We’ve all seen those posts in 2020 when animals were returning to previously heavily polluted cities due to massive lockdowns. There were dolphins in Venice, Italy, and Elephants in Yunnan, China. Even though some of this news turned out to be fake, as revealed by National Geographic, they raised a very important question. How can we make tourism more sustainable so that animals returning or places becoming less polluted would not be such a surprise to us? This is where regenerative tourism came into the picture.
What is Regenerative Travel?
Regenerative travel is when tourists leave their destination better or cleaner than it was before instead of destroying it. We saw a lot of places suffer due to tourism. Both ecosystems and historical monuments have suffered the consequences of the tourist industry. You may notice that many people have started to gatekeep their favorite destinations. This is because when a destination becomes popular, it can get covered in trash and get destroyed due to careless behaviors. However, there is a way to change that. Regenerative tourism aims to restore the harm we have already done to the natural world and to create the conditions for life to flourish.
For example, in (O’ahu) Kualoa Ranch Private Nature Reserve, which holds 4,000 acres of sacred land, you can participate in Kualoa’s hands-on Mālama’ Āina experience. It offers guests opportunities to learn to protect and create sustainable practices preserving the land. The eco-adventure voluntourism tour includes knowledge of the cultural importance of Kalo (taro); cleaning, planting, and harvesting Kalo; and helping mālama (“care for”) laʻau lapaʻau (medicinal plants) growing in the area. In the coming year, the experience will expand to include native Hawaiian tree planting to support reforestation efforts.
Why does it matter?
Simply put, regenerative tourism seeks to ensure that travel and tourism bring net positive benefits to ecosystems, nature, and communities. It supports the long-term renewal and prosperity of our social and ecological systems. Regenerative tourism allows destinations to heal while providing interesting and educational experiences to visitors. It also improves the overall reputation of tourism. For example, a survey of 463 Kauaʻi residents, one of the first in Hawaiʻi that attempts to capture the residents’ perspective, suggests that regenerative tourism makes the tourism industry more attractive to residents. An overwhelming 96.3% of Kauaʻi residents responded positively toward regenerative travel, and even more responded positively toward tourist attractiveness.
And this is despite the fact that previously there was actually a pushback by the residents of Hawaiʻi against tourism in the area.
How can it change the world?
Tourism was often perceived negatively by local communities due to the harm it does to them. From the sacred lands of Hawaii to the historical monuments of Bulgaria, all have suffered through the impacts of over-tourism. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. As we as a society become more continuous of our surroundings and the way we affect them – we can make tourism both profitable and healing to our environments. Regenerative tourism can help communities all over the world bounce back from the previous damage that was done to them and even goes beyond, creating a more holistic way of exploring the wonders of the world.
Daly N. Fake animal news abounds on social media as coronavirus upends life. Animals. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/coronavirus-pandemic-fake-animal-viral-social-media-posts. Published May 3, 2021. Accessed December 19, 2022.
Team MH. Hawai’i’s Regenerative Tourism Movement. Hawaii Meetings, Conference, & Event Venues – Official Site. https://www.meethawaii.com/articles/post/hawaiis-regenerative-tourism-movement/. Published November 12, 2022. Accessed December 19, 2022.