Regenerative Tourism: The Natural Maturation of Sustainability

Recognition that the economic engine of tourism, as currently practiced, is unsustainable, is slowly entering mainstream awareness. In times of such rapid and radical change on every front (environment, economy, politics, society and technology), tourism is proving far more vulnerable than many want to admit.

It’s as if this sector is stuck between a rock and a hard place – more success, in terms of numbers’ growth, brings with it problems of congestion, resentment from local residents, and environmental stress, along with the start of a long decline in visitor satisfaction, the number of repeat visits and or referrals. At the same time, a host of external factors – be they climate-related, natural hazards (fires, floods) that result in infrastructure damage; or food or water shortages; economic slowdown in source markets; growing political instability; and rapid changes in public values can all cause demand  to stop. Elsewhere, I have likened the current scale and scope of demand to a “tsunami” that we cannot control. It’s worth noting that, in nature, tsunamis cause as much damage on their retreat from a shoreline as they do racing up it. 

In response to these increasingly wicked challenges, a small but growing number of thinkers from within and outside tourism are now applying their time, imagination and brain power to conceive of an alternative way of “seeing/framing” and delivering hospitality services at a scale and in a manner that delivers positive net benefit to all participants (commercial and non-commercial hosts and guests). In fact, we go further, believing that tourism has the potential to become an agent of positive transformation that can contribute to a better quality of life for all.