Palau launches world-first program that rewards ‘good tourists’

Palau has a new incentive for visitors when they show respect and care for its environment and culture. The initiative taken by authorities is the first-of-a-kind tourism program in the world.

In an effort to encourage good tourist behavior, authorities in the country are implementing its new tourism program, which they called O’lau Palau. The initiative stresses that kindness will be rewarded and what it means for people in the country.

Palau is a country of firsts. It’s the world’s first to adopt an anti-nuclear constitution and now offers another program considered to be a world first. The country comprises 300 plus islands and is home to over 20,000 people.

When visitors enter the country, they sign a pledge stamp that promises to both Palau and its children that the undersigned will be careful with the environment and the culture.

The good deeds that a tourist will do in Palau will earn them points. The points are reflected and counted through an application. For example, points can be gained if a tourist engages in bio-friendly practices like using environment-friendly cosmetics, visiting heritage sites, and eating sustainable local food.

Earned points can be converted to exclusive offers by the locals, including hikes, trips to secret spots or caves, and the likes. ‘Good visitors’ might also enjoy cultural activities unique to Palauan culture.

Before the pandemic struck the world, Palau was a thriving tourist destination. Every year, the country rakes in 150,000 tourists. However, the numbers went down in 2020 when the pandemic hit hundreds of countries, closing down businesses and affecting lives.

In April 2022, Palau opened its doors once again. The challenge to the tourism sector of Palau, according to Laura Clarke, co-founder of the Palau Legacy Project, is how to educate tourists properly conduct when in the country. The solution was the O’lau Palau program.

O’lau, in Palao, means inviting someone to your space. Clarke said, “So if you’re on a beach, for example, and someone calls out O’lau, it means, ‘Hey, over here, come be with us.”

Now that the borders are open, the government is doing its best to initiate programs that revitalize the tourism sector while preserving the country’s environment. Clarke said that there had been problems before regarding under-educated tourists who disregard proper behavior when they visit the country. O’lau Palau is one step forward.

According to Scott Arni, a captain who has led many dive expeditions in Palau for ten years, Palau’s pristine corals are flourishing, and the reefs are a sight to behold. Authorities also asked tourists to travel with no trace. Environmental preservation is encouraged in Palau as the country commits to its goal of a steady and green ecology.

When going to Palau, tourists have to be vaccinated. A negative PCR is also needed; it has to be presented days before departure – upon arrival, tourists need to be tested again.

Amid high demand, India bans wheat exports after heatwave hurt crops

Indian wheat exports have been banned by authorities after prices for the crop skyrocketed due to a heatwave that greatly impacted production. The news was announced late evening on Friday, amid increasing wheat demand in the global market.

Millions of tonnes worth of India’s wheat exports go to other countries every year. The country is a major player in global wheat trade, with buyers depending on their shipments every year. India is considered the second largest exporter of wheat in the global market. The recent happenings in the nation have curtailed wheat shipment plans.

The authorities are projecting that almost 10 million tonnes will be shipped due to high demand. However, recent events have caused them some setbacks, which they’re working around at the present time with no estimates yet on when the ban will be lifted.

The government guaranteed that they would honor all exports already issued to dealers before the ban was announced. Indian authorities also said they will continue shipping wheat to countries to “meet their food security needs.”

Amid Russian-Ukraine tension, the global wheat trade supply chain has been affected. Many depend on India for the supply as the second-largest wheat exporter globally.

Wheat prices in India have been spiking recently, with some markets going up to 25,000 Rupees or $322.71 per tonne—a stark difference from the government’s fixed minimum price of 20,150 Rupees.

A Mumbai-based dealer described the recent ban as “shocking.” Moreover, the unprecedented move is counterproductive to the goal of the Indian wheat market to curb high global demand within 2-3 months.

Heatwave in India caused crops to ‘shrink’

In April, India’s weather department has forecasted an increase in temperature in some parts of the country, expecting areas to experience temperatures 8 degrees Celsius above average. A heatwave in India, as per the India Meteorological Department, is declared when the temperature exceeds 4 degree Celsius above normal.

