Photo: Depositphotos

“Regeneration” is going to be one of the main keywords of 2023. Within the rise of the regenerative economy, ‘Regenerative Hospitality’ is predicted to have a dramatic impact on the industry. Thanks to a fruitful collaboration between EHL- Hospitality Business School, the institute of tourism of HES-SO Valais/Wallis and Regenerative Travel we conducted an in-depth research on this new phenomenon. From our point of view, we are witnessing the rise of regenerative hospitality and we are predicting its possible expansion from luxury boutique hotels to mainstream properties.

This article distils the information collected in several iterations with different stakeholders from several touch points and pieces together some of the most important findings of our research paving the way for the future of Regenerative Hospitality on a wide scale.

What Is Regenerative Hospitality

The concept of regenerative hospitality is a relatively new trend in the hospitality field and it can be understood as an aspirational business approach that focuses on creating net-positive impact on the environment, the community and the wider society. Regenerative hospitality focuses on sustainability and environmental responsibility, prioritizing not only the protection and preservation of the natural environment and the local ecosystem but also an active contribution to the regeneration of it.

This must be done in collaboration with local communities where regenerative hotels try to build mutually beneficial relationships focusing for example on sourcing local food and manpower, supporting local businesses and local causes and so on. In addition, regenerative hotels take a holistic approach to wellness, meaning that they strive to co-create relevant, and possibly transformative, experiences for the guests, orchestrating elements of the natural ecosystem and the wider society towards socio-cultural-psychological wellbeing.

Even if regenerative hospitality is committed to transparency and accountability, regenerative hoteliers are driven by the aspiration of doing good to the place and the people around themselves. These impactful organizations foster a local and qualitative approach to the specific ecosystem they are placed in and constantly work on maximizing their positive-net impact at all levels.

Regenerate Inward-Outward

One of the main aspects that stand out in Regenerative Hospitality is the inward-outward nature of the phenomenon that is also often reflected in the hotels business model and positioning.

Outward: Regenerative properties do feel entrusted to positively contribute to the environment and the wider society around them; they are on an ecosystem regeneration mission where a true concern for nature and society drives all the decisions. Consultation with local community and local stakeholders are constantly conducted to fine tune the operations of the business in the community for the ecosystems; for example a relatively long community consultation was put in place to design and realize the Fogo Inn in Canada; the size of the property, the adaptation to the natural landscape up to the carpentry and furnishing works were agreed with the community that had the opportunity to flourish around the hotel. These often lead to the creation of side business units that contributes to local entrepreneurship and socio-economic development as in the case of the Rock House in Jamaica: the funders were able to support the birth and rise of local businesses such as water bottling companies and hydroponic farms; these side businesses facilitated by the hotel supported the local community and de-facto shortened the hotel supply chain.

Inward: Regenerative hospitality properties tend to have special care not only towards the external environment and community; they also provide special care for their guests by allowing hosts and staff at the hotel to co-create relevant experiences with them; it is the orchestration of natural, social and cultural elements which are flourishing around the properties that support meaningful interpersonal and nature-based relationships. Regenerative hotels aims at creating mindful experiences to guide their customers towards transformative moments; this is the case, for example, of the Bliss and Star s in South Africa which takes customer into an inner journey of meditation and relaxation supported by wild nature and expert star gazing. Central in this process is the role of local employees and community small businesses who facilitate the creation and co-creation of value for the final stakeholders. Most of the managing directors we met during our research stressed the importance of hiring and growing local passionate people who care about the nature and the community to drive the model forward and to engage guests at a different level.

Why Regenerative Hospitality Then?

What became apparent in our research journey was the interest and the passion of each professional we met with respect to their regenerative hospitality practices. The reasons for their enthusiasm could be drilled down to four main elements:

  • Local vs global: Regenerative Hospitality stresses local impact; it is less about generic sustainability guidelines to comply with and to justify towards a given body or certification authority; it is more about a genuine involvement with the local ecosystem. It is not about doing less harm to the environment and the community and it is more about local systemic net-positive impact. Results are visible. Impact is understandable.
  • The harmonic systemic approach: outward (i.e. ecosystem and community) and inward (i.e. host and guest) world collaborate in facilitating net-positive impact for all. The hospitality business is not conceived in isolation but opens up and impacts inward and outward spheres. Nature and its complexity along with the multifaced community forces are embraced to strengthen the acceptance and support of the hospitality operations towards the supply chain but also towards guests’ experiential journey.
  • Employee retention: local hired employees are part of this impactful picture and can support both the outward and inward nature of the ecosystem. Additionally, having a ‘mission’ for the wider community will support the retention of the employees/community member who search for purposeful jobs.
  • Engages Guests: guests looking for sustainable related experience can easily relate to the concept of regenerative hospitality. But there is more than the marketing side to this approach: mindful experience can trigger transformation and regeneration also at guests’ level; these experiences are often co-created with and orchestrated by local employees and local bodies. Thus, fostering the possibility of bilateral engagement.

All in all, the Regenerative Hospitality approach requires a mind-shift for hoteliers to really focus on their ‘local’; this will foster creativity at all levels thanks to commitment and engagement with nature, community and visitors.

Who is Regenerative Hospitality For?

In our study we came across to relatively small and privately owned properties which are driving the change in the hospitality field. However, we believe there is space for all hospitality establishments to embrace the regenerative mindshift. One has just to start, so here below some tips on how to start and move on.

  1. Develop a regenerative proposition and draft a suitability/regenerative plan: what is regeneration for you? How can your business have a positive impact on the wider community? What is that you and your colleagues can do to make a difference locally?
  2. Refine your idea with stakeholders in the community: once you found your regenerative proposition, refine it with key community stakeholders. Engage in consultations; bring relevant stakeholders on board and start the regenerative journey.
  3. Engage your staff and create ‘ambassadors’ to establish meaningful relationships within the company and outside the company. Be always crystal clear with your plan and give a purpose to your employees to serve their local community.
  4. Involve your guests and orchestrate experiential elements coming from the community, the natural environment and the staff. Harvest the richness of the world around you to promote change in your customers.
  5. Track, Report and Communicate: do not be shy of your achievement. Do not brag about them. Report them in a clear and neat way. Leading the local conversation and communicating your achievement will foster your national and international exposure towards a target audience who will tune-in in the conversation.

Want to know more about Regenerative Hospitality: get in touch [email protected].

Further interesting readings and resources:

  • Polman, P., & Winston, A. S. (2022). Net positive. Profit Editorial.
  • Dredge, D. (2022). Regenerative tourism: transforming mindsets, systems and practices. Journal of Tourism Futures.
  • Bellato, L., Frantzeskaki, N., & Nygaard, C. A. (2022). Regenerative tourism: a conceptual framework leveraging theory and practice. Tourism Geographies, 1-21.

Alessandro INVERSINI
Associate Professor