The tourism sector continues to reinvent itself to meet climate challenges. Increasingly fashionable, regenerative travel – or philantourism – seduces travelers by not only limiting the impact on the destination visited… but by aiming to improve it.
On vacation in Hawaii, the environmental activist Michele Bigley remembers having had the unpleasant surprise of seeing a polystyrene cooler floating in the turquoise waters of the island. An unpleasant and unfortunately too banal postcard, visible from Cancún to Barcelona, via Dubrovnik. Choosing not to ignore the incident, the former travel journalist tells on her blog that she put her surfboard down and started picking up all the trash from the beach, soon to be joined by her sons. A seemingly simple gesture, but which could illustrate the future of tourism: the philantourism Where regenerative journey.
Our efforts, guided by the locals, have helped leave this place in better condition than it was before we arrived.
“Where ecotourism is about ‘doing no harm’ and sustainable travel is about ‘achieving net neutral impact’, regenerative travel is about making things better”abstract Amanda Ho, founder of Regenerative Travel agency which brings together hotels with a positive impact around the world. In other words, to leave the place you are visiting in better condition than when you found it. We owe the popularization of the expression, in English regenerative travelto the consultant Anna Pollock, founder of Conscious Travel which supports tourism players in their transformation towards a more virtuous model. In Belgium, she notably worked with the tourist office VisitFlanders on the project Travel to Tomorrow.
For the common good
For Anna Pollock, the real problem is that the success of tourism is defined by the number of… tourists. “Yet systemic flaws accelerate and accompany this growth over time: wealth disparities, environmental degradation, pollution, pressure on land and water, congestion, deteriorating working conditions…”, she explains in Conscious Travel’s manifesto. The ravages of overtourism (also read our article on the subject) on the populations visited will lead Anna Pollock to another reflection: “An economy should exist to serve the common good: the flourishing of its members and the well-being of all of society.”
Thus, it is against the tide of traditional tourism that regenerative travel advances its comforting arguments which, according to Amanda Ho, consist in “to create better living conditions for the environment and for the inhabitants. In this perspective, we focus on the whole ecosystem, both human and environmental, but also on how all the parts are connected to each other”. Planting trees, participating in the preservation of sea turtles, trying agritourism, staying on a zero-waste ranch, kayaking while collecting garbage… Philantourism can take very diverse forms, giving freedom to everyone to find the formula that suits them best.
On her blog and her Instagram account, Michele Bigley gives ways to travel regeneratively, taking as an example his last stay in Hawaii. Book a kayaking trip with a company whose revenue funds children’s programs and the preservation of He’eia National Park. Clean a pond of an invasive algae. Planting eight trees to offset the family’s carbon emissions… “Our efforts, guided by locals, have helped leave this place in better condition than it was before we arrived,” she wrote. We didn’t go there telling them how to improve it, we listened and did what they asked and in doing so, we had an authentic and incredible experience.”
Melissa Salcedo Richards, a marketing consultant and yoga instructor based in North Carolina, had never heard of philantourism before staying at Playa Viva, Mexico. Considered the first regenerative hotel complex in the world, the establishment is entirely built on a virtuous model for the community of the village of Juluchuca, where it is located. Program of reforestationcenter of turtle conservationcommitments for the inhabitants… “The pandemic has caused me to re-evaluate my values, says Melissa. I who used to participate in retreats all over the world, I had never had such an experience. It opened my eyes to the role we all have to play as tourists.” The co-founder of Elemental Escape wellness retreats is going even further, hosting her next event at Playa Viva to “get other people to experience regenerative tourism.”
For Daniela Mastronardi, a student in international affairs, the click happened through agritourism – Where “rural tourism”. On the website of Solimar International, a sustainable travel marketing and consulting firm she worked for, she recounts her experience on a farm in Umbria, Italy, with a group of friends: “Think of it like a bed & breakfast, except tourists are welcome to work on the farm alongside the locals. The experience allowed us to rediscover nature through ancient traditions, such as the collection of olives for the production of oil, she relates. Not only were our meals on the farm made with ingredients grown on the property, but we got to explore a small town we would have overlooked in any other setting, while bonding with the locals.” By pushing us to do more for the community and the environment than what they offer us, philantourism brings us back to the very notion ofhospitality: receiving and giving in return. Noble philosophy which, we hope, will continue to gain followers once post-pandemic habits are found…
Choice of destination, hotel or type of stay…
Here are some ways to start exploring the world differently.
1- Opt for a committed destination
While regenerative tourism still remains confidential, some destinations have chosen to engage in it to show the way. This is the case of Belgium and VisitFlanders who launched the Travel to Tomorrow project to create bridges between tourists and locals, by integrating the vision of the latter into their projects. A step further, the New Zealand Tourist Board has developed the Tiaki Promise (Tiaki Promise, tiakinewzealand.com), a set of guiding principles and advice for travelers wishing to contribute to the preservation and protection of the island. In the same way, Visit Iceland has set up L’Engagement Icelandais (The Icelandic Plegde, pledge.visiticeland.com) and displays attendance figures (number of visitors, peak and off-peak hours, etc.) for major tourist sites in order to predict its arrival at a time when it is there are fewer people.
2- Live unique experiences
Some travel agencies have already embraced regenerative travel. OneSeed Expeditions invests 10% of its revenue in the projects of small local entrepreneurs, while Intrepid achieved carbon neutrality in 2010 and now sets itself the goal of offsetting 125% of its annual emissions each year. In France, In immersion offers micro-immersions – between three days and several weeks – to discover a territory with those who live there. On his side, Evaneos is the first agency in France to have received the B Corp (Benefit Corporation) certification granted to companies that act for the environment (especially in terms of the famous carbon footprint).
3- Choose your hotel well
Catering to travelers who want to stay in places “where their holidays meet their values”, the agency Regenerative Travel offers a selection of independent hotels around the world, which offer immersive stays while having a positive impact on their ecosystem and their communities. The site currently has 24 establishments, from the Oasy Hotel in Italy to the Playa Viva in Mexico, via the Fogo Island Inn in Canada. “We want to change the way people travel, explains Amanda Ho, its founder. In the past, it was a real exchange, from person to person, we traveled to discover a new place by interacting with people and sharing our cultures. Unfortunately, much of the tourism industry has been disconnected from encounters and places. The regenerative journey creates a framework that brings back this fundamental, diverse and equitable experience.”
4- Try agritourism
Staying on the farm while participating in daily activities is another way to get into regenerative tourism. In Italy, rural tourism is already widespread, and you can book your stay on the site agriturismo.it. In the same vein, A Bed in the Meadow allows, for example, to book a stay at the Ferme de Rochefort, in the Ardennes, or even at the Looe Farm dairy farm, on the wild coast of Cornwall (in England). In France, the sites Welcome to the farm and Home Farmer list all farms open to rural tourism.