Integrating Regeneration and Hospitality

Written byLaura Field

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An insightful conversation between two industry pillars, Bill Reed of Regenesis Group, a world leader in regenerative development and David Leventhal, co-founder of Regenerative Travel and owner of Playa Viva in Mexico.

Key Takeaway:

Sustainability is just a slower way to die. It takes far more than a less damaging business model to sufficiently nurture and regenerate the environments and communities we work in.

This session reflected the theme of Whole Systems Thinking by zooming out to look at the business of regenerative travel and how businesses can create value for places and people rather than purely extracting from them. The session was moderated by Regenerative Travel’s Katharine Millonzi.

Sustainability Is Not Enough

Much of the narrative around ethical travel choices focuses on ideas of ‘restoration’ and ‘sustainability’. However, given the challenges we face, these methods simply aren’t enough to make the impact we need to see.

Bill Reed quoted William McDonough when saying “sustainability is a slower way to die”. He suggested it takes far more than a less-damaging business model to sufficiently nurture and regenerate the communities we work in.

To enact this change, Bill suggests a paradigm shift in line with Carol Sanford’s Four Modern Paradigms. This moves the focus of a business from extracting value, through ‘arrest disorder’, into ‘do good’ and arriving at ‘evolving innate capability’. In doing this, we harness nature’s ability to recover itself and we as humans can work with nature’s inherent potential.

By analyzing, understanding and respecting the inherent potential of ‘place’ before development for a travel destination, we can come to understand the unique possibilities and requirements of that place. In this way, the development process works to its strengths from the outset and the two can evolve together.

To do this, we need a number of new practices and we must continually regenerate our relationships with the people and places we work with. Bill’s view of this necessary paradigm shift underpins many of the themes of panels from this year’s summit and suggests an overarching necessity of shifting systems altogether.

Relationships Are An Asset, Not A Resource

As mentioned previously, business models have historically centered around the concept of what can be extracted from relationships rather than how they can be valued as a powerful asset.

Whether we’re talking about our human relationships with staff and the broader community or our relationship with place and the environment around us, being mindful of consulting and honoring those with whom we have a relationship can be key to creating co-evolutionary processes.

David shared his outlook on relationships with staff as something at the forefront of how he runs Playa Viva. Rather than extracting value and energy (something Bill had touched on earlier), he honors the freedom and individuality of each member of staff and the value that this in turn brings to his business. Those staying at Playa Viva are able to learn from the local knowledge of staff, who are respected on par with guests and are valued as crucial components of the Playa Viva experience.

Whichever angle you look at this ethos from, you see positive impacts, from the unique knowledge the business and guests can gain from staff to more fulfilled employees which build greater strength in a business. On a basic level, honoring the people you work with is also representative of a broader ethos of honoring a place and building more ethical relationships with the environment around you.

Hotels And Resorts Can Shift Towards Regeneration

While some businesses aim to be regenerative from the start, it’s important to remember that the paradigm shift that Bill discussed is not just applicable to new enterprises but pre-existing frameworks can undergo the paradigm shift in order to restructure regeneratively.

Playa Viva embarked on this journey with the help and knowledge of Bill and the Regenesis Group in order to prioritize working with both the people and place around them in the context of Mexico which saw them becoming a founding hotel for Regenerative Travel. As David stressed, ‘intention’ is all well and good but is not enough on its own, you need the ‘know-how and resources’ to shift towards regeneration properly.

Regenerative Travel realizes the importance of sharing knowledge and helping others to achieve the same level of understanding so we can all have a greater impact. In this discussion, Bill touched on how he worked with David at Playa Viva and continues to work with hotels through Regenerative Travel’s Aspiring Members Program. This program guides businesses through the paradigm shift towards operating in line with RT’s criteria for regenerative business practices. 

Both Bill and David touched on the importance of a ripple effect of positive change rather than individual, isolated cases of regenerative changes. By influencing and sharing with those around us and sparking curiosity, we can build regenerative communities and have a wider positive impact.

This panel discussion was part of the 2021 Regenerative Travel Summit.

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