Move Over, Sustainable Travel. Regenerative Travel Has Arrived.

Move Over, Sustainable(səˈstānəb(ə)l) Travel. Regenerative(rəˈjen(ə)rədiv) Travel Has Arrived.

Can a post-vaccine(vakˈsēn) return to travel be smarter and greener than it was before March 2020? Some in the tourism(ˈto͝orˌizəm) industry are betting(ˈbediNG) on it.

By Elaine Glusac

Tourism, which grew faster than the global gross(ɡrōs) domestic(dəˈmestik) product for the past nine years, has been decimated(ˈdesəˌmāt) by the pandemic. Once accounting for 10 percent of employment worldwide, the sector(ˈsektər) is poised(poizd) to shed(SHed) 121 million jobs, with losses(lôs, läs) projected at a minimum of $3.4 trillion, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council(ˈkounsəl).

But in the lull(ləl), some in the tourism industry are planning for a post-vaccine(vakˈsēn) return to travel that’s better than it was before March 2020 — greener, smarter and less crowded. If sustainable tourism, which aims to counterbalance the social and environmental impacts associated with travel, was the aspirational(ˌaspəˈrāSHənl) outer limit of ecotourism before the pandemic, the new frontier(ˌfrənˈtir) is “regenerative travel,” or leaving a place better than you found it.

“Sustainable tourism is sort of a low bar. At the end of the day, it’s just not making a mess of the place,” said Jonathon Day, an associate professor focused on sustainable tourism at Purdue University. “Regenerative tourism says, let’s make it better for future generations.”

Defining(dəˈfīn) regeneration

Regenerative travel has its roots in regenerative development and design, which includes buildings that meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED standards. The concept has applications across many fields, including regenerative agriculture(ˈaɡrəˌkəlCHər), which aims to restore soils and sequester(səˈkwestər) carbon.

“Generally, sustainability, as practiced today, is about slowing down the degradation(ˌdeɡrəˈdāSH(ə)n),” said Bill Reed, an architect(ˈärkəˌtekt) and principal of Regenesis(ˈrējənə) Group, a design firm based in Massachusetts(ˌmasəˈCHo͞osəts) and New Mexico(ˈmeksəkō, ˈmāhēkō) that has been practicing regenerative design, including tourism projects, since 1995. He described efforts like fuel(ˈfyo͞o(ə)l) efficiency(əˈfiSHənsē) and reduced energy use as “a slower way to die.”

“Regeneration is about restoring and then regenerating the capability to live in a new relationship in an ongoing way,” he added.