The Latest Travel Trend Takes Sustainable Tourism A Step Further

As much as we love to travel, it is unfortunately one of the many contributors to environmental damage and climate change. Air travel, cruises, new property developments, and food waste from hotels and resorts are just a few aspects of tourism that can have major impacts on global ecosystems and contribute to global warming.

However, there is hope for eco-conscious travelers who aren't quite ready to give up their globetrotting. A new travel trend called regenerative tourism — also called regenerative travel — is an eco-friendly approach to tourism that doesn't just aim to offset negative impacts but completely eliminate them, leaving destinations better than we found them.

So what are some of these regenerative travel trends? There are certainly a few to choose from — such as micro-hospitality hotels and voluntourism — but how does regenerative travel even differ from sustainable travel anyway? We discuss all that and more below.

How regenerative travel differs from sustainable travel

Regenerative tourism is an alternative approach to travel for those who are aware of their contributions to climate change but would still love to travel and fulfill their wanderlust. However, regenerative travel isn't the same as sustainable travel. Where sustainable travel aims for carbon neutral, regenerative travel takes it a step further toward carbon negative.

The difference between carbon neutral and carbon negative is fairly straightforward. Essentially, carbon neutral — also referred to as net zero — means offsetting your carbon output by removing an equal amount of carbon from the air. Carbon negative aims to remove more carbon from the atmosphere than you generated.

To place this within the scope of travel, here's an example: A sustainable hotel might eliminate single-use plastics or reduce its water or energy usage, whereas a regenerative hotel will invest in projects that don't just mitigate environmental impacts but actively improve local ecosystems, such as planting trees. Regenerative businesses don't just limit themselves to carbon-negative activities, though. They might also contribute to local social programs to boost access to education or offer loans to local businesses.

Now that you know the differences between sustainable and regenerative travel, let's dive into the specific ways this is being carried out around the world and how you can participate in this amazing new trend.

Regenerative travel trends that are a step in the right direction

Accommodations around the world are putting their best foot forward for the environment. One type of regenerative accommodation is upcycled hotels. These are typically buildings made from existing materials which can range from your basic cargo container — a very common, reused building material — to airplanes (the irony of using a heavy-pollutant airplane for regenerative travel is not lost on us). In the verdant forests of Costa Rica's Manuel Antonio region, there is a Boeing 727 that has been repurposed as a hotel suite.

There is also a movement toward micro-hospitality as a form of regenerative tourism. This is the construction of temporary or nomadic structures that exist only for a short period of time. This concept allows visitors to experience remote locations in a way where the land can return to its natural state without permanently impacting local ecosystems.

Of course, regenerative tourism doesn't just happen at hotels. It can also be practiced by travel agencies, like adventure tour companies. One such operator, Exodus Travels, is doing just that by using the funds generated by its tours to fund a rewilding program in the Apennine mountain range in Italy to improve its biodiversity. You can also provide support more directly by volunteering with the Rewilding Apennines program, a type of regenerative travel called voluntourism.