Humans' desire to discover the world in which they live dates back to ancient times, with humans trying not only to explore unknown places and to establish new business relations, but also to travel for the fun of it. The Olympic Games in Delphi, for example, which were established in 776 B.C., attracted thousands of people from all over Greece and from colonies overseas to Mount Parnassus to attend competitions or enter the sanctuary. A swarm of travellers that could already be called tourists.
Since then, tourism has become one of the most important economic sectors and is responsible for compelling people who are drawn to the history, culture or nature of other places to travel from one end of the globe to the next. It is also an industry that has a significant environmental impact and that has recently started progressing towards regenerative tourism. Let's see what kind of tourism that is exactly.
What will I find out from this article?
- Why we need regenerative tourism
- Everything that regenerative tourism entails
- What activities are included in regenerative tourism
Why we need regenerative tourism
No one wants to travel to damaged or polluted places, right? However, many destinations are wearing away after welcoming thousands of tourists every year.
This is what happened this summer at Reading Festival in the UK. After three days of concerts, the area was covered with hundreds of abandoned tents and tonnes of rubbish was scattered all over the grounds. Every year, 875 tonnes of plastic are thrown into landfill from festivals held on British soil alone, according to the publication The Tab. Images of these green spaces littered with a shameful carpet of rubbish have turned the world upside down.
Drone footage captured empty tents and litter left over fields in Reading, England, following a three-day music festival, which hosted thousands of attendees. https://t.co/7mI0uQX6g1 pic.twitter.com/Un696tiXLd— ABC News (@ABC) September 2, 2021
The situation is so disastrous that some places have ended up banning tourism. Take for example the Thai island Koh Tachai, a paradise whose natural resources have degraded significantly in just five years. The visits by mass amounts of people were destroying the island's biodiversity, which led to the Thai government's decision to close the island to tourism indefinitely.
We could cite hundreds of examples. Like what happened in Costa Rica in 2015, when a wave of tourists prevented hundreds of thousands of turtles from laying their eggs on beaches.
Not to mention other cases, such as the dolphin calf that was taken out of the sea to satisfy the curiosity of tourists and ended up dying.
In addition to the damage it causes to the environment, tourism also affects the social development of places where it is present. It often generates progress or economic muscle, but sometimes it leads to a real urban problem. The documentary The Venice Syndrome (2012) recounts this perspective, explaining how in just a few decades, this place went from being a habitable city to a mere tourist attraction that serves day-trippers.
As a result of rising prices and the loss of local businesses, the city lost many of its inhabitants, who were forced to emigrate. Not to mention the adverse effects of cruises passing through and the impact of rising sea levels on a city that is more and more exposed to flooding each year.
We don't know if the directors of the documentary could have imagined when they premiered it, that by 2021 the city would have to make the decision to charge all its visitors to enter the city and make them book their entry in advance, as if it were some kind of a theme park rather than a place that has been one of the most dynamic and important centres for Italian culture, art and its economy for centuries.
"Tourism has always been seen as a money-generating machine sustained by culture, history, gastronomy and nature"
They say that humans destroy everything they touch and that is what is happening in many unique places. Is it possible to travel without damaging the environment? Also, can tourism benefit the places we visit?
Tourism has always been seen as a money-generating machine sustained by culture, history, gastronomy and nature. However, in recent times, we are discovering that sustainability can also provide added value in this sector. Environmentally responsible, affordable and attractive tourism is possible — a kind of tourism that is based on regeneration and sustainable regeneration.
Everything that regenerative tourism entails
Regenerative tourism represents a sustainable way of travelling and discovering new places. Its main goal is for visitors to have a positive impact on their holiday destination, leaving it in a better condition than how they found it. A concept that goes beyond "not damaging" the environment and that looks to actively revitalise and regenerate it, resulting in a positive impact on local communities and economies: sustainable regeneration.
Following border closures over the last couple of years as a result of the pandemic, leaders in tourism from all over the world have spent months on end re-evaluating their assets and what they have to offer. This is a trend that we have already begun to see this summer. And everything points towards the fact that from now on, regenerative tourism will be an interesting way to plan new holidays.
"A concept that goes beyond "not damaging" the environment and that looks to actively revitalise and regenerate it, resulting in a positive impact on local communities and economies"
What activities are included in regenerative tourism
Would you like to enjoy your next trip as a regenerative tourist? The easiest way to do this is to offset your emissions. You can do this through companies that capture carbon emissions to protect our climate, such as Greenfleet or Sustainable Travel International.
Or assess who you are booking your holiday with. Choose responsible agencies, tour operators and hotels that have the lowest environmental impact possible or that have some kind of a positive impact on the local community.
Want more ideas? Well, grab a pen and paper! Here are some of the things you can do to practise regenerative tourism:
💰 Buy from local businesses and establishments. Sustainability not only means looking after nature, but also includes progress when it comes to people. Therefore, respecting each community's culture and way of life is a key factor in regenerative tourism. In order for local communities to thrive and continue to live in a dignified way in the destinations we visit, we must contribute to the local economy by buying from their establishments, hiring their services and partaking in their activities.
🧹 Help clean up and restore the environment. We should all appreciate how important it is to enjoy a clean and healthy environment. We should therefore also look at what we can do to prevent it from becoming polluted or damaged. One way to help minimise this problem is to get actively involved in cleaning beaches and forests etc. All you need to do is always bring a bag with you and take a few minutes when you are out for a walk to pick up the rubbish you find along the way.
💪 Work together with social projects that need help. In Nepal, Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge cabins are used to raise funds for the school, to go towards finishing the construction of additional classrooms and training teachers. Travellers can make donations to the school while they enjoy activities such as hiking against a backdrop of breathtaking natural beauty.
As a society, we are becoming increasingly more aware that we need to take care of the planet. This is something that we also think about when we are on holiday. Travelling sustainably is not just possible — it also brings us much closer to the world in which we live.