Shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic, Jean Carideo of Chesapeake, Va., spent a week on Chincoteague Island, a seven-mile-long barrier island on the northeastern tip of the state’s east coast. She and others in the Road Scholar maintenance program helped remove barbed wire — a threat to the island’s famous wild horses — from the salt marshes.
“It is one thing to read, see or hear about environmental danger, and quite another to physically do something about it, along with others who also want to do something,” notes Carideo.
The popularity of regenerative tourism projects like this one on Chincoteague Island is growing. In June 2020, six international tourism organizations, regrouping after the global pandemic brought tourism to a virtual halt, formed the Future Tourism Coalition with the aim of mitigating “mineral tourism”, i.e. the destruction of regions due to overpopulation of visitors, and transforming the tourism model to explicitly benefit vulnerable places and people. Travelers willing to help can sign up for vacations that will allow them to participate in conservation activities such as habitat restoration while learning about the region and its people.
Jeffrey Skibins, an associate professor of recreation and park management at the University of East Carolina in Greenville, North Carolina, has witnessed many travelers actively looking for ways to help restore the environment in areas hit by fires, floods and pollution. as well as small communities that rely on tourism. “The ability to link natural areas, the tourism industry and individual tourists provides powerful synergies that can bring long-term conservation benefits,” says Skibins.
Regenerative tourism as a concept is not new. The Sierra Club began offering volunteer outings in the 1950s, and Earthwatch has been bringing explorers and volunteers on the road since 1971. However, tourists going on these adventures often sleep in huts or lodges with food cooked over a campfire. A new regenerative journey emerging from the global closure and responding to those regions of the world that are economically dependent on tourism combines service, education and often luxurious accommodation.
Participation in regenerative tourism has both personal and environmental benefits.
“Many tourists report a feeling of deep personal fulfillment and a stronger connection to nature after regenerative tourism,” Skibins says. “Furthermore, the opportunity to participate in conservation activities such as habitat restoration or wildlife viewing can provide tourists with a lifelong opportunity to learn about these issues and continue these behaviors at any time…