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Regenerative Tourism v Sustainable Tourism

Regenerative Tourism v Sustainable Tourism

What do we mean by regenerative tourism and how is it different to sustainable tourism? Is it just Regenerative Tourism v Sustainable Tourism Does it co-exist with sustainability?

Whilst the phrase ‘sustainable tourism’ has become commonplace, what do we truly mean by this? If we purely sustain, all we do is stop things from getting worse than they already are! We’ll sustain current emission levels, use the same amount of water and energy, leave the same amount of waste and plastic pollution, and the same small sector of the host population will reap the economic rewards.

A shift towards regenerative thinking across the tourism sector would be seismic and overwhelming task for many destinations and businesses. As sustainable tourism practices become more mainstream, the adventure and eco-tourism sectors will lead the way and advocate for regenerative thinking in their sustainability plans. Indeed, many will have been incorporating these ideas into their responsible ethos for many years.

Regenerative tourism pushes the boundaries of sustainability, it's not instead of but means tourism is no longer a silo but working with and for the host destination. Destinations ebb and flow through the tourism life cycle, but with regenerative thinking from tour operators, destination management companies (DMC), and organisations, this seismic shift might be possible. The periods of decline will decrease, but we must ensure tourism products are regenerative.

Regenerative tourism is the shift within tourism to ensure tourism can flourish within Planet, Place, and People concept. Creating net-positive tourism experiences will ensure that nature and culture are preserved, and the host economy thrives beyond the traditional tourism stakeholders.

When designing tourism products and experiences, we often think straight to the environment, yet cultures and economies need to see a net-positive effect of tourism. Especially in the wake of COVID-19, a return to business as usual is not a resilient method for host communities.

Regenerating the environment

This is an endless discussion, so I will try and be brief. Working with accommodation that has incorporated circular economies such as water reuse, composting, and off-grid energies build resilience and often has economic benefits as well. Staff get re-skilled in new technologies, and bills reduce.

Nature is tourism's biggest asset and must be looked after for the world's survival. Wildlife, biodiversity and habitat loss can be attributed to tourism; awareness is growing that the industry needs to be partners in reversing the issues often accelerated by un-stainable tourism growth. Championing local experiences and collaborating with local suppliers to ensure no damage is done and areas are regenerated will mean visitors come for years to come. Rewilding land and sea and working with tourism suppliers with scientific projects as part of their experience will enhance any tourists' experience.

Regenerating communities and the economy

Host communities need to see regeneration in the post-COVID tourism world. The host community must be involved in tourism planning. New experiences involving local musicians, artisans, and food producers will boost the economy and bring tourism spending to people who may not consider themselves in the industry.

Regenerating cultural heritage

Cultural events should be for locals yet attract tourists; tourism needs to be authentic to ensure a positive experience, so if these cultural displays are only for tourism, resentment levels will be high. Heritage attractions can be bought to life by locals sharing their experiences and knowledge.

Engaging the whole community in tourism will ensure a sense of place. Now I know this is hard for a tour operator to achieve, but choosing DMCs wisely and discussing product development with them can open many opportunities. The question to ask here is, ‘Can my DMC sell this experience locally?’ if yes then it is more likely to be authentic and of benefit to the community.

Regenerative tourism could be seen as another buzzword, but its concept goes beyond sustainability. If a business is doing good for the planet and its people then businesses will attract customers, employees and investors with a similar ethos.

With tourism on the uptick after the COVID-19 pause, now is a time to build back better. This year's World Tourism Day theme was ‘Rethinking Tourism’ - if we all come up with a new idea to build a regenerative future, tourism can sustain at a better level than it is now.

If you are a small tourism business and need guidance on starting your sustainable tourism journey, want to incorporate regenerative concepts into your plans or need so help to hone in on what you want to achieve contact me at


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