Words matter. And from the outset of this platform we have let sustainable reign when talking travel, or tourism, or hospitality. I am happy to have Elaine Glusac’s primer on new vocabulary to consider when discussing all our favorite, familiar topics. After 25 years with a word, a concept, that has worked wonders, this new message sounds about right to me. Regenerative, the word, the concept, does not make me think any less of the arc of sustainability’s useful life, which I think has a long stretch to go. But regenerative has a spring in its step:
Can a post-vaccine return to travel be smarter and greener than it was before March 2020? Some in the tourism industry are betting on it.
Tourism, which grew faster than the global gross domestic product for the past nine years, has been decimated by the pandemic. Once accounting for 10 percent of employment worldwide, the sector is poised to shed 121 million jobs, with losses projected at a minimum of $3.4 trillion, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
But in the lull, some in the tourism industry are planning for a post-vaccine return to travel that’s better than it was before March 2020 — greener, smarter and less crowded. If sustainable tourism, which aims to counterbalance the social and environmental impacts associated with travel, was the aspirational outer limit of ecotourism before the pandemic, the new frontier is “regenerative travel,” or leaving a place better than you found it.
“Sustainable tourism is sort of a low bar. At the end of the day, it’s just not making a mess of the place,” said Jonathon Day, an associate professor focused on sustainable tourism at Purdue University. “Regenerative tourism says, let’s make it better for future generations.”
Regenerative travel has its roots in regenerative development and design, which includes buildings that meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED standards. The concept has applications across many fields, including regenerative agriculture, which aims to restore soils and sequester carbon.
“Generally, sustainability, as practiced today, is about slowing down the degradation,” said Bill Reed, an architect and principal of Regenesis Group, a design firm based in Massachusetts and New Mexico that has been practicing regenerative design, including tourism projects, since 1995. He described efforts like fuel efficiency and reduced energy use as “a slower way to die.”
“Regeneration is about restoring and then regenerating the capability to live in a new relationship in an ongoing way,” he added.
With most travel suspended during the pandemic, regenerative travel remains at the starting gate. But in the lull, it’s the new buzz. Six nonprofit organizations, including the Center for Responsible Travel and Sustainable Travel International, have joined together as the Future of Tourism coalition, which aims to “build a better tomorrow.”...
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