Go Green: Making The World a Better Place

By: Joanne Sasvari

Regenerative travel is kinder, gentler, better for the environment, and a whole new way to approach tourism. How will your property take part?

Barcelona, a city of 1.6 million, is inundated with 20 times that many visitors each year; locals are so sick of the crowds that “Tourist go home” signs are as ubiquitous as FC Barcelona ones. It’s a similar situation in Hawaii, in Venice, at Machu Picchu and even in tiny Tofino, where so many tourists showed up the last couple of summers that they ended up sleeping in their cars, camping on back roads, and leaving a trail of litter behind them.

There is no question that tourism is a great revenue generator. But there is also no question that tourism—especially overtourism, the problem of too many visitors in too small a space—is destroying our favourite destinations for the people who actually live in them.

It’s why the industry is now looking to a new model called “regenerative travel.”

“Regenerative travel is all about leaving a destination better than it was.”

Unlike sustainable travel, which aims to reduce the impact of tourism on our environment through, say, recycling programs and carbon offsets, regenerative travel is all about leaving a destination better than it was, both environmentally and socially.

It was already top of mind for many people in the travel industry before COVID came along; the pandemic, devastating though it was, also offered an opportunity for not just a do-over, but a do-better. Expect to see more initiatives like the Tourism Southern Gulf Islands’ “Nothing is the New Something” campaign that urges visitors to show up and just do nothing. It taps into a major wellness trend, but also aligns with islanders’ values of respecting nature, celebrating creativity, and giving back to the community.

Regenerative tourism is all about experiences that go beyond a traditional vacation. That often means interacting with the people who live in the community and supporting their businesses.

And this is a terrific opportunity for hotels and other companies to take a significant leadership role.

For instance, Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino not only provides locally made Sea Wench amenities and locally roasted Rhino coffee in the guestrooms, it partners with organizations like Surfrider Pacific Rim, the Coastal Restoration Society, and the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation to keep beaches clean and preserve the beautiful part of the world where they all live.

The Magnolia Hotel, meanwhile, has created a series of charming free maps that encourage guests to explore Victoria on foot or bicycle and visit local cafés, pubs, boutiques, galleries, and wineries.

Fairmont Hotels have for several years invested in rooftop gardens and hives whose busy bees pollinate the surrounding area. Now Victoria’s Parkside Hotel & Spa has installed two beehives in its own garden, and has also partnered with Tourism Cares, a non-profit dedicated to the long-term survival of the travel and tourism industry as a force for good.

Meanwhile, Hotel Zed in Kelowna and the South Thompson Inn and Conference Centre in Kamloops are among the Biosphere-committed properties in the Thompson Okanagan. Biosphere Tourism is a perfect model of regenerative tourism—it recognizes environmental, cultural, and economic practices as laid out in the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In 2021, the Thompson Okanagan became the first destination in the Americas to receive this certification, which is granted by the Responsible Tourism Institute.

“Regenerative” is also entwined with “reconciliation.”

“Regenerative” is also entwined with “reconciliation,” and many forward-thinking BC properties are forming allyships with First Nations, offering employment, support for their businesses, and space for art and storytelling. Indeed, a growing number of properties, like Ainsworth Hot Springs Hotel in the Kootenays and Klahoose Wilderness Resort on the Sunshine Coast, are now Indigenous owned and operated.

For many years, success in tourism was defined by ever-growing numbers of visitors, even if those visitors only stayed long enough to pick up a T-shirt that’s not even made in Canada.

Now successful tourism is defined by visitors who stay a little longer, spend more money in the community, get to know the people who live there, and have a kinder, gentler impact when they do. Isn’t that something we can all support?