Jenny Anderssonhad a great opportunity to talk about the potential of regenerative tourism with three leading lights of the industry; leading speaker Anna Pollock, marketing director of Visit Flanders Elke Dens, and Tina O’Dwyer, head of The Tourism Space in Ireland.
Regenerative tourism is a step further forward in sustainability thinking, according to Anna Pollock. “After the global financial crisis in 2008, I began looking at the accelerating impact of growing global tourism beyond sustainable tourism — which is only even now beginning to become a mainstream idea. The way in which we have designed the tourism business model is based on our known business-as-usual model. Sustainable tourism, which has been marginal untl the last 5 years, has been about doing tourism better with less impact but still using the business model. It is a greener, cleaner less harmful version of business-as-usual.”
“Regenerative tourism is bolder and more inspiring. It aims not just to do less harm, but to go on and restore the harm that our system has already done to the natural world, and by using nature’s principles, to create the conditions of life to flourish. It views wholes and not parts, and is a very different way of looking at the world.”
Elke Dens, Marketing Director of Visit Flanders talked about tourism strategy as being a place-based stategy, where destinations were rewarded by politicians for driving growth in visitor numbers. “We only saw the positive effects of tourism, of what we did at first” explained Elke. “But eventually we saw the negative impact for people and place of continually increasing the volume of tourists. When you realise you are no longer creating true value, you know you have to change something. Marketing is really about creating value, so as place-marketeers, we are now looking to create value beyond economic growth.”
Tina O’Dwyer has piloted regenerative programmes at The Burren in West Ireland. “The whole idea of regenerative tourism is very new. In the last year sustainable tourism has taken centre stage, and the industry is trying to work on that. The discussion of regeneration which goes beyond sustaining what’s there is very fresh. In the West of Ireland there was a pilot programme funded by the EU on tourism for conservation — how tourism could contribute to conservation. We didn’t’ call it regenerative tourism at the time, but the principles and values were moving towards that. A collaborative partnership between national bodies, agencies and local communites were able to achieve a lot compared to other parts of the industry and gave us an indication of what might be achieved through a different approach.”