During Climate Week NYC 2020, we hosted our first annual Regenerative Travel Summit. More than 1,800 people attended the virtual event and more than 40+ speakers were engaged including conservation experts, environmental economists, business owners, hoteliers, and journalists to find regenerative solutions.
Built to foster solutions-oriented conversations, the three-day virtual summit featured a mix of panels, focused on tourism and hospitality and how we can move beyond sustainability to regeneration in order to reverse climate change and use tourism to rebuild for a more positive future. The five regenerative solutions that emerged out of the summit:
1. Radical Transparency
A maxim in economics holds that transparency makes markets work more efficiently. Why not also apply this economic theory to the ecological and social impacts of the tourism industry? Zita Cobb, CEO of Shorefast Foundation and Innkeeper at Fogo Island Inn, has pioneered the idea of “economic nutrition” as a means to help increase buyer awareness of the economic impact of their purchasing decisions to the local market while also spotlighting seller accountability about how much they are extracting from the local economy. She championed a kind of radical transparency that shows where the money goes. By doing so, “we can avoid all of the greenwashing and the social washing and the marginalizing of local people, because it’s not dignified for local people, and it’s not dignified for the visitors.”
Fighting climate change will require real collaboration across all stakeholders including the public and private sectors and the full engagement of our society and communities. Anna Pollock, the founder of Conscious Travel, believes that in order to instill regeneration as a completely new way of thinking, collaboration is critical as she states: “It’s a completely new frame in terms of our relationship with the planet and with each other. It’s a quantum leap. It’s a mindset shift. It’s big enough that it’s going to take all of our lives to see it come into full fruition, we’re at the beginning of a fundamental paradigm shift, but it’s one that the tourism industry has to participate in.” Similarly, Dr. Dune Ives, Managing Director of Lonely Whale shares that: “Collaboration is key. We have to start sharing more information about incredible work that others are doing in a non-competitive way because the ocean is our number one source of life. And if we don’t start doing this now, it doesn’t matter how many awards somebody wins. It doesn’t matter how much funding somebody gets. It doesn’t matter how many customers someone has. It’s not going to matter.”
3. Create Resilience From Diversification
Economic diversification is a key component of regenerative development as it calls for a shift from vulnerable products and jobs to a broader range of solutions including income sources that are low-emission and more climate-resilient while reducing poverty and generating employment. As Elizabeth Ojo, Director of Operations at ALU School of Wildlife Conservation points out: “The truth is diversification is the key for building resilience, whether you’re an individual, an organization, a business, or a country. Empires are built when organizations decide to diversify either vertically or horizontally.”
Education is an essential element of a global response to climate change in looking at regenerative solutions. It helps people understand and address the impact of global warming, encourages changes in their attitudes and behavior, and helps them adapt to climate change-related trends. Harsha L’Acqua, Founder of Saira Hospitality, who has championed education and training through her non-profit organization by specializing in pop-up hospitality schools, highlights one of the benefits of offering education: “It’s a very obvious way to connect with the community – you’re training local communities. It’s a very deep relationship that’s formed between the hotel and the community when you give education.” Dr. Tara Stoinski shares that at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, they focus on building the next generation of conservation leaders by working with institutions of higher learning in Rwanda to train young Rwandans who are interested in conservation careers.
5. Diversity and Inclusion
Diverse and inclusive cultures cultivate a wider variety of ideas, effective problem solving, and, ultimately, greater chances of success. The travel industry must be proactive and decisive in driving this agenda across the sector if we are to bring forward more effective climate solutions. Diversity also provides more resiliency in natural systems and regenerative travel. Teresa Baker, Founder of Outdoor CEO Diversity Pledge, urges communities to work together to tackle some of our biggest threats: “Look at all the damage that we’ve done to the environment. And part of that is that we’re not bringing in communities who have dealt with these issues forever. We need to bring in these communities and their beliefs and the way they’ve interacted with the environment for generations to better understand what we need to do as people.”
Recordings of the summit are now available to rewatch on regenerativetravel.com/summit.