RIISE had the absolute pleasure to be one of the summit’s media partners this year, hearing from emerging innovators and regenerative travel leaders about the ways in which the tourism industry can be a catalyst for positive change. It left us feeling hopeful and excited about the next chapter of travel, and what it could mean for people and the planet.
We’re not quite done reminiscing on the Regenerative Travel Summit 2021 just yet, so we thought we’d share some quotes that are still on our minds a week later (and probably will be until the summit rolls around again next year).
When we think about the intersection of things happening in the world right now – social movements, climate change, the pandemic, politics, evolving technologies – it can all feel overwhelming. On the other hand, being alive right now, in this moment of chaos and change, is also incredibly exciting. Anna Pollock, the founder of Conscious Travel, captured this feeling in her welcome address on day three. She also reminded us that “we are living at a moment in history where an old system is in decline and a new one is being born. It hasn’t taken shape yet but how it takes shape is up to us”.
With this in mind, it’s a slightly maddening thought that, on the cusp of this shift, the tourism industry (or any business really) could decide to continue practising in a way that pollutes, harms the environment and is detrimental to the wellbeing of local communities.
Cyrill Gutsch, the founder of Parley for the Oceans, joined a discussion about tourism’s role in regenerating nature. Obviously, as Gutsch has dedicated his life work to eradicating plastic, this material was a heavy focus. He called plastic a “design failure” and said it’s “a symbol of a lot of mistakes we are making on this planet”. During his talk, he also presented Parley’s AIR strategy, an initiative based on three pillars: avoid plastic, intercept plastic waste and redesign the material.
As the quote above reflects, Gutsch believes travel can play a huge role in implementing new strategies as it gives people the space to reflect on solutions and connect deeper with the natural world.
Sustainable tourism and hospitality consultant Anna Barrera and consultant for Native American Cultural Tours Alicia Hegland-Thorpe spoke about developing indigenous-owned experiences and creating economic opportunities for native people through tourism. Historically, many indigenous communities around the world have suffered from cultural oppression, colonialism and genocide. When implementing indigenous-based tourism experiences, it’s imperative to build trust and acknowledge who the traditional knowledge holders of that place are.
Beks Ndlovu is the founder of African Bush Camps and the African Bush Camps Foundation, a nonprofit organisation focused on conservation, education and empowerment for the communities that surround the company’s camp locations. Ndlovu was joined by Aziz Abu Sarah, a co-founder of Mejdi Tours, and Kat Lo, the founder of Eaton Workshop, to discuss how we can use travel to build community, elevate critical perspectives and redistribute power. It’s Ndlovu’s view that involving (and educating) local communities in regenerative travel initiatives and tourism businesses can lead to positive change.
Author in sustainability and regeneration, and a principal of Regenesis Group, Bill Reed shared what he has learned from working with hospitality businesses to identify how they can operate in a way that generates value for their communities. Regenerative tourism is not just beneficial for the environment; it also improves the communities people visit. For this to happen, communities need to be seen and respected and have their perspectives heard.
Senior lecturer at Massey University Dr Api Movono echoed a similar sentiment when discussing how communities can co-create frameworks to shift destinations to regenerative models: “A regenerative approach is one which acknowledges its place in the community…Tourism must adopt a custodian approach, acknowledging that it exists as part of a local ecosystem, as a custodian of the nature, people and culture within.”
The co-founder of Regenerative Travel, Amanda Ho, reflected on the closing of the summit with this statement, adding that “we are now at that point where a cycle has come full circle and we are ready to begin anew. To learn from what has been and move forward in greater numbers with a unified mission of ensuring a positive legacy through travel”. The summit, and its incredibly thoughtful lineup of speakers, reminded us of everything we have to look forward to in a future driven by a regenerative mindset. That there is so much good that can come from tourism, and that this industry can benefit and uplift so many individuals.