Can Tourism Be Regenerative?

A conversation between Anna Pollock & Daniel Wahl

Source: Anna Pollock

On May 15th I recorded this conversation with Anna Pollock who I met a couple of years ago when I helped to organize the first Regenerative Practitioner Training with Regenesis Group in Europe. She has 40 years of experience as a consultant to mainly destinations in the tourism industry.

For the last couple of years we have been in contact around the growing global inquiry into what potential lies in making tourism a driver of regeneration and whether and how that would actually be possible.

Anna Pollock — as early as 1995 — called for a transformation of the tourism industry in a more integrative and holistic way that would enable the industry to take a role in healing places and relationships of people to place and to each other.

She was pioneering in understanding tourism as a network and working with this pervasive network mainly through regional or national ‘tourist destination’ bodies.

In 2019 Anna helped Visit Flanders with the Travel to Tomorrow Summit in Bruges that was one of the most transformative events in the tourism industry in years daring to ask questions that explored the role of tourism in a new light. She invited Michelle Holliday, Rob Hopkins, Andrew Simms and me — non of us tourism industry professionals — to offer the keynotes.

In this conversation, we caught up on the conversation but in a very new context — post-pandemic. We explore how the COVID 19 response and its devastating impact on the tourism industry offers an opportunity for a reset and reinvention, and lament how little of that conversation seems to take place in the industry so far.

Our conversation ranges widely but centers around the need for re-regionalization and the potential role of tourism as “the connecter” to support and finance projects that build water, food, energy sovereignty, and community resilience.

Anna just spent some time consulting in New Zealand and reported on how the industry there is beginning to see how people are “hunting for health” — meaning places where their presence contributes actively to healthy patterns in the place that hosts them.

As such supporting ecosystems regeneration, renewable energy infrastructure building, and supporting local food production are all ways by which destinations position themselves with a distinguishing pattern that people want to support and experience on their holiday more and more.

00:28 … I also asked Anna more about the Travel to Tomorrow programme she consulted on for Visit Flanders … we talk about ‘over tourism’ …

00:38 … how can tourism play a role in healing place, people, and local economies? … what would a caring place look like and how powerfully would it attract visitors who want to experience such a place? “It is more important to be the center of attraction, rather than the center of attention.” — Brian Goodwin

00:42 … we explore some ideas about how Mallorca now — with COVID 19 — has an opportunity to radically reinvent and transform its tropism industry and in the process make the island a lot more future-fit, resilience and possibly a groundbreaking example or bioregional regeneration

00:55 … Anna speaks about her recent work in the Bay of Plenty in New Zealand and how she started a process of inquiry there …

01:05 … we explore what transformative changes might lie ahead in the tourism and travel industry and what traveling more consciously might mean … finding the balance between travels multiple and important benefits and reducing the volume and the impact in ways that pay attention to planetary boundaries, social foundations, and biophysical limits of destinations … addressing the vast amount of unnecessary travel that being in lockdown and using video-conferencing more has so clearly exposed …

01:08 … the need for creating more attractive and meaningful travel offers within our own places and bioregions that will decrease the attractiveness and need for long-distance travel — not completely but significantly by volume …

Here is the recording of the conversation:

More on tourism:

Daniel Christian Wahl Catalyzing transformative innovation in the face of converging crises, advising on regenerative whole systems design, regenerative leadership, and education for regenerative development and bioregional regeneration.

Author of the internationally acclaimed book Designing Regenerative Cultures

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