Revitalizing tourism post-pandemic with a regenerative approach

Cebu City—Governments should create policies facilitating a microentrepreneur system that will accelerate the development of regenerative tourism, Edna Carolina Lee, Co-convenor at Permaculture Society in the Philippines said this during the fifth episode of Klima Ug Kalikupan entitled “Regenerative Tourism: Mga Kahigayonan ug Mga Hagit sa Turismo sa Sugbo.”

The tourism industry is among the key contributors to the sustained growth of the Philippine economy. As the world copes with the new normal and the country’s domestic travel sector forecasts its recovery, the World Tourism Organization calls to restart the tourism economy with a regenerative approach.
Conventional vs regenerative tourism

The industry is currently dominated by conventional tourism, which Lee described during the webcast as having a top-down approach and limited participation from the local community and focusing on inward investments and infrastructure.

Christine Paula Love Bernasor, Visayas Coordinator of Climate Reality Philippines, agreed with Lee and emphasized that profit-driven conventional tourism only promotes inequitable distribution of income, changes in the social fabric of communities, and environmental degradation.

“We are also experiencing a lot of overpopulation in our popular tourist destinations. One is Boracay, it used to be home to a lot of indigenous people groups and now they are just living in a small portion,” she revealed.

Bernasor also pointed out that the traditional approach to tourism is extractive and exploitative. She noted that the sector is responsible for 8% of the world’s carbon emissions with footprints generated from transport, food and beverages, and lodging services. 

Regenerative tourism, on the other hand, is characterized by Bernasor as an approach that creates thriving conditions for the well-being of communities and the environment, acknowledges indigenous knowledge and practices, and possesses a dynamic view of the ecosystem.

Lee, on the other hand, noted that regenerative tourism prioritizes the needs of the community, improves ecosystem integrity and biodiversity, embraces diverse and inclusive business models, enhances regenerative partnerships, and governs in a transparent and just manner.

“[Regenerative tourism] seeks to ensure that travel and tourism reinvest in people, places, and nature while supporting the long-term renewal and flourishing of our socio-ecological systems,” Lee added. 

Permaculture as a form of regenerative tourism

Lee also talked about permaculture, a form of regenerative tourism that is already being practiced in the past 20 years in the country.

“Permaculture is a conceptual framework for creative adaptation to energy descent. It’s a design system using the principles of nature and focusing on the redesign and integration of lifestyles, livelihoods, and land use in response to ecological realities,” she explained.
Lee explained that permaculture could be integrated into tourism, with the practice now being called “permatourism.”
Permatourism, Lee said, is a tourism and management framework with the goal of improving grassroots community structures and regenerating economically depressed communities. “It’s the local people owning their tourism enterprises,” she added.
According to Lee, there are 125 local sites that practice permatourism such as Oikos Peace and Wellness Garden in Bohol, Citrus Grove Cottage in Cagayan Valley, and Paulina Constancia Museum of Naïve Art in Cebu.
Transitioning to regenerative tourism

Lee highlighted the role of tourism stakeholders (government, tourists, communities, tourism organizations and operators, small and medium enterprises, social and environmental non-government organizations, etc.) as change agents toward regenerative tourism. She emphasized the need for organizations and enterprises to shift their lenses from ego-centric to eco-centric, and from individual competition to collective collaboration. 

Bernasor noted that tourism stakeholders must respect local people, preserve the local environment, achieve socio-economic benefits, and protect cultural heritage. She also provided advice to travelers who wish to get into the whole movement of regenerative tourism.

“For travelers, especially for the youth: First, advocate for places that have permatourism. It’s about supporting those that are already existing doing regenerative tourism. And if you have the time, you should invest in these businesses. Make a connection with the community and nature,” she added.