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Effectively communicating regenerative tourism


7 ways to promote regenerative tourism in your marketing strategy


Across the globe, a regenerative approach to designing tourism products, services and experiences is becoming a more attractive option for tourism organisations and destinations—for good reason. 


The sector is now looking beyond sustainability, towards a future that actively takes steps to correct the issues, obstacles and difficulties that mainstream tourism development can create. This means moving away from simply growing a visitor economy using the traditional extractive approach, and more towards a regenerative mindset. 


Communicating regenerative tourism effectively will showcase the benefits, advantages and impacts that adopting regenerative tourism principles brings. Visitors, local communities and employees will learn about the actions your organisation or destination have already taken, and the ongoing efforts you are continuing to make, thus gaining an understanding what this means for people, planet and place.


Why it’s important to share your regenerative tourism journey and its impacts

 

Communications and marketing are vital to demonstrate the practical advantages and long-term benefits of regenerative tourism and travel. By successfully sharing your organisation’s values, efforts and achievements, you will engage the right visitors, attract new employees and connect with members of your local community, all of whom value regenerative principles and what this means for your region. Once they understand the positive impact your organisation is making, these people will go on to support, share and advocate for the regenerative activities and community-driven initiatives undertaken in your local area. 

 

To communicate sustainability for tourism and travel organisations more effectively, it’s important to keep the narrative flowing beyond sustainability towards regeneration.

 

In this article, our partners at Mankind Digital examine the importance of clear communication and storytelling for regenerative tourism and travel. Discover valuable tips that tourism business owners and destination marketing managers can use to develop an effective communications strategy and how best to share your regenerative tourism initiatives, practices and stories of impact with the like-minded visitors, employees and community members you aim to inspire.


What is regenerative tourism?


A regenerative approach to tourism is based on a completely different set of principles and values to the sustainable and circular economy models. Regenerative tourism involves transitioning tourism away from a model that exploits nature, local places and communities. It also addresses the assumption that there is an endless supply of natural and human resources that will feed tourism growth indefinitely. Instead, regenerative tourism requires us to reinvent tourism to respect planetary boundaries and serve the social and ecological systems that sustain all life. 


Regenerative tourism reinvents travel, hosting and experiencing a place so that these activities contribute to, rather than depleting local livelihoods and wellbeing. This is done by adopting a different mindset and way of working in tourism. It requires co-designing these activities directly with local communities in harmony with the natural environment. Co-design requires partnering with local residents, indigenous peoples, local business owners, local governments and nature itself, using a living systems approach. This requires us to work at the level of place by acknowledging its special qualities and environmental limits, rather than from a top down standardised template approach. All parties involved in this process work to create a flourishing place that respects social and ecological boundaries. They will therefore be fully invested in an outcome that is environmentally, economically, culturally and socially beneficial for all. 


Unlike sustainable tourism, regenerative tourism explores how tourism intersects with the bigger challenges that a place may be experiencing such as housing, congestion, food security and waste management. Regenerative tourism seeks to add net value and benefit a wider range of stakeholders, whilst providing what is needed to significantly regenerate a place or region from its current state.


Regenerative initiatives connect tourism into its wider context, take it out of its silo, and are designed for a long term collective benefit. Co-designing services, products and experiences with a regenerative mindset contributes to preserving the region’s unique history and culture while reducing the environmental footprint. In addition, local communities can showcase their customs, traditions and attractions in ways that are important to them, while at the same time improving community and cultural cohesion, strengthening long term resilience and reducing the fragility of local economic and social systems in the face of the change ahead.


What is regenerative travel?


Regenerative travel is a style of travel where the traveller chooses options and places that align with regenerative tourism values, projects and initiatives. Regenerative travel is intentional, proactive and planned. It embraces regeneration by opting for services, products and experiences that have been designed and are delivered based on regenerative principles and the benefit of all. 


“At its heart, a place, a company, an organisation cannot promote or market itself as sustainable or regenerative until they have truly started that journey and understand itself, its values, the impact it has, and what it aspires to. This goes beyond genuinely communicating values and impact, too.” - Dianne Dredge, The Tourism CoLab

What does this all mean for tourism marketers?


As tourism and destination marketers, how we communicate the impacts, benefits and advantages of regenerative travel and the regenerative tourism principles we are implementing within our organisations and our local region is vital. How we speak and write about what we are doing within our businesses and how we engage with those impacted by the way we operate will affect the perceptions and potential contribution from others, either positively or negatively.

