‘Regenerative tourism’ is on the rise, but what does it actually mean for the environment? Earthrise’s Social Media Producer Vee Panday investigates.

Sustainable tourism, have you heard of it? Every travel blog on the planet is shouting about the five ways we can travel sustainably, the top 10 eco-resorts to visit on your next vacation or the six ways one can become a more eco-friendly tourist. But what does sustainable tourism really mean? It generally entails the minimising negative impacts of tourism, meaning trying to pursue low-carbon travel by walking or riding a bike, going to vegan restaurants, and picking eco-friendly accommodations. At its core, it’s pushing back against the idea that tourism is damaging to the environment and that if we travel, we should do so in a way that avoids this adverse impact.


Is that really enough, though? Enter, regenerative tourism: The new kid on the block.


What if people didn’t just focus on finding sustainable and eco-friendly holidays or vacations – but rather, went a bit further than that? A New York Times article coined the term ‘regenerative tourism’ back in 2020, simultaneously kickstarting a new movement. The article emphasised how regenerative travel promised a long-term positive impact, as opposed to sustainable tourism which promised to counterbalance the negative social and environmental impacts associated with travel. In other words, instead of doing no harm, it’s about leaving somewhere in a better state than it was found in. 

At its core, regenerative tourism addresses the idea that it’s not as simple as just stopping travelling altogether. For one, economies depend on tourism. Countries such as Antigua, Bermuda, Maldives, Mauritius, Kenya are many such destinations that haven’t fully recovered from the pandemic and require travellers to fill the revenue gap they once brought to their economies. For many communities, it’s their main source of income. Globally, it’s also a massive industry with as many as 1 in 10 people work in tourism.  But despite tourism’s important role, it was clear something had to change. 


So in 2020, six responsible travel groups joined forces to build the Future of Tourism Coalition which called on industry organisations to follow 13 guiding principles. These guidelines covered both a traditional sustainability model and a regenerative ethos. 


They sparked a movement. By August, around 20 travel groups had pledged their support. Now, more than 600 organisations have signed on and initiatives are popping up all over the world. 


Here are four different examples of what’s being done in the regenerative tourism space. 

Community Empowerment and Cultural Revitalisation – The Manta Resort in Tanzania


Regenerative tourism seeks to empower local communities economically and socially. Travellers are encouraged to spend money in ways that directly benefit local economies. The Manta resort on Pemba Island in Tanzania is a primary sponsor of the Kwanini Foundation which works in collaboration with local tourism industry stakeholders, the community and the government. This includes protecting reefs from exploitation while promoting the natural regeneration of the reef. 

Conservation Partnerships – Arenas del Mar in Costa Rica

These partnerships work together to implement projects that have a positive impact on the environment and society. Arenas del Mar in Costa Rica is another great example where nature conservation is an integral part of the hotel’s sustainability philosophy. Guests can choose to plant trees or donate to local schools. 

Ecosystem Restoration – Oasyhotel in Italy


Initiatives like reforestation, wetland restoration, and marine conservation are involved in this approach. Tourists might participate in tree planting, wildlife habitat restoration, and other activities that enhance the natural environment. For example, Oasyhotel is located in the heart of Tuscany, within the WWF-protected Oasi Dynamo reserve. With thousands of hectares of land, forests, farmland, lakes and rivers surrounding it, it has strict protective restrictions for its rare plants and incredible wildlife. 

Sustainable Infrastructure Development – Basata Eco-Lodge in Egypt


This could involve using renewable energy sources, implementing waste reduction programs, and improving water management systems to minimise environmental impact. The Basata Eco-Lodge which is located in South Sinai, Egypt, is a great example that uses this restorative practice. Every aspect of the eco-lodge is designed in a way to reduce its impact on the planet with beach huts and chalets constructed from locally-sourced clay, straw and animal manure. Desalinated water is used for showers which then gets funnelled back to the plants around the property, preventing any water waste. 

While it seems promising, regenerative tourism still has been criticised. These idyllic hotel resorts are often seen by people as too expensive. Regenerative tourism mainly sits in the realm of luxury travel, which many find inaccessible.


 “How should you travel?”, then, is a complex question to answer, especially within today’s current landscape of the climate crisis. And while regenerative travel seeks to address what sustainable travel lacks – that is, a more empowering and beneficial relationship between travel and the environment – it still feels like it is in its early stages. Of course, it’s no bad thing to want to fuse your vacation with doing good for the planet, but let’s make sure that its benefits really do outweigh the costs.

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