Avid travelers may have already heard of the term 'regenerative tourism' along with the idea of sustainability. Whenever we travel - no matter where or how - we are leaving an impact on the environment and the world surrounding us. While sustainable tourism takes positive steps toward limiting that footprint in order to allow environments to continue thriving for future generations, regenerative tourism takes this idea one step further.

In finding ways to prevent overtourism before it even begins, travelers can counteract any negative effects that it may have on a particularly vulnerable destination. This is especially important as travel has become popular again and following the pandemic, many more people are opting for outdoor travel as opposed to indoor destinations. Therefore, regenerative tourism might just be the answer that the world has been looking for in terms of long-term sustainability and overtourism prevention.

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What Is Regenerative Tourism?

By definition, regenerative tourism is 'the idea that tourists should leave a place in better condition than it was before.' For example, it would be like visiting a garden and instead of leaving no trace, each person planted a tree or air-purifying plant to further build the environment rather than simply leaving it status quo. In a way, regenerative tourism involves travelers to be active in their acts of sustainability rather than neutral, providing a better future for places that do fall victim to overtourism.

Another great example of this is any act of participating in a cleanup. This is especially popular on major beaches and in parks where there's always trash to pick up and waste to contain. While travelers certainly don't need to invest in a community clean-up while on vacation (unless they want to), the idea of being involved is very much the same.

To further paint a picture of what regenerative tourism could look like for the future of in-need destinations, the order of tourism goes like this:

  1. Conventional tourism. No changes are made which usually leads to overtourism.
  2. Green tourism. Visiting a destination with the intent of being eco-friendly, i.e. slightly less of an impact on the environment.
  3. Sustainable tourism. Traveling with the idea of being eco-friendly at the forefront, whether it means staying at a green hotel, sustainable resort, or investing in sustainable activities.
  4. Restorative tourism. Helping to push the environment back to its natural state from a place of overtourism while traveling.
  5. Regenerative tourism. Increased efforts to not only bring back a destination from the brink of overtourism but also taking the extra measure, aka getting one's hands dirty, in order to make sure the destination thrives in the future.

According to the CBI Ministry of Affairs, conventional and green tourism are beginning to fall into the 'degenerative' range of tourism types. Whereas sustainable tourism is neutral, and only restorative and regenerative tourism are actually aiding in recovering over-toured destinations.

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How Can You Play A Role In Regenerative Tourism?

Thankfully, there are many ways to take part in regenerative tourism now. While it's still a fairly new concept, it's one that's quickly gaining speed and is proving to be beneficial for the areas that truly need it. As reported by the New York Times back in 2020, a company called Regenerative Travel is responsible for a select range of hotels that participate in regenerative tourism. This Asian-led, all-female brand helps "travelers to find hotels who share that vision and are pushing the boundaries of art, design, food, adventure, and the outdoors that serve as hubs of creativity and innovation with truly unparalleled experiences," along with founding lodging that has a lasting, positive social and environmental impact.

Opting for a regenerative tourism-centered accommodation is only one way to take part in this new concept of travel, however. Another way to be involved is by directly being part of the process itself, and taking on an excursion or trip that allows travelers to do the work themselves. Global Family Travels runs many stewardship programs with itineraries involving anything from educational outings and team building in the Pacific Northwest, such as their Seattle Community Adventures, to global trips such as Iceland: A Transformative Trip to Inspire Climate Change.

The Long-Term Effects Of Regenerative Tourism On The Environment

With the idea of leaving a positive impact on the environment while traveling in the back of one's mind, the world can only benefit from such a tourism type. Regenerative means to renew and revive, which is exactly what many travelers are committing to as they help environments come back from wildfires, overtourism, negative economical impacts, and more. Depending on where one plans to travel, there might be more ways to help than originally realized. For those interested, some tips for regenerative travel include:

  • Research the destination of interest to see if there are any regenerative tourism programs to take part in.
  • Plan a destination around a regenerative tourist trip.
  • Visit local farms and take part in agriculture during the trip.
  • Learn how to be involved in the socio-economical culture rather than just being an observer.
  • Put money back into the community through things such as local eco-friendly lodging or excursions.
  • Research any activities to be sure they have no impact on the environment, or find activities that actively help the ecosystem.

Regenerative tourism is a reality for many travelers and while it might take a bit more research, it's a trip one can feel good about. By further encouraging damaged environments to be renewed through travel, rather than being negatively impacted, we can slowly help to rebuild the world's most pristine and beautiful landscapes.