 

By explaining the full story behind an activity and including tangible examples backed up by supporting data that resonates with others, we help them to understand and motivate them to get involved, or at least support regenerative endeavours. 


Sharing our journey through meaningful storytelling that connects our actions with our impacts in ways people can understand and relate to is the basis for authentic communication that links our efforts, the community, our employees and the visitors we host.

 

Transparent communication helps visitors, businesses and the community to make better choices

 

Post-pandemic reports and research demonstrate increased interest in responsible tourism, affecting the way visitors plan and travel. Many now know that sustainability isn’t enough to heal our planet—increasing numbers of travellers are seeking ways to make a significant difference to the places they visit by actively participating in initiatives and activities that regenerate the environment and communities. However, finding the information they need to help them make more responsible choices can be challenging.

 

From a sustainable tourism perspective, this Tourism Australia report reinforces that tourism businesses must clearly articulate benefits and increase options so that visitors can identify how sustainable tourism aligns with their values and travel needs. It suggests “we need to make it easy for travellers to know when and how they are contributing to a more sustainable way of travelling, to help them make sustainable choices.” (pg 104)


While regenerative tourism shares many of these needs, its principles require a more comprehensive and far-reaching approach to be fully effective. It’s our responsibility to educate and inspire by sharing how we are systematically implementing proposed and actual changes within our businesses and mindfully planning for the future in our towns, cities and regions. Specifying what these mean in real terms and why they’re important makes it easy for others to consciously choose options that support regenerative thinking. This can be achieved through authentic storytelling, content marketing and well written content that is clearly communicated on our websites, social media profiles and reports. It also extends into the ways we speak about our regenerative efforts in all areas of our business operations and goes hand in hand with the actions we take both now and into the future.  

 

Why travellers struggle to find genuine regenerative tourism options


Greenwashing is rife

Unfortunately greenwashing—where a product or business is deliberately misrepresented as green, sustainable or regenerative to increase profit by exploiting consumers seeking responsible options—is a global issue. Travellers no longer trust sweeping statements like “We are certified as sustainable”, “We are regenerative” or “We give back to local communities”. They need evidence of tangible, measurable impacts, and examples of what this means in practice. 


Certification alone is meaningless

When adopting a regenerative tourism model, measuring your progress against the principles that underpin this approach is critical, as there is no standardised accreditation or certification available. There are good arguments that demonstrate how top down standardised approaches are inconsistent with a regenerative living systems mindset, and that measuring what is regenerative from the ground up, and in context, is more appropriate. 


This means that visitors are often unsure how to confirm the authenticity of a tourism organisation’s claims, or what these really mean. Openly publishing what your organisation or destination is doing in a way that clearly demonstrates changes to your corporate mindset is the first step. Follow this by showing your long term commitment to systemic change through the results of these changes, their longer term impacts, along with communicating how they are contributing to your journey towards the collective good. These are among the most transparent ways to convey your commitment and achievements to those that want to learn more. 


Tourism organisations fail to share their actions and impacts

Many travel businesses and local governments have started moving towards regeneration, but have not shared their actions with the community, their employees or visitors in a meaningful way. Information about the impact of your initiatives needs to be customised to appeal to, and also motivate different audience segments.

  

Education as part of a successful communications strategy will help differentiate your organisation from others on the same journey, whether you are seeking to attract new values-aligned customers, recruiting new staff or sharing updates with the communities you are operating within.

 


Seven ways to communicate regenerative tourism effectively 

 

When deciding how to communicate a regenerative approach to tourism, invest time in storytelling that connects with each of the audience segments you are communicating with, based on their needs, wants and interests. For example, attract new customers by sharing how your regenerative tourism initiatives contribute to both protecting, restoring and regenerating the biodiversity unique to your region, and the tangible impacts for the people living in the communities you serve—along with how you are working directly with the community to regenerate the region collectively. Visitors will then see how they can contribute towards your regeneration efforts simply by choosing your business over alternatives that may appear to be similar, even if your organisation doesn’t openly claim that your hands-on activities and projects are ‘regenerative’. What an organisation claims is far less meaningful than what they actually do.


