Everybody was happy when the Covid-19 travel restrictions ended and people could travel again. Famous tourists spots were once again flocked with visitors, which was a much awaited boost for the tourism industry. But after enjoying two years of quiet, destinations quickly realised that being constantly crowed is not the best and, more importantly, sustainable choice.
More and more traditionally touristic hotspots are turning to a quality over quantity approach, implementing measures to fight overtourism in a bid to maintain local scenes as they are. Venice is famously introducing a booking and taxing system this year to limit the daily number of visitors. Sardinia is also introducing tourist fees during the more congested summer season. French Polynesia is simply introducing an annual tourist cap of 280,000 people, while Mallorca plans to reduce the number of available hotel beds to just 430,000 over the entire island.
While sustainable tourism builds on the idea of not altering the places one visits, there is an additional step that can be taken in the right direction: Regenerative tourism.
Sustainable tourism is sort of a low bar. At the end of the day, it’s just not making a mess of the place. Regenerative tourism says, let’s make it better for future generations.Jonathon Day, Associate Professor at Purdue University, told The New York Times
The term ‘regenerative’ has been used before. In architecture, agriculture or development of other sorts, it has been a way of showing a certain action cared about restoring and regenerating something to its former state. A better state. And the same goes for regenerative travel and tourism. Instead of just leaving things like they were, the trip actually has a positive impact.
“Regenerative travel is proactive and intentional, making an area better or improving it, as opposed to just sustaining it, and ensuring the greatest positive impact is achieved as a collective – using the power of travel to transform lives, offer restorative and immersive experiences that give back to our planet and empower our people at the same time”, described Grant Woodrow, Wilderness Safaris’ Business Development COO.
Members of the Network of European Regions for Sustainable and Competitive Tourism (NECSTouR) have already recognised the importance of regenerative tourism, creating in 2018 the Barcelona Declaration “Better Places to Live Better Places to Visit” to respond to residents’ concerns about the uses of territorial assets for tourism activity. Since then, local community well-being (society, environment and business), as well as the climate emergency and business innovation, are driving the transformation of their tourism strategies. This is also reflected in their governance models and marketing focus, moving from a sustainable tourism approach to a regenerative, value-driven model.
To deepen on the principles laid out in the Barcelona Declaration, Catalonia and NECSTouR then organised a conference showcasing how territories could deliver on the targets of the Tourism Transition Pathway, based on which the “Regenerative Tourism Persona Ecosystem” report was created. The event’s outcomes are presented through personas representing all players in destinations (Destination Management Organisations – DMOs, Businesses, Associations, the Local Community, the Visitor and the Place) as part of a living system.
Every “persona” is described through their characteristics and changing factors and accompanied by real-life cases that make the descriptions even more concrete. Multiple descriptions of personas and their characteristics seem to overlap, which highlights the interconnectivity of the tourism ecosystem.
The report and its findings will be presented to destination leaders on 16 March, during NECSTouR’s two-day Masterclass “Empowering destination leaders to deliver Sustainability“, taking place in Lanzarote.