean where mass tourism has been linked to environmental damage, announced last year it would introduce a "passport pledge" that visitors must sign before entering.
As part of the pledge, visitors are told that they must not collect marine life souvenirs, such as shells and coral, must avoid treading on or touching coral, must respect the local customs and people, and must not litter.
The pledge makes Palau the first country to change its immigration laws to protect the environment. It is stamped in visitors' passports and must be signed before tourists are permitted to enter the country. Tourists found breaking the conditions of the pledge may be fined.
"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," the website for the pledge read.
There have been 239,102 pledges taken since the initiative was launched.
Palau is not the only destination to ask tourists to sign a pledge, although it is the only one that stamps it on visitors' passports.
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The #palaupledge is stamped into your passport and you are made to sign your name before stepping foot on this beautiful island 🙏🏼 if only the rest of the world would follow suit 😍 #preserve #protect #treadlightly #actkindly #bemindful #donoharm #footprintsinthesand #ipromise #paradiseisland #scubadiving #islandlife #ithinkifoundmyhappyplace #scubadivinggirls #livetotravel🌍 #traveltolive🌎 #lovemylife❤️ I took the #palaupledge🇵🇼 #hkig
Other destinations include Aspen, Colorado; Big Sur, California; the island of Hawaii; Finland; and New Zealand, where the Tiaki Promise asks tourists to drive safely, camp responsibly, stay safe and respect the local culture.
The pledges generally ask tourists to treat the destination with respect, not litter, follow local rules and avoid risky behaviour, The Post reports.
With the exception of Palau, the pledges generally don't threaten punishments or fines, but some listed behaviours may be against the law and therefore carry penalties of their own.
Iceland, which has seen a massive surge in visitor numbers over the last few years, asks tourists to not venture off roads, to use approved parking spots and be safe while taking selfies in its Icelandic Pledge that has had close to 70,000 signatures since it was introduced in 2017.
Visit Iceland public relations manager Sigridur Dogg Gudmundsdottir told The Post tourists could sign the pledge online or at the airport.
"We're trying to speak to the honour code in tourists that are coming to Iceland, and we don't want to forbid too much," she said. "We'd much rather send the message in a benign way and ask people to join us in this venture to be responsible and preserve the beautiful nature of Iceland."
Liisa Kokkarinen, the project manager at Visit Finland, said Finland's pledge was "meant to protect travellers visiting Finland and make them aware of these general rules and responsibilities".
"Because visitors may not know about the different rules in nature areas, the pledge offers a way to guide them towards the respectful behaviour that is expected of them while visiting Finland," she told The Post.