How to change your communication strategies to promote regenerative tourism


To communicate regenerative tourism in meaningful and persuasive ways that will inspire and engage your target audiences, consider incorporating the following seven strategies:

 

  1. Avoid buzzwords: Beware of labels such as ‘regenerative’ or ‘sustainable’—instead, tell the whole story behind your mission including benefits, advantages and impacts. Phrases like ‘regenerative tourism’ aren’t meaningful to those who don’t fully understand the concepts, both within and outside the tourism sector.

  2. Humanise storytelling: Make your stories authentic by sharing impactful narratives from the community, giving a voice to those you are working with. 

  3. Diversify visual content: Develop varied and captivating content that resonates with your intended audiences. Different people are drawn to different communication styles, so use a range of media such as video clips, imagery, personal stories or even interviews to help your readers and followers on social media connect with your brand and relate to your regenerative initiatives.

  4. Behind-the-scenes updates: Share insights into what’s happening behind the scenes on your social channels. This shows your target audience the real people behind your brand and helps demonstrate that your regenerative approach to tourism is genuine. Emphasising your values in this way helps create an emotional attachment to your organisation. Regenerative tourism storytelling includes showing different aspects of what you are implementing and achieving in your day-to-day business operations and why this is important.

  5. Share the love: Communicate what makes the region your business operates within unique and why you love it. People are drawn in by local stories and real insights from those living there, which help them to understand and be attracted to what makes your location special. Conveying the impacts of your regenerative tourism initiatives first-hand and how these are preserving and improving your destination will resonate with your audiences.   

  6. Accreditation isn’t enough: In regenerative tourism, it is important to note that while no standardised certifications are available, there are guiding principles and frameworks that apply to implementing a regenerative approach. In your communications and marketing strategy, unpack exactly what is behind any model or framework your organisation or destination is working towards. Most people don’t understand how these work, or the tangible benefits that result from changes within a business because of them. 

  7. Be transparent: Be open about the challenges you face in both implementation and continuity of your regenerative methods, along with how you are addressing them, and how you plan to improve in the future. This helps others to understand that moving towards a regenerative model is an evolution that takes time—usually many years of dedication—before traditionally measurable changes can be observed. Measuring what matters allows reflection and monitoring of progress so that you can authentically share your journey and communicate its impacts in meaningful ways.

 

Prioritising the effective communication of regenerative tourism


It is vitally important that legitimate work to reinvent the way tourism is being approached by the organisation or destination has already been done before communications or marketing strategies are planned and executed. This means dedicating funds to supply side issues and working towards their success before investing in marketing strategies and products. Strategies that focus on claims of possible future actions which are not supported by achievements already made will not effectively demonstrate commitment to change. They are also a form of greenwashing in tourism.   


The cornerstone of an ideal communication and marketing strategy to promote regenerative tourism is education—this includes why regenerative approaches are necessary, along with targeted information about the impacts, benefits and advantages of regenerative tourism practices, projects and initiatives. These will inspire visitors, the community and your employees as they learn more. 


Developing a highly effective promotional strategy involves you, your team and your community. Keep speaking with your various audience segments, as you did in the consultation phase of your regenerative tourism project—find out what they want to learn about and understand, and discover what motivates visitors when they are choosing who to work with, book with and stay with. This information is essential to help you elevate your storytelling and marketing efforts so they resonate with the people you reach. It can be the key to conveying complex issues in simple and more digestible ways, along with differentiating your organisation or region from the many other options available. 


By prioritising your regenerative tourism initiatives in ethical and authentic ways when developing your marketing campaigns, your organisation will start to attract more of the right visitors, professional partnerships and community support, which in turn will propel your business forwards on your regenerative journey. 


How to get support with communicating your regenerative tourism efforts


If you need support to develop your communication or marketing strategy and craft stories that share your regenerative tourism efforts, ensure you select a partner who has demonstrated a deep understanding of, and commitment to regeneration. Our preferred tourism marketing partners at Mankind Digital specialise in content marketing and digital marketing strategies that promote regenerative, responsible and sustainable tourism. 


 

With offices based in Australia and Europe, Mankind Digital works with destination marketing organisations, travel brands and tourism organisations who are integrating regenerative and sustainable initiatives into their business models. They can assist with developing a regenerative tourism communications strategy, along with writing persuasive copy for websites and social media, running your digital marketing campaigns and delivering training for your internal teams. For more information, contact Mankind Digital. 


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