“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.” So wrote freelancer and NY Times journalist Elaine Glusac in her article, Move Over Sustainable Travel published on August 27 last year, and updated on February 25, 2021.

The team at The Adapters is intrigued by the notion of regeneration in travel, tourism and hospitality. Trend or fad? For all our sakes, we are hoping it lands firmly in the trend column. In regards to travel and tourism, “Regeneration” is the next, giant leap after “sustainable” travel.

As our Gutsy Genius Thinker (GGT) Adapter James Blick put it, “Sustainability really sets the bar fairly low. It’s more than just don’t burn down the forest. It’s why don’t we plant some trees?”  Regenerative Travel, as defined by Glusac and others, is deeply engaging with the environment, the physical and the human, of your travel, tourism and/or hospitality project to make them better as a result of your presence; to not only protect them both, but to bring them real, long-lasting improvements.

Glusac’s piece highlights the development of Playa Viva, a small resort near Zihuatanejo, Mexico by Bill Reed’s Regenesis Group. Careful study and consideration lead to the protection of many local native species and to funding, via a 2% added resort fee, that supports community maintenance and development and education for the local population.

While regeneration may be the ultimate goal, there is still plenty of room for souped-up sustainability in travel land. Lockdowns and the like have fostered pent up yearning for travel to Anywhere! – but has also given some the time to rethink the connectivity and the fragility of Planet Earth and the places we want to visit and the things we would like to do. The “Conscious Traveler” is the outcome of this reflection; people who consider the impact of their travel on the Earth and on people and who consciously plan their travel accordingly.

Euronews, (Europe’s leading international news network) in collaboration with Globetrender (a UK-based travel trend forecasting agency and online magazine dedicated to the future of travel) recently published their report “Travel after 2020.” Based on industry-expert forums, a lot of research, and their own substantial credentials in the space, the authors identified 6 major Trends for Travel in the post-pandemic world. All 6 fall firmly in the “Experience” category, with a significant twist from the “let’s experience everything in 5 days or less” adventures that were crowding the search engines pre C-19. Here’s what they uncovered:

  • Wilderness Tourism – Time spent in the wilderness… an antidote to modern urban life.
  • Eco Tourism – a partner of Regenerative Travel, but some experiences mean a much more hands-on approach, like “cultivacations” where the travelers learn to grow or make things by hand. (No room service, here. Sorry!)
  • Nomadic Tourism – Slower paced and more about the journey than another stamped destination in a passport.
  • Wellness Tourism – A counterpoint to the vacation that requires another vacation just to recover from the first one. The idea is to go somewhere that will make you feel better than before you started the trip.
  • Authentic Tourism – Another regenerative partner, immersion in a local community “in a safe and respectful way.” This one is all about making human connections and helping out, especially in the marginalized communities and among people who often don’t benefit from the tourism that quite literally may surround them or in which they work.
  • Mindful Tourism – Less is more. “…humble trips to less glamorous destinations, possibly doing a long-stay workation, or joining a Co-Work Camp.

If you haven’t already joined this travel train, even if you are not prepared – or just not able at this time – to start offering a product or facility or experience that fits neatly into one of these six categories, it would be best to at least give it a think, and see how you and your business engage in your community, how you impact the place and people around you, and how you can improve that interaction and then let the “Conscious Traveller” know you are on that path.

We will be watching with fingers crossed and keeping you updated on other projects that declare themselves “regenerative.” We will also be keeping an eye on what’s popping up in the space: the coalitions of regenerative travel groups like The Future of Tourism, https://www.futureoftourism.org, Travalyst, an initiative led by Harry, Duke of Sussex and founded by Booking.com, Skyscanner, Trip.com, Tripadvisor, and Visa travalyst.org and the agencies and the platforms such as Regenerative Travel www.regenerativetravel.com, Kynder Travel company www.kynder.net and others offering sustainable and regenerative travel itineraries. Again, we are hopeful that they are, themselves, “sustainable” and that the properties they tempt the traveler with really meet the criteria and can stay committed to the philosophy. Only time will tell.

Going to leave you with some links to Learn More, and with the “heads up” that we will also be examining “Regeneration” as it applies to urban centers and commercial landmarks that are being eroded. We quoted Adapters friend and property investor Chris Holer (even gave his terminology a subhead title in The Adapters) that “the ring around cities is surviving, while the core of the city is emptying and dying like a candy with a hole, hollowed out and half as sweet.”

“For years prior to COVID, [cities like] Barcelona and Madrid (insert the name of just about any other tourist destination city here) had already seen their citizens begin moving out of the city center to local neighborhoods and suburbs as developers and brands moved in to meet the demands of booming tourism. Rents soon skyrockets beyond what many non-branded hotels, restaurants and bars – and the staff that run them – could afford.”

The Adapters

Stay tuned! In addition to further exploration of the Travel Trend Report predictions, we will also be going on an expedition to see who is tackling the “Hole in the Candy crisis, looking for the adapters and innovators who are re-shaping the city centers that faced the danger of being hollowed out by development and brand overfishing, and were then devastated by pandemic-created closures and the impact of the Work From Home (WFH) migration away from traditional offices.  The old term “Urban Blight” was usually applied to a city that had gradually fallen on hard times. COVID 19 is pushing that blight with disheartening speed into places where “boom,” not “blight,” was the better descriptor only a year ago. But there are creative Gutsy Genius Thinkers, adapters and innovators and entrepreneurial risk-takers already on the case! and maybe offer a few recommendations of our own on just how to refill the middle with regenerative goodness!

Photo: Playa Viva, Mexico