In this time of global crisis and uncertainty, we put the call out to leaders, CEOs, strategists and consultants to sit down and tell us, in their own words, what is going on and what is going to happen next in this vital global industry.

“Warning Magic Theater… not for everyone”

— Hermann Hesse about the quest for spiritual self-knowledge in his seminal novel Steppenwolf.

Regenerative tourism is just that — a deep engagement with a place, its past, its people, and their future. Regenerative tourism is authentic, and yes, it is difficult, detailed, relentless work that may indeed not be for everyone, but it is the future of tourism.

If destination management existed on a continuum, at one end would be the simplest iteration of a destination organization, a classic mid century DMO, an entity devoted to  creating and distributing information and content about a destination. At the other end would be regenerative tourism.

According to Kristin Dunne, CEO at Tourism Bay of Plenty at the time of this interview, regenerative tourism goes well beyond just reducing one’s footprint and doing less harm. It’s about leaving our place better than we found it. Put simply, it’s about ensuring destinations are loved by visitors — but not loved to death. 

“Ultimately, we want tourism to be a force for good, and that means ensuring that the people who live here are happy with the type and number of visitors that we share our home with,” said Dunne. The Bay of Plenty region in New Zealand, situated on the northern coast of the North Island, is home to spectacular beaches, geothermal wonders, and a long history. “This is our place, and we want to see it protected for future generations.”

Placemaking and place marketing expert Frank Cuypers from Destination Think and the University of Antwerp in Belgium sees a strategy based on collaborating with locals as putting the onus on the community to become gatekeepers and protectors of their destination. 

“It creates a tourism model that works within the local environment and cultural heritage rather than against it,” he said. In the case of Bay of Plenty, that engagement was an organic part of its history and culture. “You don't own land in New Zealand, you take care of land, (its) stewardship, and that's really in their DNA. So the holistic thinking comes actually from the past, it's their legacy.”

The Bay of Plenty regenerative project is innovative, it’s reaching, it’s well ahead of the curve, and it’s a harbinger of what successful destination organizations will look like in 10 years.

For the valiant, Dunne and Cuypers have two pieces of advice: 

  1. Be brave, and the pathway will develop in front of you. 
  2. If you keep your definition of tourism narrow, you’ll have to do more and more with narrow-minded people. If you keep it broad, you’ll have broad-minded people.

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash