Tag: regenerative travel

Solimar International’s Director of Conservation & Community Development, Chloe King, has published her White Paper: Climate Action through Regeneration: Unlocking the Power of Communities and Nature through Tourism. Chloe worked alongside Senior Sustainability Consultant, O’Shannon Burns and organizations Regenerative Travel and The Long Run on a year-long research project that sought to determine how tourism can be made into a more regenerative practice by embracing nature-based solutions. 

The paper identifies Five Principles to Develop Effective Nature-Based Solutions that highlight the connectedness between travel businesses, nature, and local communities. This article summarizes the Five Principles and how they interact to make tourism a more environmentally friendly, culturally inclusive, and economically sustainable industry. If you would like to read the full white paper, please visit this link to download: https://bit.ly/3Q3T4Qx

The Five Principles of Regenerative Tourism

1 .Centering Community Needs First

The first Principle to Develop Nature-Based Solutions is centering community needs first. The most important piece of this principle is the ability to build a “collective path forward,” which establishes a relationship between a travel business and local communities that is founded on a mutual understanding of the intrinsic value of nature and a duty to protect it for the greater good of both parties’ interests. The authors note that establishing a sense of place through community engagement can often become a large part of this first principle, because it creates a shared understanding of why preserving the landscape and its inhabitants is important.

Tanzania’s Chole Mjini Treehouse Lodge has helped to address locals’  health and education challenges, embodying Principle 1.

2. Improving Ecosystem Integrity and Biodiversity

Principle number two is centered around improving ecosystem integrity and biodiversity. Tourism companies can use their financial resources to protect and regenerate ecosystems at risk, ensuring that the landscapes they profit from remain as beautiful as they are today when the next generation inherits their operations. In fact, the authors note that just “0.5% of the annual tourism turnover would be needed to fund a complete network of protected areas.” If every tourism company on Earth devoted this small percentage of profits to protecting their local wildlife, they could preserve the ecosystems that travelers like us love to see. Tourism companies that are truly regenerative should be aware of this fact and should actively attempt to support carbon neutrality and biodiversity conservation initiatives in the areas where they do business.

Hotel Tranquilo Bay uses nature based solutions to run their beautiful rainforest lodge

In Panama, Hotel Tranquilo Bay uses a portion of its profits to benefit the conservation of nearby ecosystems, encompassing Principle 2.

3. Embrace Diverse and Inclusive Business Models

Tourism businesses must understand that diversity is key to long-term success. Businesses that develop with social responsibility, equity, conservation, and profit equally prioritized become protected against potential threats. Much like a diverse ecosystem, these “pro-diversity business models” provide a safety net when unforeseen challenges, like theCOVID-19 pandemic, which took a major toll on the industry, arises. A business that can evolve will survive. In addition, employees who work in diverse business environments that support social equity and cultural preservation become more engaged and stay with a company longer. In an industry that relies heavily on staff excellence, every great employee counts! It is also important that businesses consider catering to a wide array of traveler types. The wider a company’s target market is, the more diverse and, in turn, resilient, they become.

Blue Apple Beach Club in Colombia uses their business as a means to address social inequity, exemplifying principle 3.

4. Develop Transparent Governance Structures Accountable to All Stakeholders

This principle makes sure that locals get the same attention as wealthy stakeholders when tourism companies make decisions. Businesses should make sure that they foster relationships with local communities to create a long-term support system. To successfully do this, they must seek to understand the entire space, not just the tourism industry, in their destination. They should also give communities access to the cultural and natural resources that they want to protect. Developing a sense of place and understanding through experience is the best way to keep every stakeholder motivated to continue developing a regenerative tourism model.

In Mexico, Playa Viva is dedicated to co-evolving with the nearby community.

5. Enhance Regenerative Partnerships

The final principle emphasizes the importance of collaboration to regenerative tourism. Tourism companies should serve as a bridge between communities and the government to enhance social and ecological regeneration. Partnerships with NGOs and governmental entities help manage and monitor projects’ success. Without government involvement, it may be difficult to fully understand the effects of a regenerative tourism operation on both human and natural communities. Transparency is key to creating these partnerships. You can’t have a relationship without trust, so being honest about where you are and what you do is important when developing and maintaining valuable partnerships.

South Africa’s Samara Private Game Reserve promotes nature based solutoins

South Africa’s Samara Private Game Reserve has established strategic partnerships with SANparks, NGOs, and local communities to establish wildlife corridors in the region.

Hope for a Brighter Future in the Tourism Industry

Regenerative tourism practices that encompass these Five Principles have the potential to motivate an industry-wide shift toward a “triple bottom line” that values people, planet, and profit equally. Nature-based solutions offer a way for tourism companies to avoid favoring resource extraction and activities that increase pressure on fragile natural spaces to make a profit. These solutions help build businesses that benefit both the environment and the people that call it home. With regenerative tourism, locals, tourism companies, and travelers can feel confident that the trips they provide or purchase are making a positive impact. 

Having worked at Solimar for three years now, Chloe is excited that her research will help contribute to our mission. She told us that her “research attempts to merge regenerative thinking – a field that has drawn upon the vast and diverse array of Indigenous wisdom as seeing humanity as belonging to nature – with practical solutions that the [nature-based solutions] framework provides for tourism businesses seeking to address and adapt to climate change.” With environmental issues like increased storm frequency, sea level rise, and soaring temperatures threatening tourism operations worldwide, regenerative tourism models provide hope that travel can be used as a tool to help ecosystems remain resilient in a warming world. Chloe hopes to “use the Five Principles described in this research as a model to guide how we engage with communities from day one, starting by centering community needs first when designing effective nature-based solutions through tourism”.

We are so proud of Chloe and all her work to make the tourism industry a better place. We look forward to seeing what she does as our Director of Conservation and Community Development. Chloe is currently leading projects in the Maldives and Bangladesh, where she hopes to establish successful community tourism operations that encompass the five principles to develop nature-based solutions. Download the full version of Chloe’s White Paper here: https://www.regenerativetravel.com/whitepaper-climate-action/

Curious how to make regenerative travel work for your destination? Get in touch with Solimar.

Tourist in sunglasses sits on a boat in Thailand surrounded by trees and nature

How Can Tourism Be Regenerative?

Last year, Solimar International’s Director of Conservation & Community Development, Chloe King, conducted a first-of-its-kind study of 30 tourism operators around the world. These tourism businesses—ranging from Destination Management Organizations to community-based homestay networks to high-end eco-lodges—were assessed via in-depth interviews and surveys to understand how centering nature within their business models enabled them to shift from “sustainable” to “regenerative” tourism practices. Led alongside researchers at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, this study did not seek to define what regenerative tourism is, but rather how tourism can be more regenerative by embracing nature as the solution. While “regenerative tourism” seems to be the latest buzzword in the industry, this study sought to ground our aspirations as an industry with practical examples from around the world.

Realigning Our Values with People and Nature

In 2022, our society—and the tourism industry embedded within it—is at a crossroads. The COVID-19 pandemic, once expected to bring about a sweeping “green” transformation of our economy, has failed to catalyze this transition, while further deepening inequality across the globe. As vaccine access remains unevenly distributed across the world, travelers from the Global North feel secure in their ability to travel to the Global South for a vacation, assured in the fact that their visits bring economic opportunities to those who may otherwise lack them. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide emissions worldwide—following a temporary steep drop in 2020—have rebounded, alongside the tourism industry that contributes an estimated 8% of global emissions each year.

Tourism is both a place-based and global industry: it has hyper-local impacts (providing job opportunities to local people) with global ramifications (contributing to climate breakdown that limits the ability of the same communities to adapt and secure a just future). In a stark illustration of this juxtaposition, a recent study found that each Antarctic tourist effectively responsible for melting 83 tonnes of snow. For too long, we have justified these impacts through the economic benefits that the tourism industry brings, once responsible for employing 1 in 10 people globally.

Two elephants crossing a road in a safari park
Less than .5% of the total annual tourism turnover is needed to fund a global network of protected areas. However, emissions from tourism significantly contribute to climate change impacts in the same destinations.

Tourism must begin to fundamentally realign itself with the people and nature it claims to serve, to both rectify the impact it has on our global climate while driving more than just economic gains in the destinations in which it operates. Tourism is more than just money: it can be an opportunity to protect nature and demonstrate its intrinsic value; it can bring people together towards a common vision, such as through the establishment of a DMO;  it can build social bonds, bridge cultures, and raise awareness; and it can bring greater agency to local communities, to bring the life they aspire for into existence.

Regenerative tourism has the potential to transform how we value the act of tourism in itself, beginning a shift from a “visitor economy” to a “resident economy”, where the needs and values of local people are placed above that of temporary visitors. Regenerative tourism seeks to place greater value on nature and human well-being than growth and profit through a whole-of-the-system, place-based, community-led, and environment-centered approach. These regenerative practices can also help to reconcile tourism’s impact on climate with its positive impact on place, by both increasing industry responsibility for reducing emissions while helping communities adapt to climate change impacts that are already underway.

The research we conducted, through in-depth interviews with 30 tourism operators around the globe, shows how this shift is possible.

Embracing Nature in the Regenerative Shift

A regenerative shift across all sectors of our modern economy—from construction to agriculture to transport—will be essential to addressing both climate breakdown and the destruction of wildlife across the globe. This past decade saw the hottest temperatures on record as more species of plants and animals were threatened with extinction than any other time in human history. The research is clear that from ocean to alpine forest—our global ecosystems that collectively absorb 56% of all human emissions each year—we cannot address climate change without protecting and restoring nature.

Nature-based solutions—defined as actions that protect, sustainably manage, or restore ecosystems to provide both biodiversity and human well-being benefits—will contribute a significant portion of total emission mitigation needed over the coming years (estimated at 5 to 11.7 GtCO2e per year by 2030). This must happen alongside deep and far-reaching decarbonization of industries like tourism. But the nature-based solutions utilized by the tourism industry do so much more than just absorb emissions from the atmosphere: they can help communities adapt to climate change, like mangrove forests protecting against storm surges; they can diversify business revenue and enhance destination resilience against crises like COVID-19; and they can protect the intrinsic or cultural values of nature that go beyond attempts at economic valuation, such as the traditional significance of a forest or the beauty of whale song.

humpback whale jumping with a nature reserve in the background
When we value both nature and tourism only in economic terms, we bury things that money cannot measure, such as intrinsic or cultural values that destinations carry.

By embracing nature in the regenerative shift, tourism can begin to center local communities and ecosystems in its response to global challenges like climate change. This will require deep and far-ranging discussions with local stakeholders to engage in conversation around what to protect, restore, and let go of as they strive towards a common and just future. Whether using tourism revenue to restore 200,000 hectares of once pristine wilderness or using tourists themselves as citizen scientists to monitor a small path of coral reef near a resort, centering nature will be key to the regenerative shift in actively improving destinations, rather than just sustaining them.

As the economist and Harvard University professor David Korten wrote:

“The only valid purpose of an economy is to serve life. To align the human economy with this purpose, we must learn to live as nature lives, organize as nature organizes, and learn as nature learns guided by reality-based, life-centered, intellectually-sound economics.”

Regenerative Tourism: Seeking Net Positive Impact on Destinations

By quantifying tourism only through its economic impact, we obscure other aspects that money cannot measure, from vibrant intercultural exchanges and friendships to the nature of collaborative partnerships capable of protecting vast ecosystems. The Regenerative Tourism Framework born from this research process seeks to provide a guide for tourism destinations that wish to measure the impact we must begin to achieve, as the planet warms and wildlife is lost at an alarming rate. Each of the Five Principles, which will be expanded upon in an upcoming white paper publication, are inspired by nature-based solutions and seek to guide tourism practitioners in the regenerative shift. The principles echo other research in this space, underscoring that tourism can no longer be “done” to local communities; it must be done “with and for” them.

Regenerative tourism framework with five principles for tourism practitioners, surrounded by the UN Sustainable Development Goal symbols
The Regenerative Tourism Framework, born from an academic study conducted by Chloe King at Solimar International, aims to guide tourism practitioners in their regenerative journey.

In asking how tourism can be regenerative, we are not arguing that tourism practitioners forgo all attempts at sustainability; efforts that reduce negative impacts, such as transitioning to renewable energy, reducing food waste, or recycling products will be essential in achieving the transition we need. Instead, a regenerative mindset requires simply asking the question: When I travel, or when I receive travelers, what can I do to make sure I have a net positive impact on nature and people in the destination?

