As the world emerges from a year-long lockdown, both consumers and travel industry pros are asking the same question: how can travel be better and more meaningful while doing less harm? Or, to go a step further, how can travel improve the environment and communities people visit. The concept, called regenerative travel, echoes agricultural practices meant to reverse climate change, not merely slow it down.
In pursuit of this idea, Amanda Ho co-founded Regenerative Travel, a booking platform for the Regenerative Resorts hotel collection of independently owned eco-luxury boutique hotels. According to Ho, each property is dedicated to the “highest levels of social and environmental impact.” Ho, previously the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Electrify Magazine, a multi-media lifestyle publication, honed her craft as a storyteller, producer, and creative strategist for luxury hospitality and real estate companies, and lifestyle brands with a passion for sustainability.
Ho took time to talk to Forbes about the Regenerative Travel concept, where it’s flourishing, and how it’s possible for travelers to plan vacations that meet their values.
How well-known in the concept of regenerative travel in the travel industry at this moment?
We are excited to see that Regenerative Travel is a top trend for 2021 in the media and gaining traction in the industry. We are seeing more and more interest each day from each facet of the travel industry to learn and understand how they can adopt regenerative practices. We will be hosting our 2nd annual Regenerative Travel Summit 2021 (last year’s Summit) this September with the addition of a new trade show component to connect values-aligned travel agents and trade to our Regenerative Resort which has come as a direct response from the industry asking us how to join the conversation and shift their traditional practices. Our goal with the summit is to demonstrate that the travel industry can be designed to thrive, and serve as a catalyst for change that generates economic, social, and environmental wealth.
We will be bringing together diverse perspectives in regeneration—from established thought leaders to emerging innovators—and not just the travel industry, in addition to offering practical solutions and tools to move the travel industry forward. We all must play our part in regenerating the Earth for future generations and recognize our responsibility for how our actions will affect the trajectory of our planet. Travel has the capacity to inspire transformation and each hotel can help facilitate these experiences so the traveler can engage, learn and interact with place and community. We believe that this new decade will be the era of ‘regeneration’ as the only solution to reverse climate change is to endeavor to repair and replenish the damage we have done to our environment and communities.
Do you know of any regions, not just resorts, that are integrating the concept of regenerative travel within the communities? Or any on the cusp of working towards this?
We are hopeful that regenerative principles are emerging as the future of tourism with the potential and capacity to create better conditions for people and life to flourish. We are already seeing destinations adopt regenerative recovery strategies such as Hawaii and New Zealand. Most recently, Kaua’i released its Destination Management Action Plan (DMAP) through 2023 embodying regenerative tourism, with a focus on ensuring that the benefits contributed by the visitor industry ultimately outweigh the resources they consume. The goal of the Kaua’i destination management plan is to rebuild and redefine the direction of tourism over the next three years going from over-tourism to intentional tourism, with the primary objective to create positive contributions to the quality of life for Kaua’i residents.
Why did you start Regenerative Travel? Who are your colleagues in this space?
Before I started Regenerative Trave, I was working as an editor and a journalist under my own lifestyle and travel publication. I began searching for stories on sustainable tourism to spotlight how travel can be a vehicle for change which led me to produce short documentaries such as one on anti-poaching rangers in Africa and climate change in the polar regions. It was always difficult to find those independent hotels that provided immersive experiences while creating a positive impact on both their ecosystem and communities. Market leaders were not addressing the need of the conscious consumer traveler who wanted to visit these places “where their vacation met their values.” Meanwhile, brands like Patagonia, Tesla, and Whole Foods, were meeting their needs for clothing, transportation, and food.
When I met my co-founder David Leventhal on a press trip to his hotel Playa Viva in Mexico in 2015, we realized we both believed in the issues faced by conscious consumer travelers as well as the needs of hoteliers like his to generate economies of scale and share best practices. We then saw a market opportunity to not only help conscious consumer travelers but also to support the independent hotels that were having a hard time reaching that audience, so we joined forces to start Regenerative Travel in 2019.
When the tourism industry, like wine, is just getting its head around the concept of sustainability, how do you push the conversation farther — to regenerative tourism — without scaring people off?
Everyone has to realize that they have a responsibility to do their part as an individual and business. Consumers are also becoming increasingly conscious about the impact of travel on the environment and are seeking to forge deeper connections with the people and places they visit. Any successful regenerative process comes from the values of the leadership of an organization. Whether it’s a hotel owner, travel agent or destination management executive, they need to be committed to values that promote a positive impact to the local community and ecosystem. Sustainability will become the “new normal” as a necessity rather than a “nice to have.” It’s not a question of if we have to be sustainable anymore, it’s about how you are going beyond sustainability. Regeneration is going a step further to create a positive net impact rather than just reaching net zero.
What property in your portfolio truly captures the spirit of the concept and why?
One of our newest hotels, Oasy Hotel in Tuscany, Italy is an exemplar example of regeneration at work. The territory used to be a hunting reserve, before the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Italia led a project in 2006 to recover and transform the land into the protected oasis we see today. The Oasi Dynamo is now managed by Oasi Dynamo Società Agricola, an agricultural enterprise dedicated to researching and caring for the area’s biodiversity. The group revived agricultural and forestry traditions previously used in the 20th century, innovated as part of an integrated supply chain project, before going on to introduce regenerative tourism not just to the region, but to Italian tourism itself with the 2015 opening of Oasy Hotel.
Oasy Hotel works with the Dynamo Academy, a project founded in 2007, and Dynamo Camp providing Italy’s first recreational therapy camp for youth and their family living with serious and chronic diseases. The academy was created by the local Dynamo Foundation, a unique nonprofit established in 2003 with the philosophy to connect nonprofit and profit models through ‘venture philanthropy’. Oasy Hotel is a passion project born out of a love for nature and the belief that luxury exists within it, evident in the Oasi way of life which guests have the extraordinary opportunity to immerse themselves in.