How moving beyond sustainable travel and giving back to a destination will make you a better traveller

Four years into a global pandemic the world is finally starting to embrace travelling again. However, as predicted when everything shut down for Covid, how we travel might never be the same again.

It’s not just the lingering concerns about new viruses and thus the need to maintain safeguarding standards against diseases. And it’s also not simply down to travelling more sustainably, which is crucial and had already started to change parts of the travel industry prior to the pandemic – but only scratches the surface.

Instead, what we need to focus on when travelling in future is how our travels can support the plant.

Regenerative Travel: What is it, why is it important and how can you achieve it?

We all know, when we travel, we leave an impact on the plant. And for many, taking steps to travel in a responsible, sustainable way is already part of how we travel.

However, sustainable travel is only the beginning. Because not making a negative impact is great. But giving back to the places we visit in a positive way must become our ultimate goal each time we pack our bags and leave for our next adventure.

What is regenerative travel?

Simply said, regenerative travel is not about you but about the place you visit. Thus, giving back more to the place then you take from it.

To understand what this means, you need to know more about regeneration in the first place.

The most common definition of regeneration is: ‘the process of renewal, restoration and tissue growth to build resilience to natural fluctuations and events that cause disturbance and damage’.  

Regenerative Travel: What is it, why is it important and how can you achieve it?

Some striking examples how regeneration works for a place include the incredible recovery that has taken place at destinations that for decades have seen huge tourist numbers, and recently struggled from overtourism. When the world shut down in early 2020 and travel came to a stop, places like Venice in Italy have dramatically recovered from the damage large crowds of tourists have left over recent years. Benefitting in particular water quality and thus maritime wildlife but also avoiding a huge amount of litter typically left by day tourists.

In future, making sure a destination can either recover, rebuild, or grow despite welcoming travellers must be our main goal when travelling.

Why is regenerative travel important?

I mean, it’s obvious, isn’t it?

Regenerative travel not only helps to improve local economies, preserves local culture, and supports biodiversity and an intact environment, allowing destinations to improve. Most importantly, all this will contribute to preserving the planet for future generations.

Regenerative Travel: What is it, why is it important and how can you achieve it?

What are the aspects of regenerative travel you need to follow?

As a regenerative traveller, you need to make sure the destination you visit can benefit from the visit. Thus, your visit needs to contribute to enhancing the local conditions, for example contributing towards a local community project, preserving local cultures, restoring endangered land and forests, or support local animal sanctuaries.

So here are some easy steps to incorporate into your travel planning to make your future trips regenerative:

  • Do not contribute to overtourism at a popular destination. If you wish to travel to places like Venice, the popular Greek islands, Machu Pichu in Peru, and even perhaps lesser-known destinations like Hallstatt in Austria, the quaint little town that was overrun by tourists after featuring in some prominent Instagram feeds, the timing of your visit is essential. Though these places are often year-round destinations, there are still times when visitor numbers are lower. In addition, if you wish to visit, do not come as a day tourist. Instead, book overnight accommodation. That way you contribute more towards the local businesses and have the added benefit to experience the place when all day tourists have left.
  • Actively avoid traveling to places that exploit the environment, local communities, vulnerable populations, and animals. For example, if you are planning to go on a safari in Africa, make sure to pick a game reserve or tour operator contributing to nature conservation and wildlife protection.
  • When booking through tourist agencies, tour operators or international hotel chains, carefully check if these are following the practices of responsible, regenerative travel. For example, do they contribute to programmes supporting local communities, collaborate with local environmental or nature conservation initiatives, or otherwise support local businesses and culture? Around the world, a growing number of hotel brands (mostly those with a strong local focus) have created such partnerships. Therefore, before booking your accommodation, make sure to check out if a particular brand engages in such partnerships. Or book directly with a local business.
  • How you spend during your stay strongly contributes to regenerative travel as well. For example, make sure to spend your money at local businesses, in particular independent local shops, restaurants, travel guides, and local culture and art initiatives.
Regenerative Travel: What is it, why is it important and how can you achieve it?

Are you already a regenerative traveller? What are you doing or planning to do to make sure your travels are regenerative?