Sustainability, the term and the PR campaign it has become is only a band-aid solution to humanity’s most pressing problem. Such words are generated from authentic movements to mitigate these problems. Throw in the eco-friendly or even agritourism in the case of our industry. Big business, PR, marketing, and advertising soon took over what began as genuine activism and reaction. And now, there’s an idea and a term to describe the core principle, the end solution, and the new way of thinking that will heal our planet and bring us the “good life.” That term is “regenerative tourism.”
Soon, if we are not careful, it too will be highjacked by the corporations and the status quo businesses that have caused most of our environmental and collective psychology problems. I recently watched a discussion between Indian scholar and activist Dr. Vandana Shiva and Regeneration International’s Dr. André Leu, discuss how regenerative agriculture is already under assault. According to these activists, the same term is being highjacked by big business to promote the opposite effect.
Dr. Shiva says the corporations have adopted the word, using it as ad-lingo in their papers and sales directives, and then going ahead with what she calls hyper-industrialism. Of course, their battle for reclaiming the term and the movement is in the sphere of agriculture. However, the same thing occurs in the travel and hospitality sectors. I will give you a perfect example.
April 21st, 2022, UK travel trend forecasting agency Globetrender published a story entitled “Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Project Seeks to Embody ‘Regenerative Tourism.” In the same way, Regeneration International’s experts say big agri-business has highjacked the power of regenerative, the Saudis and their UK advisors are trying to use a meaningful solution to boost their hypercapitalist businesses. The Red Sea Project (via Neom joint-stock company?), part of Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” project, is a massive development of Shurayrah Island, part of an archipelago of 90 unspoiled offshore islands in the Red Sea.
In the 2022 media distributed by the Saudis via Globetrender and others, the lingo resonates with the ideals of regenerative tourism, at least initially. This paragraph from the article acts just the way Dr. Shiva warns with the highjack of regenerative agriculture. It all sounds spiffy until you read down to the part where the biggest hotel chains in the world will be involved. From a public relations viewpoint, the Saudis are clearly paying out a boatload of money in media outreach. (see the co-op post via Skift, Discover Channel India, and many more)
“The gateway to the Red Sea Project will be Shurayrah Island, where Foster + Partners is designing a hub called Coral Bloom to accommodate the debut hotels. Part of an archipelago of 90 islands, just 22 of them will be developed, meaning 75 per cent of them will be protected. The destination also features desert dunes, mountain canyons, dormant volcanoes, and ancient cultural and heritage sites.”
“Only” 22 islands will be turned into a competition for Miami Beach (22 hours ago) and the rest of South Florida! A more recent Saudi ad push proclaims this wonderfully Earth-friendly ambition for the Red Sea Development Company Project and Neom. And God said, “Let there be golf.”
Now that we know what’s most important, right? Well, get this. The good people working to bring regenerative agriculture to humankind will be interested to know that the Red Sea Project (Or Neom) had planned for 6,500 hectares (16,000 acres) of the surrounding land to become agricultural fields and to rely heavily on genetically engineered crops.
That’s a far cry from the kind of efforts people like regenerative economics guru John Fullerton and his “First Crop” initiative would suggest. In a previous report, I spoke of a down to Earth hospitality effort being made at F-Zeen Boutique Hotel Zanzibar Beach Resort. Places like this exist all over the world, wonderful classic accommodations needing no gigantic engineering project to produce guest value.
The small seafront resort is a back-to-basics, local-flavor vacation experience that can more easily be transformed into a genuinely regenerative effort. In short, starting with an excellent older seafront hotel made up of bungalows is far easier to reimagine a holiday place where the authentic “good life” can be experienced. The name means “The good life” in ancient Greek. This fact is appropriate since the founders of the resort’s management team, Orama Hospitality Group, are all Greeks. There are so many examples of insightful thinkers realizing that one step forward, is often two steps back.
So, instead of trying to build a gigantic Las Vegas on the Red Sea, the best regenerative ideas are coming from old markets with new roadmaps to the future. Sure, there are big resorts in Zanzibar, as there are 5-star resorts in Morocco. However, Thierry Teyssier and his forward-thinking anti-hotelier-hotelier notions are a roadmap to a better way. I won’t delve into Teyssiers here, but the Saudis would do well to consult him before building a floating industrial island on the Red Sea. Read this Conde Nast Traveller story for the latest on the French visionary. And consider a nomadic hotel that travels the world to help
Finally, let’s not let the corporate travel and hospitality entities hijack our regenerative tourism future. It’s our world. Let’s move forward enthusiastically to an authentic future.