Moving Beyond Sustainable to Regenerative Tourism in Ghana

With travel on the post-pandemic horizon, here’s why regenerative tourism matters more than ever, and how we visualize this travel trend.

Last year, The New York Times hailed regenerative travel as the future of tourism. So, what exactly is regenerative travel? Simply put, regenerative travel is about working to actively improve a place. It prioritizes the regeneration and protection of areas over mass tourism, and ensures we’re leaving a destination intact for years to come. 


Sustainable Tourism vs. Regenerative Tourism 

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leave a destination in better condition than when you arrived. image via stockbusters.

Sustainability is about slowing down the degradation of a destination, where regenerative tourism is about restoring a destination. According to The New York Times, “sustainable tourism is sort of a low bar. At the end of the day, it’s just not making a mess of the place,” where “regenerative tourism says, ‘Let’s make it better for future generations.’” 

Not only does regenerative tourism foster greener, smarter, and less-crowded travel experiences, it’s about putting the onus on both the traveler and the destination to encourage active stewardship of travel destinations. 

That’s not to say that sustainable tourism doesn’t care about carbon footprints, ecosystems, or nature, too. But, for real regeneration, The Forward Lab states that, “. . . there needs to be a focus on communities, real people, and the direct economic benefits of tourism, too.”

regenerative tourism vs sustainable tourism,regenerative travel ghana,Moving Beyond Sustainable to Regenerative Tourism in Ghana
regenerative tourism makes the environment better for future generations. image via tirachard kumtanom. 1

Before we dive into how we visualize regenerative tourism, let’s talk about showing the difference between sustainable and regenerative travel in images. The key is in the word active. Documenting regenerative travel could be visualized as a tourist participating in an ocean clean-up, whereas sustainable travel might only show a tourist at the beach with a reusable water bottle. 

What Are the Principles of Regenerative Tourism?

According to the Future of Tourism coalition, which aims to “build a better tomorrow,” there are thirteen principles of regenerative travel. You can see the whole list here, but in general, they range from using leading sustainability standards to demanding fair income for tourism workers and employees to mitigating climate impact. Regenerative travel also relies on a circular economy, which aims to keep waste out, keep materials in use, and regenerate natural systems.

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Kente Weaving in Ghana

In the early days of the pandemic, global travel halted to the point where we saw climate reversal in places like Italy, California, and India. Greenhouse gas emissions and pollution levels decreased. Traffic dropped significantly in major metro areas like New York City, while in Los Angeles and Delhi, air quality improved significantly.

As we continue to grow more aware of our harmful vacation habits, and as travel opens up again post-pandemic, we’ll start to see more people aligning their travel plans and behaviors with their values.

And, of course, we’ll need visuals to show how we can do this. 

How to Visualize Regenerative Tourism

What does regenerative travel look like? It’s a broad concept and one that’s only starting to take shape. However, there are some themes that have emerged that will help us visualize this important travel trend. 

Low-Footprint Travel

regenerative tourism vs sustainable tourism,regenerative travel ghana,Moving Beyond Sustainable to Regenerative Tourism in Ghana
shows travel relating to people on bikes on foot or driving electric cars.

Air travel produces huge carbon emissions, and is responsible for 12% of all transportation emissions. The tourism industry itself is responsible for 8% of all global emissions—more than the construction industry! With air travel largely off-limits during the pandemic, we’ve resorted to low-footprint forms of transportation. Visuals should show the range of how people can travel more regeneratively these days—by bike, train, foot, sailboat, and in (preferably) electric cars.

Community Oriented

Regenerative travel places the wellbeing of locals as just as important as the conservation of the environment. Images that depict this travel trend should aim to highlight the people behind the place as much as possible. This could look like business owners, residents interacting with tourists, Indigenous peoples (if you’re a photographer, make sure you’re photographing them in an ethical and responsible way, and always with permission, of course), and places of gathering—community centers, markets, public landmarks, or churches, among others. 

Supporting Local Business

regenerative tourism vs sustainable tourism,regenerative travel ghana,Moving Beyond Sustainable to Regenerative Tourism in Ghana
consider local creators and businesses over larger chains and mainstream vendors. image via marc Romanelli blend.

The pandemic has highlighted many things, among them—the power of our pocketbooks. Supporting local businesses during the pandemic often meant whether a business would survive or not, and it reminded us of how much impact we can make on an individual level. Supporting and buying local is just as important when traveling outside your home community. Instead of looking to buy that mass-produced souvenir T-shirt, regenerative travelers are encouraged to buy hyper-local.

Visuals should capture the ways in which we use our purchasing power while traveling. Think of images such as a traveler buying a handmade item from a local artisan, live interactive art experiences, small businesses, or public markets instead of malls, brand name stores, and airport vendors, and goods, materials, or fibers native to the places you’re visiting, such as textiles in Morocco or India. 

Indigenous Perspectives

regenerative tourism vs sustainable tourism,regenerative travel ghana,Moving Beyond Sustainable to Regenerative Tourism in Ghana
regenerative travel visualizes community support. image via dudarev mikhail.

In many destinations around the world, Indigenous peoples are the stewards of their lands and seas, helping to protect and preserve their territories for generations to come. When capturing or sharing images that speak to regenerative travel, including and acknowledging the work of Indigenous stewards here is critical. 

Tourism Employees and Industry

regenerative tourism vs sustainable tourism,regenerative travel ghana,Moving Beyond Sustainable to Regenerative Tourism in Ghana
take time to highlight those behind the scenes—tour guides bus drivers chefs etc. image via daniel sierralta

Who else gets to represent regenerative travel? According to experts, regenerative travel largely rests with the tourism operators, businesses, and destinations, but travelers are an important part of the equation. Travel focuses so much on the traveler, but in regenerative travel images, we’ll need to also see a strong emphasis on the people who power the tourism industry—bus drivers, tour guides, hotel staff, concierge, chefs, servers, and so on.

Small Groups and No Crowds

regenerative tourism vs sustainable tourism,regenerative travel ghana,Moving Beyond Sustainable to Regenerative Tourism in Ghana
try something less tourist oriented and more environmentally friendly. image via guoqiang xue

Regenerative travel fosters less-crowded experiences and encourages dispersion within a community or destination. Instead of clamoring to see the Mona Lisa—and this is nothing against Leonardo’s masterpiece—regenerative travel asks that you seek out a different experience, one that either needs your business or can support your visit in a sustainable way. 

Articles Source: Shutterstock Written By: Julia Crawford

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