In the decade prior, global tourism was booming. Wellness travel, exotic escapes, and solo travel were all in vogue. But with the pandemic, things came to a screeching halt. Estimates since that time suggest that the travel and tourism industry has lost roughly $3.4 trillion. Likewise, over 121 million jobs in this sector have been lost. Notably, the pandemic has not been kind to tourism, and traveling after COVID will likely take some time to recover. But not the news is necessarily bad news.
One emerging concept that many in the industry are talking about is a new type of travel called regenerative travel. At first glance, you might think regenerative travel refers to some type of healthy restoration and rejuvenation. While this may be a side effect, this doesn’t get to the heart of the term’s meaning. Instead, this form of travel is the next step of evolution in sustainable tourism. And not only does this have the potential to be bold for the tourism industry itself. It also offers a bold experience for those who embrace this more conscious form of travel.
Defining Regenerative Travel
Most everyone is familiar with the term sustainable tourism. This form of tourism encourages travelers to be respectful of their destinations and behaviors. In doing so, tourists preserve a region’s offerings to future guests when they travel. But when it comes to regenerative travel, this takes things a step further. This travel mentality strives to not only preserve and respect a destination and travel practices, it actually attempts to make the destination even better than it was before. In this regard, you might think of regenerative travel and a more mature form of sustainable tourism.
Perhaps, the concept of regenerative travel might be hard to grasp at first. But in practice, it’s actually quite easy and extremely empowering. Some industry partners now grade various travel destinations and excursions on their ability to embrace regenerative travel. In this regard, they assess things like staff wellness, the degree of cultural immersion, and the use of local products. Sustainable tourism might examine the carbon footprint one left behind. But regenerative travel would examine carbon offsetting, or compensating for the carbon emissions caused. This is clearly taking tourism to a higher level and holding it to a higher standard.
How to Practice Regenerative Travel
In considering regenerative travel, you might want adopt a different attitude at each stage of your trip. In planning a trip, it’s important to be aware of not only your destination but also the services you will be using. Choosing ones with sustainable tourism practices is something to consider. In addition, the type of travel you will be taking and the shopping you do ahead of time is also important. These decisions impact your travel greatly. Even your pre-trip should be planned with sustainability and ecofriendly choices in mind.
While you’re traveling, sustainable tourism encourages several important practices. These include taking your own water container, recycling, and choosing ecofriendly transportation. Regenerative travel might go a bit farther in this regard. For example, it would include honoring local customs, habitats, and species. It would also include shopping at local vendors in the community. It might even include bringing tablets so that you can clean your own water for reuse. Here again, the key is not simply to preserve but to actually improve your travel destination.
Once you return home, sustainable tourism would not likely encourage any specific actions on your part. But regenerative travel would. Having completed your trip, you might choose to keep up-to-date with the region on a regular basis. In addition, you might have connected with specific businesses or individuals while there. Acknowledging them through giving back experiences or direct charities might be something to consider. Most importantly, the bold experiences you enjoyed can serve as a means to further grow in your own life. As you can see, a regenerative mindset is one that is more pervasive than most attitudes of sustainable tourism.
Guiding Principles of Regenerative Travel
A number of guiding principles might be considered for regenerative travel. However, a couple are worth noting since these can provide a means to consider travel practices. Many in the industry are trying to move away from economic indicators alone. Often, the number of travelers per year and tourism dollars spent are used to assess success. But with regenerative travel, economics is only one area to evaluate. Others include the impacts on human health, the environment, and the local community. Like sustainable tourism, regenerative travel is more holistic in its perspective.
Another concept that regenerative travel embraces is that of the circular economy as well. The circular economy commits to an effort to be efficient, avoid waste, and to use only what is essential. It also encourages behaviors that reuse existing resources and repairs anything broken rather than making new purchases. Finally, it also promotes rejuvenating what is present by making it better. This is a key part of regenerative travel in its ability to empower not only sustainable tourism but ever-improving quality. By acknowledging this holistic and future-focused mindset, regenerative travel becomes second nature.
Being Bold in Your Post-Pandemic Travel
The sudden decline in travel that has occurred with the pandemic has allowed the industry to take pause. As always, any event provides opportunities that need to be acknowledge. And for the sustainable tourism industry, that opportunity is regenerative travel. This could allow an entire sector to re-imagine what travel and tourism should embrace as values and as its mission. But it also has the same implication for us as travelers. As tourism resumes in the future, we each have a choice in selecting our destinations, our transportation, and our experiences. Regenerative travel invites us to explore a bolder experience that includes sustainability and giving back. While tourism companies might address this on the supply side, we can also make a difference on the demand side. And if these are the types of bold travel experiences we choose, there’s no doubt the tourism industry will listen.
Experiences are a vital Pillar in a Bold Life. To read more about the Seven Pillars, check out Ed Kopko’s PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.