A shared vision for the tourism industry

Shelley Bragg
Jul 23, 2023
Debbie Clarke and Josie Major in studio

In 2021, over a period of 10 weeks, Josie Major, GOOD Travel’s New Zealand Program Manager, and Debbie Clarke, the Founder of New Zealand Awaits, took us on a learning journey. A journey that explored regenerative tourism and what it looks like in a New Zealand context. They started with an openness, providing a platform for the sharing of ideas and knowledge, as well as for conversation and discussion. Alongside that, they not only welcomed but encouraged feedback and input from listeners; it was important for as many people as possible to be included in this collective discovery.

This journey was brought to us through Season 1 of GOOD Awaits: The Regenerative Tourism New Zealand Podcast. As we look towards the launch of Season 2, we wanted to reflect on the thought-provoking discussions that are shaping a new future for tourism.

A Commitment to the Process

One of the most powerful elements of the GOOD Awaits podcast is the commitment to the process of dialogue, investigation, inclusivity of different voices, and constant reflection. This process is important because it is true to the idea of regenerative thinking itself. Major and Clarke embraced a commitment to living systems thinking, and to the concepts of openness, listening for what wants to emerge, adaptation and iteration. They tackle the hard conversations of context and look critically at any preconceived ideas and how these could impact our perceptions. There was a commitment to the idea of futuring, looking ahead to what could be, based on tangible examples of what already is. They created GOOD Awaits as an inclusive endeavour, bringing together a range of voices to envisage what a shared regenerative tourism future could look like. 

At no stage during season 1 is a listener told that the solutions to the challenges faced by the present-day tourism industry are easy to implement, but at the same time they show us that the new ways of operating are possible. Regenerative models with positive results have and are being used. Regenerative tourism is happening already and through a series of inspiring interviews, we see possible pathways forward.

Why is Change Necessary?

With a reflection on how tourism has grown over the years, Porina McLeod, owner of Mauao Adventures, discusses how we can learn from past times. Thinking about the current model of tourism, she asks, “How can our land and oceans survive?” 

As Anna Pollock, Founder of Conscious.Travel and acclaimed thought-leader in the space of regenerative tourism shared with us in her interview, "The only way we're going to survive and thrive on planet Earth is if we start to live in harmony with nature, and live according to her limits, regarding her rules and the only way we can do that is in a community in places."

What do these pathways forward look like? 

Throughout the podcast series, we are gifted with the voices and ideas of thought leaders, tour operators, community members, and our podcast hosts, who hold the space for learning with care and caution, trying to hold true the principles of regenerative thinking in each episode. Through these voices, we’re able to see shared components for a new vision for tourism – for an industry that has the potential to uplift, support, protect, and improve places, communities, knowledge, and perceptions. We’re able to see tangible ideas with proven effectiveness, ones that are more equitable and pave the way for a better future in all areas - for a tourism industry that is healing rather than extractive. 

One example is that of Kohutapu Lodge & Tribal Tours, a whānau-owned and operated tourism business in the heart of Ngāti Manawa Tribal Lands in Murupara, with a vision to “Change a town through tourism”. We heard from Nadine Toe Toe, co-owner of Kohutapu Lodge & Tribal Tours. Their experiences in nature promote the protection and appreciation of New Zealand's natural beauty, while also sharing local, indigenous ways and traditions. Visitors are invited to contribute to the local community through meal preparation and distribution and deep cultural exchange with local youth. Their program for youth helps train young people in life and work skills through an indigenous lens, exemplifying their deep connection to their place and people. 

We also heard examples of what future regenerative pathways could look like. Our very own Eliza Raymond, co-founder of GOOD Travel, shared, "What I would love to see is the industry being led by social enterprises, small community-centered businesses that are driven by purpose and passion and are able to make a profit in the process." 

Trent Yeo, Executive Director of Ziptrek Ecotours calls on us to think of our decision today with our future in mind, talking to the seven generations' approach within National Parks in the United States: “How will our children's children, and their children, judge the decision I am making today.”

