One industry that has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic is the travel industry. However, at the Global Wellness Summit (GWS) that took place on Nov. 8-10, 2020, multiple experts discussed the idea and concept of regenerative travel.
Cathy Chon, managing partner of Catch On, interviewed Amanda Ho, cofounder of Regenerative Travel in Hong Kong, and Anna Pollock, founder of Conscious Travel in the UK, to discuss the concepts of regenerative travel, sustainable tourism and building the travel industry back up after Covid-19.
What is Regenerative Travel
While being green often means doing less damage and sustainability is about finding a neutral ground, the term regenerative is about making something better. "Regenerative travel for us is building the framework for travel that brings back that core experience of a non-extractive, inclusive, diverse and equitable travel experience," explained Ho. Pollock explained how tourism has become a selfish industry in the sense that most people are doing it because there is something in it for them, but unless people start to put an effort to the health and wellness of the world as a whole we will continue to generate the same error of Covid-19 in different forms. Regenerative travel opens that door to educating clients on how they can essentially leave any place they travel to better than when they arrived.
Ho and her team found the opportunity to create a platform for regenerative travel that they felt was missing in the industry, but it isn't just about the look or feel of travel. It goes more in depth on the actual experience that is being provided. "We really believe that sustainable travel was just the first step. Regeneration is actually a paradigm shift. It requires a change in how we think based on the language we use and the meeting of the language to understand that meaning," Ho stated.
Where most travel experience is all about the client, regenerative travel is unique in the sense that clients come second in terms of importance. Regenerative travel is really about the protection and regeneration of the place.
Bringing Regenerative Travel to Your Hotel
Ho explained that while it can be helpful to start a regenerative design from the ground up, it is not a necessity. Where the true ability to create and start a regenerative hotel comes from management. "They may not know the language of regeneration, but if the intentions are right, it will flow from that," Ho said. A lot of the responsibility of regenerative travel falls on the hotel itself in educating clients on how regenerative travel works.
Ho emphasized that many travelers did not want to go back to traveling the way they did before after experiencing regenerative travel. The typical client who is interested in regenerative travel already has an interest in making more meaningful and sustainable choices when it comes to travel. These people are often thought of as "label readers," which really means that they are making very conscious decisions to make sure that everything they do adheres to their own values.
Wellness resorts play a key role in regenerative travel with many already starting farm to table food options and focusing on their carbon footprints. However, Ho explained where wellness resorts have room for improvement when it comes to making an impact on the regenerative travel train. Being a traveler is about immersion into where they are, and sometimes wellness resorts get stuck in a prescriptive style program that does not pull the travel back to the earth, which is key to the regenerative connection. "Hotels need to think about where they are located and the place, and how they can bring back that local culture and experience back into the property and into the programming," Ho said.
Pollock furthers this by explaining how this is not a buzzword that resorts should jump on as a trend or a quick fix: "Regenerative development is a completely different pattern of thinking, so we have to learn to see ourselves differently." Pollock explained that regenerative thinking is more about figuring out the purpose of the destination and how it works, how to learn from how the destination exists, and how every species is contributing to other aspects of the destination.
Covid-19 was not something that came out of thin air. Pollock explained that the pandemic was a direct cause from the way we've been living on the planet with expanding and extracting our resources. "In the long run, all of the data is showing that if we make the shift in living in more balance and harmony in the natural world, if we reduce our fundamental impact, if we start to restore the damage that we've done, if we work with nature's principal to rebuild, then we will end up having a far more prosperous, stable and resilient economy than we have at the moment," Pollock stated.
Making the tourism and travel industry really become "future proof" falls to a true shift in thinking to aid the ecosystem. People have to stop thinking about themselves as an individual and realize that they're part of a living system. To further this, diversity is a key aspect to surviving in the long run, because you do not rely on one source. "The fundamental shift is that we are as much a part of nature and nature is us. We are not separate. If we continue to think that we are either separate or superior and act accordingly then we will pay a consequence," Pollock stated.