Why The Future of Sustainable Tourism Needs To Be Different

When we typically think of sustainable travel, going strawless, carbon credits and reusable water bottles come to mind.

While all of these practices can mitigate a travel footprint, the Regenerative Travel’s Summit depicted why the future of sustainable tourism needs to be unconventional.

Consider Your Own Backyard First

Having spent over 36 years designing hotels as an award-winning architect, interior designer, and landscaper, Bill Bensley, noted that whenever he received a manual on hotel standards, any mention of sustainable tourism would be entirely absent. As a result, Bensley created a free guide called the Sensible Sustainable Solutions that outlines his expert knowledge hoteliers can assimilate into their own sustainable planning standards. Bensley also understands profit must be part of the equation, “You can’t go into business without having to think about money, but having a secondary or tertiary thought about how to make that hotel serve the purposes of the villagers around them or the people around them or the ecology in which it sits to be more sensitive.”

Zita Cobb, Founder and CEO of Shorefast and Innkeeper at Fogo Island Inn, illustrated the importance of design for sustainable tourism in her own Newfoundland backyard and how their business model, from the start, integrated their fishing village into the fold, “The departure point for our thinking is nature and culture are the two great garments of human life. Business and technology are the two great tools that can and should serve them.” Cobb further explained, “We don’t think about regenerative business as an add on, we build it in, it’s embodied in everything we do.” The result of beautifully designed hotels that incorporate the environment and all those who reside in and around it, further enhance the sustainable element for all those who grace these spaces.

sustainable tourism
Shinta Mani Wild, a Regenerative Resort designed by Bill Bensley

Level the Playing Field with Technology

For Kyle Wiggins, who is the Co-Founder and CEO of Keteka, a travel company offering authentic experiences throughout Central and South America, technology is the driver to build products for local communities to drive a more equitable operation.

“Our whole kind of thesis is that if we can build technology products that are specifically designed to meet the needs of local guides and operators in emerging markets, it would lead to a greater distribution, wider participation in terms of digital marketing, and transactions for these local guides and operators and then lead to them actually benefiting from tourism the way that they should.” Wiggins described how investors were initially skeptical surrounding the technological prowess of local operators but realized they just needed the platform to connect the technology already in use, “We wanted to design technology that would allow them to interface with the types of technology that they typically interface with on a day to day basis. For local guides and operators, that means being able to accept bookings via SMS and via WhatsApp that communicates directly with our central booking system.”

By providing locals with the tools for more just monetary gain, these experiences continue to reinforce sustainable and authentic collaboration between traveler and guide. 

sustainable hospitality
Experience the Northern Lights (Photo courtesy of PELORUS)

Emotional Awareness For Sustainable Tourism

While metrics must and will continue to be a cornerstone of tracking sustainable efforts, a less quantitative and more qualitative methodology is proving to be just as important in sustainable tourism and regenerative travel. Melina Stoyanova, Founder of Positive Travel, argued, “Travel is not about only data. It’s also about the emotional connection that we have with the place.” Once there is a tie, beyond a monetary exchange, travelers are more likely to ask what Stoyanova explains are the most important questions: “What is the type of experience I would like to have and what is the footprint I would like to leave behind.”

The leadership at PELORUS described how these questions are creating a seismic shift with their clients and how they are choosing to experience these expeditions with a broader connection to place and space. Jimmy Carroll, Business Development Director of PELORUS explained, “We have a client that we’re building a trip for [to] Antarctica and he just doesn’t want to go there to just see it as a voyage. [They] want us to go and have an experience which is actually feeding back and actually bring in scientists and having a scientific element and a research part to that trip.” Geordie Mackay-Lewis, Managing Director of PELORUS, said that this awareness is helping to drive PELORUS to utilize “a 100% sustainable supply chain by the end of 2021.” By marketing destinations beyond that with a “singular face,” as Stoyanova termed it, the travel industry has the opportunity to speak to hearts and minds all while upholding and promoting sustainability. 



Missed the summit? Rewatch the panel on ‘Travel Companies Approaching Sustainability in Unconventional Ways
during The Regenerative Travel Summit here.

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