"When I look at what a reimagined tourism industry looks like it actually is also very connected to the whole community," shared Mandy Bell, co-owner of Criffel Station and Chairperson and Programme Director of WAI Wanaka. Looking at the system as a whole, we also heard about the collaboration between national and local government and tour operators and communities. Former Chief Executive for Tourism Bay of Plenty’, Kristin Dunne, a forerunner in regenerative tourism in Aotearoa New Zealand spoke about the mobilization of government, tourism bodies, and accessibility of funding, to make a shift like this possible. In her interview, Michelle Holliday, author of 'The Age of Thrivability' and international thought leader in living systems principles, shared, “There's something useful about central coordination, but local implementation. So that there is one conversation that is happening at a national level, that's really supportive of that convergence and energy that comes along with it. But every community needs also the freedom to self-organize what that looks like locally.” As Trent Yeo mentioned, "We need to have people who are definitely multi-talented, multi-skilled and multi-connected to be able to come together and find commonality in a designed future which includes our regions." 

Our podcast hosts brought these ideas together in their Season Harvest - the name true to the process - and shared their own ideas of a pathway forward. Josie saw a collaboration of key stakeholders, national strategy, partnerships, and local implementation. Debbie spoke about the importance and power of individual action and responsibility. 

All of these ideas center around a shared vision, one of interconnectedness between people and nature. They talk to a relational approach, understanding one impacts the other, and they spoke to context and understanding that models need to be adapted. Adding to this, Sarni Hart, Director of Coromandel Adventures discusses speaks to the need for a “deepening level of understanding and respect.” Lee-Anne Jago, owner of Waka Abel Tasman added, “If I think about that for tourism in New Zealand, I think about people in our environment at the front.”

​​Throughout the podcast, the hosts draw on and share a respect for the rich indigenous wisdom of New Zealand’s Māori people and culture. Nadine Toe Toe mentions the idea of manaakitanga, which directly translated would mean hospitality but has much deeper significance. Through this hospitality, this welcoming of others, you are elevating others, encouraging them and in return they show respect for your customs and homes and encourage you in return. 

Can we cultivate manaakitanga in our future for tourism?

What's in store for Season 2

Using the learnings from Season 1 to guide them in their focus areas, as well as their own continued studies in regenerative thinking in a tourism context, Clarke and Major continue to challenge the current paradigm and narrative of how tourism operates today. Especially as countries around the world open up again for business, they raise concerns about a rush back to ‘business as usual’ and a continuation of harmful and extractive practices. In this time of great urgency, they stress the imperative of adaptation and resiliency in a new tourism system.

Offering a new guiding story and concrete examples of ways of shifting to this new model of tourism, the podcast features a variety of guests in season 2 that help listeners on their journey to think differently about what tourism’s purpose and potential can be.

They explore the urgency and hard questions about travel in a VUCA world, a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. A world that is going to see ongoing disruptions that will continue to impact travel. 

They explore the impact of story-telling, and how the narratives we choose to reinforce have the power to shape our behaviors. 

Prioritizing new and different voices, we’ll hear from university students of tourism engaging in regenerative project design, offering hope for a shift in how future tourism actors will approach tourism ventures.

 To be truly regenerative means working across ecosystems and sectors, so they explore how food, agriculture, and technology interact with tourism and the huge potential for new collaborative models. 

They also share stories from the Pacific and how resilience and adaptation in response to the Covid pandemic offer lessons for a new way forward. 

Season 2 has been made possible with seed funding from a grant awarded by the UNESCO Foundation. Listeners can also donate to help keep the conversation going. 

A Paradigm Shift

When we consider the future of tourism, we are looking at a whole system shift. This is not a small change, but it can come about with determined and intentional actions. It can come about through collaboration and wide commitment to a new way of doing things, and with ongoing conversations and discussions to find a just and inclusive way forward.

As Michelle Holiday calls on us, "ask bigger questions and have more courageous conversations." The GOOD Awaits podcast continues to be one of these courageous conversations, and we hope you'll join us in it.

We have included only a few takeaways from the inspiring interviewees from Season 1. Each guest provided engaging, meaningful, insightful, and important talking points. We hope you'll follow the full season and keep the discussion going. 

July 23, 2023
5 min read