Regenerative Tourism key to future tourism industry


‘Sustainability’ is a buzzword that is now mainstream. It has been talked about for the past 20 years or more, especially in corporate New Zealand.

Transparent bottom-line reporting and initiatives such as carbon zero, energy efficiency, water conservation and recycling, are familiar tactics to the sustainability journey. However, we are now moving one step further in to regenerative tourism which includes those environmentally friendly aspects as well as elements such living wage, host communities, well-being and a social licence to operate.

In the New Zealand context, sustainability is ‘kaitiakitanga’ – guardianship of our land, water, air, people, culture and communities for future generations. Regenerative tourism is focused on the prosperity of people and place, and aims to enrich a community by actively contributing value across the four well-beings – social, cultural, economic and environmental. It takes the concept of sustainability and builds on it – elevating it from aiming to sustain the environment and mitigate any negative impacts, to tourism positively contributing to a destination.

As such, a place-based approach is central to the regenerative tourism philosophy. By understanding all the elements of a destination’s eco-system we can determine how to create mutually beneficial relationships for all involved and ensure tourism regenerates the community and environment it is a part of.

Regenerative tourism is a key foundation of Waikato’s Destination Management Plan. Our approach to regenerative tourism is two-fold – the first being to enable our visitor economy businesses to understand and embrace regenerative tourism; and the second being to educate our manuhiri (visitors) about how to care for our region and positively contribute to our communities during their time with us. While tourism success has been measured in economic terms to date, we are moving into a new era of thinking – how to create value more broadly for the benefit of our people, our place, and collective prosperity.

To support tourism operators across the Waikato to further embrace the concept of regenerative tourism, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism have developed the Mighty Waikato Sustainability Programme.

To participate in the programme, operators are asked to sign up by donating $50 towards Waikato RiverCare, who are committed to cleaning up Waikato’s waterways. Participating operators will then have a one-on-one sustainability coaching session with InStep resulting in a two-page report to explain where they are doing well and identify opportunities for action to continue their sustainability journey.

Many of our tourism operators are early adopters of this ethos and have been undertaking some amazing regenerative tourism mahi (work) for many years, and it is about enabling them to share these fantastic stories about how they are caring for their people, place and community with their manuhiri.

We realise that the topic of sustainability and regenerative tourism is a large and varied one and it can sometimes be daunting in terms of where to start or how operators can easily and cost-effectively integrate measures into their business.

Our Mighty Waikato Sustainability Programme takes the view that an accumulation of small commitments from locals and visitors alike can create massive results.

We are keen to bring others with us across the mighty Waikato, so feel free to find out more about the programme plus helpful resources and tools here: waikatonz.com/industry/regenerative-and-sustainable-tourism


About Author

Nicola Greenwell

Interim General Manager, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism