The answer is a definite…. maybe.
Just as in so many things, there is no black and white here. I have heard many tourism and sustainability experts on online panels predict that sustainability will play a mayor important role in travel and tourism after the pandemic.
Honestly, I am not so sure – although, of course I would love to see that happen. What I have observed in the past months is that this Pandemic has certainly accelerated already existing trends (i.e. Online Shopping, Zoom Meetings and Virtual Learning) and so most likely there will also be some kind of impact in terms of sustainable travel.
So let’s talk for a moment about the new “buzzword” in sustainable tourism called “Regenerative Travel”. It received a lot of attention recently after Elaine Glusac mentioned it in her New York Times article called:
Move Over, Sustainable Travel. Regenerative Travel Has Arrived. Can a post-vaccine return to travel be smarter and greener than it was before March 2020? Some in the tourism industry are betting on it.
“If sustainable tourism, which aims to counterbalance the social and environmental impacts associated with travel, was the aspirational outer limit of ecotourism before the pandemic, the new frontier is “regenerative travel,” or leaving a place better than you found it.”
At Cayuga, we absolutely love the concept of a kind of tourism that “leaves a place better than you found it after vacationing there”. We intrinsically always had that goal since we first got involved in sustainable tourism (back then we called it mostly ecotourism) in the 1990s in Costa Rica. We can’t really imagine doing tourism any other way. Focusing on education, buying and hiring locally, creating opportunities for professional and personal growth for locals, and regenerating natural habitats has been on our daily agenda for over 20 years.
Throughout the years we also came across other terms such as nature-based tourism, geo-tourism, agrotourism, green tourism, aspirational tourism, wellness tourism, conscious tourism, fair trade tourism, impact tourism, ethical tourism, meaningful travel, travel philanthropy, and many more. But no matter how you spin it, it is most important to make sure that you walk the talk and really have a positive impact on the local people and the natural environment where you operate.
And that takes us back to the question of how things will evolve after the Pandemic. Will there be indulgent “revenge travel” with no real consideration of the environment and local people just because people believe that after suffering so much, they totally “deserve it”? Or will people tread more lightly and be considerate after having gone through those difficult times and having created more of an appreciation for nature and humanity? Maybe one hint lies in what happened in the roaring 1920s after the last Pandemic of 1918/19. Who knows? It is too early to tell. Let’s review this in early 2022.
Since there is no crystal ball and predicting the future, at the Cayuga Collection, we decided that we would just continue to focus on what is in our control and be true to our mission of finding the perfect symbiosis of sustainability and luxury in hospitality. We continue to proudly buy local, employ local, and run programs to help our communities and protect the natural environment around us.
As mentioned earlier, the Pandemic seems to act as an accelerator – and not necessarily change the way people think. So we believe that for the people (businesses and travelers alike) that were already on the sustainable travel path, they will continue their journey at higher speed and intensity and become more sustainable or regenerative. They will be more committed than ever to take conscious travel decisions and improve the places they visit through their travel contribution.
But others, that just adopted sustainability as a necessary evil to keep up with competitors or it was in fashion to stay at an ecolodge, might just drop their efforts for good and go happily back to the old ways of reckless consumption. As a sustainability gauge, check your local coffee shop, supermarket, a favorite restaurant, or hotel chain and see how much of their “no plastic” pledge of 2018 is still in place.
If you plan to visit us at the Cayuga Collection Hotels and Lodges in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama, we would be happy to take you on our complimentary back of house sustainability tour and show you what we continue to do in terms of sustainable hospitality practices and also bring you up to speed on what is new and changing.
You will be pleased to see that we have not brought any single-use plastics back and have developed solid sanitary and health protocols that do not only keep our guests and employees safe but also don’t produce a negative impact on the environment. We have been able to purchase even more locally and continue to focus our efforts on our staff and the local communities where we operate.