What’s better than simply leaving no footprints while traveling? Making the world better with every trip you take, every dollar you spend.
Enter Regenerative Travel. Kind of like the “anti-Expedia” of the travel industry, this new platform and booking site curates a collection of eco-luxury hotels with the highest possible environmental standards and evidence of significant social impact.
These hotels go beyond sustaining the status quo, and actively work to improve their community and surrounding natural environment.
Regenerative Travel also connects travelers with a global network of conscious tour operators and travel agents, who strive to show you the world while giving back.
We sat down with co-founder Amanda Ho to learn more about the company’s vision and mission.
How did Regenerative Travel come to be?
My background is actually in media – I was the founder and editor-in-chief of New York-based Electrify magazine, a multi-media lifestyle and travel publication that, among other things, led me to report on some of my greatest passions: luxury hospitality and sustainability.
My interest in both aspects only grew stronger over the years – and then, in 2016, I met David Leventhal, an entrepreneur whose investments have always been focused on sustainable real estate and hospitality.
David owned this stunning resort in Mexico, Playa Viva, which ticked all the boxes of a regenerative resort. At the time, many of his loyal guests had been asking him if he knew of places with a similar ethos in Indonesia, or Thailand, or Italy.
He saw a gap in the market, and once we sat down together, we realised we shared a mutual aim to create a lifestyle brand that inspired people to travel in a way that supported positive environmental and social impact.
We co-founded Regenerative Travel in January 2019 with five properties, and now count 45 as part of our portfolio.
What does it mean to be a ‘regenerative’ resort?
Regeneration is the next frontier of sustainable travel. While the latter is all about having a neutral impact on the places we visit, regenerative travel focuses on making those places better – transforming them in a collaborative way with nature and the surrounding environment.
Actively supporting wildlife conservancy, investing in solar energy, working with local communities and promoting practices like zero waste, permaculture gardens and organic farming are all aspects of regenerative travel.
Similarly, a regenerative traveller is someone who respects their surroundings, and mindfully engages with the locals to create positive, long-lasting connections.
How do you vet hotels and resorts for your portfolio?
More often than not, it starts with having a conversation with the owners. It’s the easiest way to understand whether our visions are aligned.
We also do our due diligence by looking at the different pillars in place at each property, to understand how serious the commitment to sustainability is. We scrutinise anything from company policies and design to food sourcing and waste management.
A regenerative traveller is someone who respects their surroundings, and mindfully engages with the locals to create positive, long-lasting connectionsAmanda Ho
The Datai Langkawi in Indonesia
What’s your goal for Regenerative Travel?
We want to keep our collection quite boutique, but also become leading voices in the sustainable travel industry by way of implementing a data-driven benchmarking system.
We held our first Regenerative Travel Summit at the end of September, when we launched a data benchmarking system in partnership with Greenview for all our Regenerative Resorts. The data collection is aimed to further each hotel’s regenerative journey while we provide our properties guidance and operational support with their new initiatives.
This spans carbon usage, energy and water resources, but also ethical staffing, social impacts and long-term plans so as to help build a more transparent network of properties around the world. Essentially, we want to lay out a series of best practices for our small community of hoteliers to embrace and foster.
Sustainability is growing important to travelers. How does it manifest in the hospitality sector?
Conscious travelers are increasingly paying more attention to their impact on the communities they visit. They want their dollars to go back to the right people.
They choose hotels and restaurants based on whether they have a zero-waste philosophy and ban on single-use plastic. They look for independent businesses, and are keen to support initiatives that have tangible, positive effects on the world around them — be it socially or environmentally.
The hotels we work with at Regenerative Travel are taking all that into consideration.
Which Regenerative Resorts in Asia would you recommend?
One of my all-time favourites is Bawah Reserve in Indonesia. Bawah is the first island in the archipelago nation to be powered by a renewable microgrid.
The resort was hand-built from sustainable bamboo and other recycled materials and uses solar energy to reheat water, among other things. The hotel itself is part of the Bawah Foundation, created to channel funds back into the local community, and it recently signed a partnership with WWF to make the whole area a protected site.
Shinta Mani Wild, in Cambodia, is also a great example of a regenerative resort – as well as a super-luxe ‘glamping’ experience. The wildlife corridor it was built on is one of the last places in Cambodia where you can see wild bears, elephants, gibbons and tigers, roaming free.
The property itself serves to fend off poacher and provides base camp for wildlife researchers and providing jobs to young graduates of the Shinta Mani School of Hospitality.
Nay Palad Hideaway in Siargao is also on my list – they’re incredibly committed to social responsibility and are part of the Long Run Initiative, which aims to create sustainable luxury experiences by applying the “4Cs” (Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce) to help preserve its surroundings for generations to come.
What’s the most surprising resort in your collection?
I’d say Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, in Nepal. The country isn’t necessarily thought of as a luxury travel destination, but this property truly is a high-end, highly refined oasis of tranquillity and sustainability.
It makes a major contribution to the Pokhara economy and income for local people and takes its social responsibility, governance and accountability very seriously.