Simply sustaining our current system will not be enough to address the scale of all that could be lost if we fail to act quickly. Tourism is capable of doing so much more than just providing economic benefits to a destination, and in fact measuring the other ways it positively contributes to place will be essential in building a more resilient and diversified industry. Regenerative tourism asks us to take a step back and see the bigger picture, and the ways in which the health of communities, nature, business, and visitors intertwine.

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that many facets of the modern economy—interconnected borders, international travel, the office workspace—are not permanent features. With crisis comes an opportunity to reimagine tourism as what it can—and must—become.

If you are interested in reading our upcoming publication with the results from this research, including guidelines and examples of the Five Principles within the Regenerative Tourism Framework for tourism practitioners and destinations, please add your email to an announcement list here. A second blog will also later be published summarizing this report.

local fresh vegetable market indonesia community tourism ethical travel

As more destinations continue to open up for tourism, it is time to redefine ethical travel

After a long, chaotic year and a half of uncertainty, travelers have started to go on vacations and plan trips to get out of their home offices and enjoy something new. With domestic tourism numbers expected to reach record highs worldwide, there is a real concern about negative environmental and social impacts of tourism. The ethical travel question has never been more timely.

Exhaustion of local natural resources, water pollution, and general overconsumption are just some of the potential consequences of tourism’s renewal that destinations face. This puts extra pressure on local communities, especially in regions where resources are already scarce. Increased tourism also concerns the environment, as it affects biodiversity and various natural attributes of a destination, and at times even causes the loss of natural habitats. 

Sustainable tourism and regenerative tourism practices can be the way forward for ethical travelers. These concepts aim to achieve a balance between humans, nature, and the environment, to reduce tourism’s environmental impacts and harness its economic benefits in an egalitarian way. Focusing on reducing the negative impacts of tourism and building resilient surroundings can lead to having positive impacts for the local communities, celebrating cultures, conserving natural heritage, and cherishing ecosystems.

Here are 10 travel tips of how you can contribute to the sustainable development of tourism and travel responsibly:

  1. Ethical Travel Means Staying & Eating Locally

You probably go on vacations to get away from the usual surroundings and explore new destinations, cultures, people and create new memories. What better way is there than to fully immerse in a local lifestyle and travel locally? 

To do that, choose locally managed accommodations and restaurants. Staying at smaller and eco friendly hotels, guesthouses, hostels, and family houses managed by the local people is an amazing way to support local economies. Another reason for choosing smaller accommodations is that emissions from big hotels are usually highest in the big resorts and luxury hotels while smaller lodgings manage to save energy and be more sustainable.

Choosing local restaurants and cafes over big chain restaurants is also a wonderful way to gain a local experience while ensuring that the money you spend goes directly to the community. This will eventually support job creation and generate income for local community members. 

Solimar International is a huge advocate of responsible community-based tourism and sustainable travel. CBT practices also extend beyond the destination community. Visitor experience and community member well-being are equal parts of the sustainable development of the destination. 

  1. Shop Locally to Support Artisans, Artists, Farmers, and More!

The next thing you can do is go to local food markets, small clothing shops, purchase souvenirs from vendors and buy products that are produced locally. This will support the community and give you a chance to buy something unique to this place. Going to local markets is also a wonderful way to explore the culture, meet the people living in the area, and have a better sense of life in the destination.

local women explore fish market

Copyright: Tbel Abuselidze

  1. Choose ‘Slow Travel’ 

There are only so many times travelers go to the same destinations, so people try to pack as many things in the itinerary as possible. This usually results in rushing from one place to another, aiming to simply tick off boxes on the bucket list. This is unethical travel.

Instead, what you might do is slow down and experience the destination, opting for one longer vacation instead of taking multiple shorter trips. Immerse yourself in the destination, enjoy the green spaces, take your time with culture and community, build deeper connections, and explore the destination’s uniqueness. This will reduce the pressure from top tourist attractions, help the local economy, benefit small businesses and help reduce your carbon footprint (especially regarding air travel!). Ethical travel is synonymous with slow travel.  

