When economist John Fullerton first envisioned what’s now known as “regenerative economics,” his key focus was not on tourism. However, every aspect of the former JP Morgan financial guru’s core principles for reshaping the overall economy can and should be applied directly to the tourism sector. Orama Hospitality Management, founded by Greek hospitality experts George Kotronis and his partners, is undertaking a mission to recreate the hospitality mission in Zanzibar.
Orama Hospitality recently took over the operation of a few Zanzibar beachfront hotels to achieve more than revenue success. One of the properties, F-Zeen Boutique Hotel Zanzibar Beach Resort, is an ideal project for interjecting the principles of regenerative tourism. A traditional Zanzibar beachfront vacation paradise is just the place for combining what the Greeks call the good life, or εὖ ζῆν (pronounced F-Zeen in ancient Greek), with virtually untouched African nature. To Aristotle, who taught this F-Zeen idea to Alexander the Great, quality was the essence of what humans are meant to seek. Unfortunately, most of our current problems are, in fact, a result of our misinterpretation of what quality and F-Zeen are. The result is unsustainable development and the ultimate degradation of life.
Some time back, the Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (ZATI) commissioned Acorn Tourism Consulting for a study that ultimately led to the Ministry of Trade, Tourism, and Investment and the Zanzibar Commission for Tourism adopting a tourism rebranding and growth program that was immensely successful. The program has been successful marketing-wise, where advanced sustainability effort was concerned, and as a unique first step that could put this Spice Island in the regenerative economics and tourism spotlight internationally. I asked one of the Orama Hospitality Group co-founders, hospitality George Kotronis guru, about his firm’s take on regenerative business:
“As I understand it, a key principle that Fullerton emphasizes is establishing the right relationship between the economy and the local biosphere. In essence, the reciprocity and mutualism found in both biology and indigenous wisdom can cause a positive ripple effect. We believe this positivity can originate from our Zanzibar efforts.”
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a global call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone everywhere. The 17 developmental goals laid out by the UN have made inroads into slowing the rate of degeneration in many places. However, sustainability is a band-aid for maintaining what we currently have. And for many, what we currently have in the hospitality and tourism industry could be a better product. What is needed is a regenerative philosophy that replenishes what’s been ruined and goes forward on a different path that adds real value.
The three partners at Orama Hospitality have latched onto John Fullerton’s concepts in reimagining business in the service of life. Fullerton’s Capital Institute is about impact investments. A board member of the Savory Institute, First Crop (Instagram above), and myriad other regenerative/environmental initiatives, Fullerton envisions tourism and other sectors of business taking on a “healing” posture so that our lives going forward will be about more than marketing value. I also quizzed Kotronis about the group’s choosing Zanzibar projects for this initiative. Here’s what Kotronis had to say on this:
“One reason we chose Zanzibar is that we consider this magical island a reemerging market or a mature destination that’s ideal for regenerative tourism. All our experience in Crete, on Cyprus, and Santorini especially tells us these post-mature markets will only convert to new ways of thinking once concrete models have been established. We know we can create such models in Zanzibar and similar markets.”
Most tourism destinations have, as a course of business, defined our expectations for us. Or, at least, hospitality and travel professionals have assumed what client expectations are. In the future, the authentic expectations of travelers will dictate success and even profitability. We will begin to see this “regenerative” effect take shape. The buffet line at the all-inclusive may well stay, and the cruise ship mooring at the dock won’t disappear.
However, paradise will revert to essentials that leave nothing to be desired. No German visiting Zanzibar will expect a worst or a schnitzel every day. The local Chips mayai, or french fry omelet, will be a thrilling new taste. A Japanese traveler will not complain there is no sushi – the Zanzibar octopus is unbelievable from the local fishermen. And if a comfortable bungalow won’t have to have its own private dunking pool, the guest will be delighted to swim in a flawless ocean and lay on a deserted beach. This quote from polispost.com, paraphrased in English from Greek, talks about the choices we need to make:
“For every thinking person, the good life goes far beyond the material comforts imposed by the times. As much as we don’t believe it, we ourselves define the way and quality of our lives. Our well-being lies and must lie in our inner peace, way of thinking, choices, and ambitions. All this will only be achieved through the individual effort of each one to improve the conditions of his life, to educate himself to think positively , to help his fellow man, to find alternative ways not only to survive in this hard time but also to live well and as he deserves.”
The ambitious goals set by these Greek entrepreneurs are noteworthy because they involve reinvigorating a destination in a step-by-step fashion. Unlike megaprojects such as Saudi Arabia’s NEOM, the Zanzibar effort can and should serve as an authentic regenerative process rather than a typical, if impressive, developmental project. The NEOM project, which has seen many setbacks so far, is billed as regenerative but is in essence, a new city development with techno-environmental and conservation aspects. The Saudis will be building yet another manmade marvel atop pristine nature. In short, marketing and conventional investor input cannot (would not) fit the regenerative economy or the regenerative tourism model.