A Journey of Becoming - A New Role for Tourism

Josie Major
Jul 23, 2023

As we evolve into the Centre for GOOD Travel, we’re considering tourism’s role in the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world that we live in. 

  • What does it mean to work in the tourism sector during a climate crisis?
  • How should visitors interact with places and communities where social and political injustice are rife? 
  • What does it look like to be a tourism operator in a time of increasingly frequent unprecedented and extreme weather events?  

Our mission has evolved to be transforming tourism for a thriving world, and to do that we need to understand what role tourism has to play in that thriving world we envision. 

We have always believed in tourism’s potential to drive change. It’s why our social enterprise was founded on the need for more sustainable and responsible tourism ten years ago. It’s why we host experiences every year with the hope of transforming travellers and contributing positively to the communities and places we visit. And it's why we’re evolving now - as we enter a post-pandemic world, we know that continuing as if nothing has changed would be short-sighted and irresponsible. We face new challenges, we have new awareness and we see new potential for tourism’s contribution to a thriving world. 

In order for tourism to contribute in this way and to become regenerative, we must fundamentally redesign tourism’s purpose and role from traveller through to host communities. 

Cultivating a new mindset 

This reimagining of tourism requires, first and foremost, a monumental mindset shift, one that will require fresh thinking, bold ideas, radical collaboration and systems transformation. 

The traditional mindset around tourism and what success looks like in our sector has led us down a path to gross overtourism, dwindling social licence and significant environmental degradation due to the ways our sector has operated. From our perspective, there is no longer any reasonable doubt that a new mindset is needed. The polycrises of climate change, biodiversity collapse and ongoing social and political injustices make it perfectly clear - we must learn to think, work and live in different ways.

So what is needed from tourism? We are called upon, firstly, to unlearn the extractive models of value that have led to the exploitation of people and places for tourism’s benefit. We see time and again places and communities being co-opted by tourism for the benefit of travellers, to the detriment of the local people and ecosystems who are our hosts. 

A regenerative mindset for tourism invites us to consider what thriving might look like in that host community and place and how we in tourism might contribute to that thriving. What shifts when we consider, instead of what we can take from a place or people to give tourists an experience, how we might create a reciprocally nourishing relationship between visitors and hosts? 

A new mindset also requires us to think outside of our often siloed places or sectors and work in new and collaborative ways. 

Welcoming a new way of working 

At the Centre for GOOD Travel, we believe in radical collaboration. This means we value meaningful partnerships based on transparency and humility with our travellers, host destinations, local partners, others in the sector and those outside of tourism. Working in this way allows us to adopt a regenerative mindset - knowing that for us to thrive, the communities, places and systems we are a part of must be thriving too. It also creates potential for opportunities, projects and knowledge that we would otherwise not have access to. 

We have seen how the tourism sector has traditionally operated in a way that is siloed and has seen itself as separate from the places and communities in which we work. We know that this cannot be true - our very existence as a sector relies on our host communities, local businesses, social and physical infrastructure in place and natural ecosystems. So we welcome a new way of working with a goal of mutual thriving - thriving hosts and thriving visitors and a thriving tourism sector. 

We are also being called upon to challenge the extractive business models that have traditionally dominated the tourism sector. The Centre for GOOD Travel is and has always been a social enterprise - a collective of diverse women who place equal value on purpose as much as profit. We believe it is possible to have a thriving business at the same time as contributing to the thriving of others.

Seeking Potential 

Core to what is needed from tourism in a VUCA world is the ability to seek and harness potential. A regenerative approach to tourism asks us not to focus on problems to solve through our work, but rather to look for and nourish the potential of people and places. 

As we evolve, we are asking questions like: 

  • What unique potential does tourism have to contribute to the ability of this place, community or ecosystem to thrive? 
  • Who might we collaborate with to create new and unexpected impact? 
  • What value could tourism add to this project, cause, place, system, ecosystem? 

What’s different about these questions? They offer us a chance to step outside our traditional mindsets and ways of working, and to explore the potential of our work without limiting ourselves to problem solving. 

What is needed from the Centre for GOOD Travel? 

As we explore these ideas of what is needed from tourism in a VUCA world, we are shaping our next chapter of work around the unique potential we see for ourselves to transform tourism for a thriving world. 

We intend to do this in three main ways: 

Experiences - we’ll continue to operate experiences that are designed to transform mindsets, challenge traditional tourism experience models, and contribute in a meaningful way to the people and places we visit. 

Capability Building - through courses, programmes, coaching and co-creation, we work with tourism professionals, businesses and host communities to build the capability for a regenerative approach to tourism. 

Storytelling - we will harness the power of storytelling to transform mindsets and drive change by sharing stories of a new way forward through our blog, podcast, newsletter and other projects. And we hope to bring others along on the journey by sharing our own evolution story in blogs like these. 

Listen to our Podcast. 

In our next blog of this series, we’ll dig deeper into these different sectors of our work and how we’re working in and on the systems we’re a part of to transform the tourism sector for a thriving world.

July 23, 2023
5 min read