Sustainable tourism resources

Regenerative tourism

Regenerative tourism
The Covid pandemic has yielded a new buzzword for travel and the global hospitality industry, Regenerative Tourism.  A concept discussed previously to the global Covid-19 crisis, the terms of regeneration have merged into the trending spotlight as the must-do principles that everyone should adopt, to not only sustain the planet but to heal or reverse the harmful impacts generated thus far. 

Anna Pollock, a strategist and tourist consultant, explains to the Global Destination Sustainability Movement’s, 6th Feel the Pulse Session, that regeneration is a step beyond sustainable in that is “systems change” looking at every “life form” so that all living beings have the “fertile ground to grow and to flourish”.

Much like positive impact travel, regenerative travel outlines visionary steps that a stakeholder must integrate into their travel or business plans to reinvent tourism practices.  Starting with a ground-up approach, strategies include asking the local community what they need, educating travelers before and during their journeys as to ethical and environmental best practices, focusing on the supply side of the business not just the consumer side, and including metrics or benchmarks to measure and manage the planet, people and wealth distribution.

One such resort that has adopted regenerative tactics is the Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland, Canada.  The Inn provides the guest with transparent documentation of where each tourist dollar goes, named as the  “Economic Nutrition Certification Mark'', whereas monetary redistribution is to the local community not to an individual.  Built on the precepts of “sustainability and respect for nature and culture”, the Inn offers experiences and itineraries that allow the guest to submerge themselves into the local surroundings and traditions so that they may shift perspectives and gain more forward-thinking ideas. From quilting to spending the day at sea with a local fisherman, there are numerous community-based adventures offered where the guest can explore, have fun and gain knowledge all while fostering efforts to make the community and all of it’s lifeform more resilient.

Kristine Tompkins, the President and Co-founder of Tompkins Conservation and former CEO of Patagonia, Inc., has been recognized as a leader in the movement to advocate regenerative initiatives driven by the advice of the local community. Tompkins calls for land use actions to be designed for the long haul and for local inclusion to help secure the resilience of land and wildlife for years to come.  Tourism, according to Tompkins, in coalition with other stakeholders can forge movements to not only preserve and protect but to reverse damage to the environment.

The conservation has given Chile the largest land donation from a private entity to a country in history, and intends on not only conserving the land and wildlife but educating others to do so as well.  As Tompkins notes “the focus needs to be on the now, but also on the future”.  To regenerate the land is an important factor to acknowledge, such as what are the best land-use options, just conservation or does restoration of the terrain need to be considered for wildlife habitat.  Additionally, how can other stakeholders be incorporated in the process and how can positive impacts on the local community be a focus?

Tompkins Conservation addresses some of these questions by offering travelers the opportunity to visit their conservation projects in Chile and Argentina, one such itinerary is their Rewilding Argentina program.  Efforts are being made to reintroduce missing species to the parklands through the conservation’s programs, giant anteaters among several other inhabitants that had been originally extinct have now been successfully reintroduced.  As the conservation concludes, “tourism-oriented toward wildlife-viewing and outdoor recreation can help local communities thrive, demonstrating a link between economic vitality and parkland conservation”.  

At the recent Climate Week NYC  Regenerative Travel Summit, global stakeholders and independent travel companies united to collaborate and share ideas on cultivating a more fertile framework to assist others to positively progress environmentally and socially, in the tourism and hospitality industry.  Working together for change was called as one of the most important elements to implementing this reinventive approach.  As everyone must start somewhere, the ideals of the movement are to put aside competition and instead join forces to save the planet, regardless if the stakeholder is just beginning or is a veteran in the global movement.  

Other key ideas presented at the event were that all tourism stakeholders should educate the locals by defining and giving better examples of how their local financial and economic benefits may be improved through conservation.  Locals meaning the native groups that live within or on the border of a protected area or destination. They may be more likely to embrace ideals if they see how, it actually benefits them.  Additionally, strong local leadership is also a focus in that a local indigenous leader has high stakes in the community and will understand essentially the values of initiatives and the needs of the local citizens.

