Hot on the heels of Earth Day, we’re back with the second instalment of our two-part series on sustainability within the travel industry. In our earlier blog, we explored how the needs and desires of destinations and travellers have come to shape the very concept of sustainability. Likewise, we considered how this has resulted in a kind of empowerment among destinations, who are now taking an active role in helping engaged visitors to embrace more positive behaviours as they enjoy and explore a new place. 

And now — whether you want to think of it as a shift, a twist, or just another turn in the story that is sustainability —  we spin things yet again to take in this expansive topic from a different perspective: that of local residents. After all, in any destination, resident sentiment can be considered as a kind of barometer of the impact — positive or negative — that tourism is having on a given area. But how is this connected to sustainability? By the concept of regenerative tourism and the power that it has to connect and enhance the lives of visitors and residents and the very places that both groups share and enjoy.

The Challenge at the Heart of Regenerative Tourism

Like any other complex idea, sustainability in travel comes with its own set of jargon, which is why it’s worth being specific about the difference between sustainable tourism and regenerative tourism. Let’s be clear: both are positive concepts, but while sustainable tourism is about minimising the impact of travel and tourism on a place, regenerative tourism takes things one step further — enabling visitors to improve that same place, thereby leaving it in a better condition than they found it. Essentially, regenerative tourism is all about giving back. 

At the heart of the present conversation around regenerative tourism there lies a challenge, one that many destinations are now grappling with: the urgent necessity to strike a balance between the benefits of tourism and the drive to meet the needs — sometimes, at the most basic level — of those who live in areas of high tourism. Right now, this problem is probably best exemplified by the well-publicised issues concerning housing and accommodation (or a lack thereof) playing out in destinations around the globe. This is a situation that, in many areas, is fuelling resident resentment not just against tourists, but against the travel and tourism industry in the widest possible sense.

In the Real World: Using Engaged Visitors to Make a True Impact

While housing and accommodation — with regard to the struggles that many places are now facing to ensure adequate provision of this resource both for locals and visitors alike — is now regularly in the headlines, it’s only one example of the friction that can occur between residents and tourists within any given destination. From a resident’s perspective, other things — like overcrowding and even anti-social behaviour such as littering — can all too easily turn the local mindset against tourists and tourism. But by making an effort to embrace regenerative tourism, destinations utilise their visitors to create a positive impact on a place and, even better, help to create a positive impression on local residents, thus enabling them to see the value of tourism within their area.

When it comes to regenerative tourism, certain destinations are making tangible strides to offer travellers the opportunity to use their visits to make a positive impression both on the places and people they interact with during their travels. If you read our earlier blog, you’ll note that some of the destinations we are about to mention were also highlighted for their endeavours in terms of embracing sustainability over time. It’s hardly surprising, then, that these same places are building on that platform and using regenerative tourism to their advantage. 

For example, at Visit Bristol, visitors are positively encouraged to take part in picking up litter around the city's harbour area or to lend a hand at one of its urban gardens. Visit Norway has a slightly different take on the regenerative vibe, offering up itinerary suggestions for exploring less busy cities and towns, thus boosting the socio-economic impact for these areas while lessening the impact of over-tourism in places like Oslo and Bergen. And speaking of Bergen, it has recently partnered with Green Warriors of Norway, an organisation that is working to connect visitors with activities — like beach clean-ups or litter picking — that positively contribute to a designated area within the city. 

So whether you think of regenerative tourism as a shift, a twist, or just another turn in the story of sustainability, it’s clear that it has a true and tangible part to play in connecting visitors with destinations and, likewise, in reinforcing tourism’s potential for good among locals and residents around the world. 

This short blog barely scratches the surface of this vast topic, so if you want to learn more, join us for our webinar on May 9th for deeper insights and a more thorough discussion on regenerative tourism.