  1. Participate in Local Activities and Festivals to Engage with the Local Community

There is no better way for an ethical traveler to explore a destination than to spend time with the local community. This helps you understand the culture, traditions, and history on the deepest level while also helping support the local economy and development. Join local cooking classes, buy locally produced hand-crafted souvenirs, attend local festivals, spend the day with people, stroll around the cities, and check out small coffee houses and lesser-known museums. Trust us, you will be amazed by such a travel experience!
community tourism breadmaking

  1. Opt-in to Reusing Hotel Towels and Sheets

More and more hotels try to lessen their carbon footprint by integrating more sustainable ways into their business processes through utilizing clean energy, introducing food waste management systems, recycling, and building local supply chains. However, water and energy use is still quite significant. 

As a traveler, you can save energy and resources like water and electricity by passing on daily washing of sheets and towels. You can also save some energy by turning off the lights, TV, and other electronics when not needed, turning off the AC when leaving the hotel room, and taking shorter showers. 

  1. Be considerate about your food and water consumption

Some destinations suffer from scarce resources more than others. This is why it is so important to be mindful of your food and water consumption during your travels. 

Large resorts in developing countries habitually use enormous amounts of water and food to satisfy the needs of their guests. This creates a shortage for the local community, as well as increased prices on the materials. For example, one average golf course in a tropical country uses around the same amount of water as 60,000 rural villagers. Terrible, right?

Additionally, try to keep food and water from being wasted. Food production from the farm to the table requires huge energy and contributes to your carbon footprint. It is said that food production is responsible for around one-quarter of the carbon emissions in the world. When this food is wasted, all the efforts and negative impacts on our environment are lost for nothing and create further problems for landfills. Fresh water and food are scarce resources – being aware of our consumption can help foster a more sustainable world.

  1. Eat less (red) meat

Evidence shows that moving towards a more plant-based diet is healthier. The water footprint, water pollution, water scarcity, and GHG emissions are all the results of livestock production. Agriculture overexploits resources that result in loss of biodiversity and natural habitat, and is a significant contributor to climate change. 

Choosing to switch to a more plant-based diet, sustainably caught fish, and non-red meat can be a far better option. It can also give you a chance to taste different varieties of meat, unique vegetarian or vegan alternatives, and enjoy your environmentally-friendly meal during your travels. 

local fresh vegetable market indonesia community tourism

Copyright: Alex Hudson

  1. Say No to Plastic 

It is common knowledge that plastic use is damaging our environment and harming the earth. More and more people are switching to alternatives and reducing plastic use in their everyday lives. However, while traveling many of us forget about our habits, and switch to ‘one-time’ mindsets. The plastic used during travel is as harmful for our surroundings as it is used at home. 

The tourism industry generates a huge amount of single-use plastics which is a problem not only for the environment, but also for local disposal systems as well. Plastic bottles are one of the most common plastic items tourists tend to use frequently. So, the next time you pack, remember to take a reusable water bottle with you, a tote bag, reusable cups, and maybe even a metal straw.

water bottle, responsible tourism sustainable recycle

Copyright: Bluewater Sweden

  1. Separate Your Trash and Recycle Where Possible

Tourists can be responsible for twice as much solid waste per capita as residents. This puts an impossibly huge burden on local waste management systems which were initially not built for such a capacity. As a consequence, landfills and sewage plants start to overflow. 

Additionally, improper disposal of trash is causing problems with recycling. All this makes the destinations less attractive and the areas too polluted for residents to live in a healthy environment. Being cautious about the trash you produce during your travel and always opting for recycling can help ease the waste management process for the local communities. 

  1. Fly less, walk, and bike instead of driving

Most of the time flying is to blame for the huge amount of carbon emissions and is one of the biggest polluters in the tourism industry. Airline companies all over the world are trying to develop more sustainable ways of flying, but progress is slow. Choosing a near-to-home location to travel to or your own country itself are sustainable alternatives to traveling. Use a train, bike, or electric car to move around and decrease your carbon footprint. Decreasing your carbon footprint is critical for ethical travel. 

Responsible travelers can switch to walking or biking in destinations. This gives you a chance to experience the locale at a better pace, meet new people and enjoy the journey in general. And if you’re worried about the weather, you can always go for public transport – just bring your raincoat and continue your adventures. This will eventually lead you to discover small shops, new places, and areas you would have never reached otherwise.

Enjoy your fall vacations – leave no trace, and don’t forget to take care of the environment and people around you! Follow these steps and be well on your way towards ethical travel.

Want to learn more about sustainable and regenerative tourism? Take one of Solimar International’s engaging courses. Contact us today

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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