Rope bridge in the rainforest of Costa Rica | A Traveler's Guide to Regenerative Tourism Principles

A Traveler’s Guide to Regenerative Tourism Principles

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Travel can change our lives and be truly transformative. By transporting ourselves to new destinations, we get out of our comfort zones, interact with new cultures, and have the opportunity to truly connect with people from around the world. Travel can be a force for good, but also for evil. While travel has so many benefits, we can’t forget about the downsides to it too – over tourism, the negative impact on the environment, and the effect it has on the locals.

What if I told you that there is a way that it can be be both positive for travelers and destinations alike? That’s where regenerative tourism comes in. By learning the regenerative tourism principles and shifting the way we approach travel, we can change the world small choice at a time. That sounds like a win-win in my book.

Understanding Regenerative Tourism principles

According to the University of Hawaii, “’Regenerative’ tourism is when visitors travel with a mindset to leave a destination better than it was before they arrived, and experiences go beyond a traditional vacation.”

As a kid, I always wanted to be a Girl Scout. It was never in the cards due to my mom working full time and going to college to be a nurse; so, it was always something I regretted not doing. When my oldest daughter showed interest in Girl Scouts, I enrolled her right away. Before I knew it, I was a Girl Scout leader learning all the things that it means to be a Girl Scout.

Now you may be wondering, what rabbit hole did we just go down? Well, one of their key tenants is to ‘leave the place (camping site, beach, earth, etc.) better than you found it’. That little phrase has stuck with me since then and was one thing that was always in the back of my mind when creating Phoenyx Travels. I never knew there was a name for it in travel though – regenerative tourism.

Sustainable Travel vs. Regenerative Travel

But what is regenerative travel? Well combine the Girl Scouts ‘leave the place better than you found it’ tenant with sustainable travel. Regenerative travel is like sustainable travel with its work boots on (a very American idiom, but I couldn’t help it).

According to The World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism is “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”. Regenerative tourism steps up the game from what we’ve known as sustainable tourism.

Instead of just trying to reduce harm, regenerative tourism is all about making places better off than they were before we arrived. It’s about using our love for travel to actually make a positive difference in the world.

It’s more than just a trend; it’s a movement towards traveling in a way that heals the planet and its people. As travelers seek deeper connections and more meaningful experiences, regenerative tourism offers a path to not only explore new places but also to contribute to their revival and betterment. It’s an invitation to be part of something bigger, to turn our wanderlust into a force for good that connects us with the locals, supports communities, and nurtures the environment.

In a world that’s craving positive change, regenerative tourism shines as a beacon of hope and possibility.

5 Core Principles of Regenerative Tourism

1. Enhancing Local Communities

Regenerative tourism means putting local communities first. It’s all about pouring love and resources back into the places we visit instead of using them up and jetting out of there. This means choosing local businesses for our adventures, meals, and souvenirs, ensuring our travel dollars are going straight to the heart of the community.

It’s about connecting and engaging with local cultures in a way that’s respectful and enriching for both visitors and locals alike. By doing so, we help sustain and grow local economies, making our travel experiences more authentic and meaningful. We also leave with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the people and the destination, broadening our horizons to become more empathetic, open-minded global citizens.

2. Environmental Restoration

Our planet is an incredible place and as travelers, we should be committed to keeping it that way. Regenerative tourism focuses on actions and practices that heal the environment, like reforestation efforts in Costa Rica or wildlife conservation. It’s about leaving the natural spaces we visit better than we found them, ensuring they continue to thrive for generations to come.

3. Cultural Preservation and Enhancement

One thing that always blew my mind as a kid was my family taking cruises and only going into port to shop. We could shop anywhere especially in America when stores are open nearly 24/7. Sure, we could get some items cheaper in the destinations, but it always felt wrong to me. Why would we travel all the way to a new country without even exploring or connecting with its people?

My ‘experiences’ while traveling left so much to be desired and made me never really want to do it again because I had never seen it done any other way. It wasn’t until I took a solo trip to Ireland that I truly understood how deep and transformative travel could be. Now, I’m hooked and never looking back.

In regenerative travel, a deep respect for the diverse cultures and traditions that make each destination is unique is necessary. Actively working to preserve and celebrate indigenous cultures to ensure they’re not just preserved but also appreciated and understood by those who visit.

By seeking out cultural experiences, we can work to better understand people to bring about understanding that can bridge gaps between visitors and locals. This fosters a mutual respect that transcends borders.

4. Economic Equity

Fairness is key in regenerative tourism. It’s about making sure the benefits of tourism are distributed equally across communities, ensuring that everyone gets benefits. This spans all areas from buying local artisan’s handmade souvenirs to choosing local restaurants to the accommodations you stay in.

By spotlighting equitable tourism models and sharing case studies of destinations where this balance is achieved, we can encourage practices that support economic justice. It’s about choosing travel experiences that are not only unforgettable for travelers but also beneficial for the communities they touch.

5. Traveler Responsibility

Finally, regenerative tourism reminds us that as travelers, our choices hold much power. It calls on us to take responsibility for our impact, encouraging us to adopt travel practices that align with regenerative travel principles.

From choosing eco-friendly accommodations to resisting tourist traps in favor of more authentic experiences to volunteering for a beach clean up, every choice we make from the planning of a vacation to the last moments we spend there makes a difference. Sharing practical tips for travelers to embrace these practices can empower each of us to become agents of change, turning our journeys into opportunities for positive impact.