In India, the summer months — April, May and June — are always the aridest. But this year’s heatwave came early; this caused problems with crop production, irrigation, and overall health of crops. The country’s temperature records show that March was one of the hottest since 1901.

Heat waves are hitting more Indian states. The Indian Institute of Technology’s Water and Climate Lab has found that there will be an increase in heatwave occurrence every year. “They’re unavoidable,” said Vimal Mishra at IIT-WCL.

India has been looking to expand its export opportunities in various countries, but this plan has been put on hold with the recent heatwave. The delegations were scheduled to travel to countries like Indonesia, Morocco, Tunisia, and the Philippines.

Local farmers reported that because of the heatwave, their production became less than usual; therefore, the supply went down. Indian markets were quick to react and charged higher prices for wheat retail. Due to the response from citizens, the government initiated the ban, saying it was to ease prices and avoid conflict among buyers and dealers.

Buyers are on the lookout for the ban lift as they heavily depend on India’s wheat supply.

Zynga President Bernard Kim Steps Up as New Match Group CEO

Photo: Reuters

Match Group announced on Tuesday that, effective May 1, Bernard Kim, president of mobile gaming maker Zynga, will replace Shar Dubey as the company’s CEO.

Dubey joined Match Group in 2006. Her departure comes after two years of serving as the company’s CEO. 

However, she will continue to serve as a director and advisor to the company, Match Group added.

Match Group owns dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, and OkCupid. It recently announced its quarterly results, showing that its total revenue increased 20% to $799 million in the first quarter, beating analysts’ estimates of $794.2 million.

With COVID restrictions eased, an increase in user mobility in most of Match’s markets was observed, allowing people to explore and connect outdoors and attracting more users to its flagship dating apps.

The company also said that the growth was achieved despite the negative impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on its European business and the COVID-19 cases.

Tinder’s direct revenue grew 18% from a year ago for the first quarter.

Match Group’s board has also authorized a buyback of up to 12.5 million outstanding shares.

Plans for ‘Global City’ in Vietnam Unveiled

Photo: Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners, one of the UK’s largest architecture firms, has announced their plans for a “city within a city” in Vietnam.

Foster + Partners said that the district, named “The Global City,” will be 290 acres (about half a square mile). It will be built around a long “spine” of trees and greenery in Ho Chi Minh, the country’s biggest metropolis.

The project includes high- and low-rise residential buildings, public housing and villas, schools, a shopping mall, and medical facilities. It is flanked by two waterways and will feature five different neighborhoods connected by a central park, boulevard, and pedestrian bridges.

According to Toby Blunt, a senior partner at Foster + Partners, the firm inherited the overall masterplan but was tasked with enhancing “its integration to nature, while increasing pedestrian connectivity between the different neighborhoods,” he wrote via email.

Masterise Homes says that the project is projected to complete in four years. Masterise Homes is a property firm also working on The Global City.

In a press release, Foster + Partners’ studio head Gerard Evenden emphasized the number of green spaces in the plans. “The design seeks to strike a balance between biodiversity and human well-being,” he said, calling it “a holistic, sustainable masterplan for the future.”

The press release added that the district’s design references the architectural traditions of Ho Chi Minh City through the use of brick and timber. Ho Chi Minh is known for its broad mix of styles, from French colonial landmarks like the Saigon Opera House to concrete modernist apartment blocks and contemporary additions to the skyline, like the lotus flower-inspired Bitexco Tower.

Foster + Partners is known for projects like the Hearst Tower in New York and 30 St Mary Axe, known as “The Gherkin,” in London.

“The Global City” is one of several futuristic masterplans that the firm has developed in recent years, revitalizing urban areas or creating new sustainable communities in densely populated cities. For example, Foster + Partners’ overhaul of Stockholm’s central Slussen district is set to be complete by 2025, while the sprawling South Sabah Al-Ahmad, a new city, will house an estimated 280,000 residents in Kuwait is scheduled to open in 2040.

The architects are also working on another project in Vietnam: the two-tower VietinBank Business Center just outside of Hanoi, in the country’s north.