There is currently no official definition available of what a regenerative food tourism experience exactly entails. A review carried out by the University of Aveiro revealed that a universal definition of regenerative tourism is yet to be developed or adopted. Nevertheless, in the literature originating from niche innovators, several regenerative tourism attributes can be identified and distilled that form a conceptual core and enable further conceptual development.
So, what is regenerative food tourism?
Regenerative tourism departs from the sustainable development paradigm by positioning tourism activities as interventions that develop the capacities of places, communities, and their guests to operate in harmony with interconnected social-ecological systems. Therefore, regenerative tourism aligns with the regenerative development paradigm despite resembling sustainable development approaches.
Regenerative tourism is a transformational approach that aims to fulfil the potential of tourism places to flourish and create net positive effects through increasing the regenerative capacity of human societies and ecosystems. Derived from the ecological worldview, it weaves indigenous and western science perspectives and knowledge. Tourism systems are regarded as inseparable from nature and obligated to respect earth’s principles and laws. In addition, regenerative tourism approaches evolve and vary across places over the long term, thereby harmonising practices with the regeneration of nested living systems.
Through adopting a regenerative paradigm, regenerative tourism seeks to transform tourism and envisions: Tourism living systems that facilitate encounters, create connections, and develop reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationships through travel practices and experiences, uniquely reflecting tourism places. Regeneration occurs mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, culturally, socially, environmentally, and economically.
The visitor economy can rely on regenerative tourism to ensure its resilience to future crises. Regenerative tourism creates a meaningful balance between local culture, natural ecosystems, hosts, and guests. It aims to improve the community holistically, rather than minimising the impact of tourism. The idea is to leave the place better than it was found.
In this regard, food plays a significant role. Every destination has a distinct culinary heritage behind unique gastronomic experiences. Food tourism allows travellers to discover a place through their cuisines while building meaningful connections and a deeper understanding of local culture.
Regenerative food tourism experiences engage people with local cultures, for example, by learning how to cook indigenous recipes, and with nature, including picking their own ingredients from a forest. In addition, many restaurants look to nature as the source of culinary inspiration, with menus that are seasonal and culturally significant locations.
Climate change has impacted local agriculture and diets. We can adapt better by consuming seasonal local products. Local chefs play a significant role in this shift from a reliance on imported goods.
However, there is a wide range of food experiences where each can contribute to regenerative tourism’s foundations. For example, buying at a farmers’ market or tasting street food can also result in tangible (economic and environmental) and intangible (cultural and social) impacts.
Sustainable food production and consumption development contribute to regenerative tourism and our planet’s future.
Regenerative tourism’s primary goal is for visitors to positively impact their holiday destination, meaning they leave it in a better condition than they found it. A concept that goes beyond “not damaging” the environment and that aims to actively revitalise and regenerate it, resulting in a positive cycle of impacts on local communities and economies: sustainable regeneration. “Regenerative tourism” suggests that tourism should leave a place better than before. (In comparison, sustainability is leaving something as it is so that it stays the same; in other words, it is not causing any extra damage). Thus, it goes beyond sustainability practices. Regenerative tourism offers an important set of solutions to rethink and rebuild the tourism industry. It also improves local economies and preserves local cultures and biodiversity while offering memorable and authentic life-changing experiences to the guests and allowing destinations to improve.