Embracing these principles not only enriches our experiences but also contributes to a more sustainable and equitable world. As we journey with these values in mind, we transform our adventures into catalysts for change, ensuring that the places we love continue to flourish and inspire.

Implementing Regenerative Tourism as a Traveler

Alright, so how do we actually apply regenerative tourism principles while we’re on the road? It’s about making choices that feel good not just for us, but for the planet and the people we meet along the way.

1. Personal Actions That Make a Difference

Think about the little things that add up. Like saying no to plastic whenever you can, respecting local customs and etiquette, or even just being mindful of your water and energy use. So, bring a few reusable bags, a reliable water bottle that you can refill, and research your destination beforehand. It’s about being the kind of traveler who leaves a place a bit brighter than when they arrived.

2. Choosing Where to Stay and What to Do

When picking a place to stay and things to do, go for options that are good for the planet. Look for places to stay that care about being green and activities that support the local community and culture. It’s about making choices that help, not hurt, the places you visit.

Consider eco-friendly hotels, tours operated by local communities, or entities that actively contribute to the preservation of their local environment and heritage. This approach ensures that every choice made contributes positively to the solution, aligning travel decisions with broader goals of sustainable travel practices and respect for host communities.

Certifications to Look for and What They Mean

  • Green Globe Certification: This is the highest level of sustainability achievements in the travel and tourism sector. It puts the responsibility travel businesses, focusing on genuine travel experiences that safeguard both the environment and local communities.
  • Certified B Corporation: This global certification recognizes companies for their strong performance in sustainability, ethical practices, and transparent practices.
  • EarthCheck: This organization offers a scientific approach to evaluation and advising on sustainable practices within the travel and tourism sector. It assists enterprises, communities, and governmental bodies in developing destinations that are environmentally responsible, secure, and beneficial for visitors.

3. Lending a Hand with Local Projects

Ever thought about linking up with a local volunteer project while you’re visiting a destination? It could be anything from helping out at a community garden, joining a beach clean-up, or spending a day at an animal sanctuary. You get to meet amazing people, learn new skills, and actually contribute to the place you’re visiting. Plus, it’s the kind of experience that sticks with you, way more than just hitting the usual tourist spots.

If you’re interested in volunteering while traveling, read our article Voluntourism: Get Inspired to Make a Difference to learn about how to get involved!

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Challenges and Opportunities in Regenerative Tourism

Embracing regenerative tourism isn’t always the easiest option especially when pre-packaged vacations and internet ads for tourist traps creep onto your social feeds. From finding truly eco-friendly accommodations to understanding the real impact of our travel choices, the challenges can sometimes feel daunting.

But the payoff to the extra leg work is knowing that you are doing the best you can at making better choices for yourself, the destination, and the people who live there.

Overcoming Obstacles as a Traveler

So, how can we be more informed so that it isn’t a constant search every single time we step out of our door? It starts with education and awareness.

By doing our homework and asking the right questions, we can better identify and support genuine regenerative tourism efforts. And each time we do this, it gets easier and easier until it becomes second nature to us. This shift in our approach to travel not only simplifies the process but also enriches our experiences, making each journey more meaningful and impactful.

Embracing flexibility in our travel plans and being willing to go off the beaten path can also lead to more authentic and impactful experiences. Remember, every small choice and action counts towards a larger change.

New Zealand lake surrounded by trees with mountains in the background

Regenerative Destinations

One example of a destination embracing regenerative tourism is Costa Rica. This lush, green country has long been at the forefront of eco-tourism, but it’s taking things a step further by integrating regenerative practices into its tourism model. From its commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050 to its extensive network of protected areas that visitors can explore responsibly, Costa Rica is showing the world how tourism can be a force for environmental restoration and community development.

Then there’s New Zealand with its “Tiaki Promise,” New Zealand . Tiaki means “to care for people and place” in Māori, and the promise invites travelers to commit to caring for its stunning natural environment, vibrant culture, and friendly communities.

Take a cultural (and chocolate!) tour to the Bribri Indigenous Reserve where proceeds go to the Bribri people who have opened their reserve to travelers to bring in income and teach others about their culture. If you are an animal lover, consider connecting with the Volunteer Program at Wildlife Rescue Center where you can learn about local wildlife and conservation while assisting in maintaining the grounds!

From conservation efforts that travelers can participate in like hands-on experience in habitat restoration to the emphasis on supporting local Maori-owned businesses, New Zealand is crafting travel experiences that are deeply enriching and inherently regenerative.

Conclusion

Looking ahead, the horizon is bright with opportunities for regenerative tourism to redefine travel. This movement has the potential to foster closer connections between travelers and destinations, creating a more respectful and enriching exchange. For destinations, it’s an opportunity to showcase their natural and cultural assets while ensuring their preservation for future generations. For travelers, it offers a deeper, more meaningful way to explore the world, knowing that their travels contribute positively to the places they visit.

In a world that’s increasingly conscious of the need for sustainability, regenerative tourism stands out as a beacon of hope and transformation. As we navigate its challenges, the opportunities it presents for making a real difference are limitless. By choosing to travel regeneratively, we’re not just tourists passing through; we’re active participants in shaping a more sustainable and equitable world.

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