An example of locals gaining through conservation and education is Spirit Bear Lodge in British Columbia.  The Kitasoo and Xai’xais people realized to preserve their cultures they needed to protect their land and the ocean.   Instead of extracting from the land and sea, local tribes found that conservation would also preserve their native heritage.  They are now stewards to educating the traveler, ensuring that their youth understand the significance of their conservative practices and protecting the wildlife and environment. 

Regenerative Travel a tour operator that notes that it is dedicated to a positive social and environmental impact and that “tourism should meet your values' ', names five criteria to travel regeneratively in their white paper.  Stakeholders should adopt a “whole systems thinking, honor sense of place, community inclusion, aspiration in nature and co-evolution”.  Aside from their five principles, they reiterate the importance of metrics, meaning it is difficult to manage what you cannot measure.  

Greenview's Eric Ricaurte, explains that regenerative travel needs to be measured for credibility and benchmarking so that resorts and operators may improve their regenerative efforts.  Many tourism stakeholders may be afraid of measuring their own impact due to fear of judgment by others if they were not operating at a maximum level of sustainability, or that in their location there is a lack of resources.  Ricaurte adds that becoming regenerative is like going to the gym, where one weighs oneself and outlines goals that can gradually be attained, where entering data properly is the first step towards management.  

Global environments are diverse and some regions may have more difficult social, political and environmental issues than others in certain areas, such as water scarcity or public policy.  Measuring the planet through waste, water and energy,  the people by analyzing social diversity and social justice, and wealth distribution are three key metrics essential to working towards regeneration.  

Measurement systems for the long term that evaluate economic and developmental opportunities, may help a stakeholder to assimilate their positive strategies and focus on those that need improvement so as to stimulate positive progress.  The Bawah Reserve in Indonesia, whose sustainability practices has been a model for other resorts, has continuously measured its impact and holds a strong force of initiatives from banning plastic to protecting wildlife, such as relocating turtle nests so that they will be better protected.  The resort is currently tackling the climate crisis with another step in which was identified and that is upgrading its sustainable energy program. 

Demonstrating that there is always room for improving and renewal, the resort is generating analysis on “options for generating electricity using solar power, and their first phase is expected to begin soon”.  Bawah Resort’s vision is to protect the “environmental value of islands and the souring marine life”.  Being able to move a step beyond sustaining vital elements to actually enhance them so they work better, may be more quickly acquired through implementing a metric system to track progress.

Looking ahead, the notion for all businesses to seek regenerative measures may not only benefit the planet but may create an opportunity for communities to take ownership of regenerative projects, which may increase profits and environmental gains for all stakeholders.  Travelers should embark upon a journey with purpose, businesses should adjust their perspectives so that locals are included and heard, and education on all levels must be continuously embraced.  

Here are a few ideas to implement to become more regenerative:
  • Educate staff, by teaching employees about sustainable issues they are more likely to explain criteria to guests and even adopt ideas into their personal practices
  • Enroll in a program that benchmarks your business, such as your energy and water usage, whether for improvement or to get started 
  • Consider including local stakeholders in planning or operative protocols, working together may create a stronger impact 
  • Take a ground up approach, ask the local community what they need and truly listen, it is important for locals to feel heard
  • Educating communities so that they don’t undervalue themselves is another important step, it will offer them protection from outsiders that might otherwise take advantage 
  • When booking a guest, asking them what footprint they would like to leave and what experience they would like have as this can raise traveler awareness and improve a guest’s experience
  • Don’t be afraid to ask others for guidance, knowledge is key and bolsters success and should be shared in a non-competitive way
  • Inform guests, leave a bottle of complementary coral safe sunscreen in guest rooms, explaining why it is important, showing them how small impacts can be contained
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