In his inaugural conference during the opening of the “First Regenerative Tourism Congress, the new initiative for change”, the Chilean Martin Araneda, co-founder of the Global Regenerative Tourism Initiative, invited his audience to redirect its gaze toward the evolution of the tourism sector .“Our destiny is never a place, but a way of seeing the world,” began Martin, quoting the writer Henri Miller. In his engaging talk, he invited us to join him on an exciting evolutionary journey to help us understand the urgent need for a transition towards so-called regenerative tourism.
Today, we observe that most world destinations have been restricted due to Covid 19 and that uncertainty has become the new reality. The time has come to ask ourselves things like, “What can we leave behind? What do we want to keep? How can we avoid repeating the mistakes we were making in tourism?” By force, we must confirm that we are amid a great planetary environmental crisis, including loss of biodiversity, the mass extinction of species, soil degradation due to intensive agriculture, and the pollution of the seas by plastics.
Since the Industrial Revolution, the human population has grown exponentially, demanding an increasingly extensive use of land for agricultural purposes and rapidly growing CO2 emissions due to production methods based on fossil fuels resulting in a serious impact on the planet.
“You can’t grow infinitely on a finite planet,” he stated. We are playing with the limits of nature and, therefore, we must question our ways of life and seriously begin to regenerate ourselves. Today, humanity annually occupies the equivalent of 1.7 planets, which means we are consuming more resources than the planet can regenerate in this same period. If we all consumed like the inhabitants of the United States, we would need five planets.
We are in the age of the Anthropocene, a term that designates the time when human activities began to cause major biological and geophysical changes on a global scale. Therefore, it is urgent to evolve the egocentric human being towards a more eco-systematic one who should contribute to greater collaboration between species.
In our modern societies, human beings seem to have been reduced to economic machines focused on material performance, where we observe how the society based on competition sees nature as a resource to be exploited in an unlimited way. Martin intuits that sustainability has failed since it is 27 years after the Brundtland Report that attempted to implement sustainability. Of all the international summits on sustainable development and climate change, almost no indicator demonstrates significant progress for, among others, the great challenges of CO2 emissions, changes in land use, and the loss of biodiversity and fresh water.
Therefore, we must find a new look. What is the opportunity of the moment? Let’s remember the images from the pandemic of how nature and animals began to reappear in cities. In the seventies, a chemist named James Lovelock devised the hypothesis that the Earth reﬂects a behavior like that of a living being in that it regulates itself to maintain conditions favorable for life, known as the Gaia hypothesis. “The Earth is a living being. In any living being, each cell, tissue, and system is equally significant and necessary for the existence of that being. In the same way, all species that inhabit planet Earth are united by strong ties, and we are essential for Gaia.” Martin quoted Allan Kaplan to emphasize, “The biggest change we want to see in the world is how we see the world.” Truth is multi-faceted, just like the perception we have of the world. We must move from an extractivist mindset about nature to perceiving it as alive, with many interactions. We must stop seeing the world from a reductionist and fragmented perspective with linear thinking and instead see it with a new holistic perspective as a living organism.
Today, conventional practices of sustainable tourism are no longer enough. Sustainability raises three areas of development: environmental, economic, and social. “Although the proposal of sustainability has managed to put environmental and social issues into discussion, these areas are far from finding a balance with an economy that bases its logic on constant and infinite growth,” observes Martin.
The challenge, according to the Chilean visionary of regenerative tourism, is to move from a fragmented and mechanistic perspective to a regenerative one based on the triple relationships of a human being with themself, with nature, and with others to promote a significant transformation of travelers. This change in focus does not mean adding or subtracting conceptual elements of sustainability, but rather it’s a profound transformation in terms of perception and understanding of living organisms and the world around us and of our ways of relating to the whole.
In this sense, the United Nations Decade 2021–2030 for the Restoration of Ecosystems, which seeks to encourage large-scale restoration of degraded and destroyed ecosystems as an eﬀective measure to combat climate change and improve security, food, water supply, and biodiversity, can accelerate a change in the mentality of driving a global movement towards regeneration in favor of a rebalancing of relations between planet earth and its inhabitants.
However, this aspect of the regeneration of ecosystems represents only one of many that must be considered in the process of comprehensive application of the principles of Regenerative Tourism to a destination, as shown in the diagram below.
The Global Initiative for Regenerative Tourism (IGTR) was founded as an international Ibero-American movement oﬀering this new view of tourism to the world. It brings together a community of professionals in the tourism sector who are determined to activate creativity, collaboration, and collective intelligence to facilitate the dissemination of the principles of regenerative tourism through webinars, online courses, face-to-face training workshops, conferences, articles, and coaching sessions. The IGTR is driven by change agents who have co- created a new look and understanding to innovate in a tourism development that goes beyond sustainability.
Professor, Entrepreneur, Trainer & International Speaker specialized in Regenerative Tourism, member of the IGTR (Global Regenerative Tourism Initiative) and the GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council)