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Greek Pioneers Apply Regenerative Tourism Ideas in Zanzibar

Regenerative Tourism Zanzibar
Tourism ideas aimed to achieve more than increased revenues. Credit: F-Zeen Boutique Hotel Zanzibar

A group of Greek entrepreneurs who have taken over the management of several hotels in Zanzibar are applying regenerative tourism ideas aimed at achieving more than increased revenues.

The concept of regenerative tourism aims to bring transformational experiences to guests so they can go home inspired and with a positive impression of their travel, whilst making sure that the local cultural heritage and traditions are conserved from one generation to the next.

By Phil Butler

In the late 1980s, the United Nations Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.”

It’s been almost four decades, and it seems sure future generations will be hard-pressed to have everything they need, let alone the goods and services they desire. And tourism is at the top of a list of industries that must undergo a paradigm shift in stakeholder thinking and actions.

Climate change, continued economic instability, diminishing resources, and other problems have not been solved with 40 years of so-called “sustainability efforts” across every business spectrum.

Many experts suggest this is because sustainability efforts in many businesses, including tourism, were only a band-aid solution to a much bigger problem. As the United Nations prescribed, sustainable development was a set of goals to address “poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace, and justice.”

The problem with these goals is not the lack of value but the efficacy of our current system. The UN panel should have considered that our economic model is flawed. This has caused an impasse in innovation and business development. The consumer is affected by a mindset geared to excess and eccentricity.

Few have understood that the quality of life the UN prescribed so long ago can only be reached via new thinking and different processes from those that caused these problems in the first place.

Or, as economist and capital investor John Fullerton suggests in his booklet, “Regenerative Capitalism: How Universal Patterns and Principles Will Shape the New Economy,” we need to reimagine economics, finance, and development in service to life.

Regenerative Tourism Zanzibar
Zanzibar beach. Public Domain

Orama applies regenerative tourism ideas in Zanzibar

This idea is at the heart of an initiative by a group of Greek entrepreneurs at Orama Hospitality Management. George Kotronis and his partners have taken over the management of several hotels in Zanzibar to achieve more than increased revenues.

Their choice of Zanzibar is logical if you understand the difficulty of shifting mature markets.

Kotronis and his colleagues have decades of hospitality experience in Greece and Cyprus, and especially on the island of Crete. However, Orama Hospitality launched with its sights on a less mature tourism market because of the economic and business demand, simply because the former “Spice Islands” are only now expanding their tourism industry.

Moreover, Zanzibar’s government, investment groups, and critical stakeholders are far less rigid than their counterparts anywhere in Greece. So, Orama Hospitality sees an opportunity to create a regenerative tourism model from the outset, rather than coming up against the hard and fast mindset of Greece and Cyprus.

Regenerative Tourism Zanzibar
Produce vendors at a market in Zanzibar. Credit: Esculapio, CC BY 2.5/Wikipedia

Interestingly, one of the resorts Orama manages is the beachfront F-Zeen Boutique Hotel Zanzibar. The name F-Zeen, or εὖ ζῆν (pronounced F-Zeen in ancient Greek), is what Greeks call the good life.

And therein lies the essence of what Fullerton and all advocates of regenerative economics are after; they understand that our problems, the losing battle we are fighting with band-aid solutions, are from misinterpretation.

This is why we are still shackled to hunger, energy problems, incorrect or insufficient employment, degraded education systems, climate problems, and the rest. We need to redefine what the “good life” is. This is what the next generation of thinkers and innovators engage in.

Zanzibar is an ideal place to create a template for success

Some time back, the Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (ZATI) commissioned Acorn Tourism Consulting to produce a study which would help the Ministry of Trade, Tourism, and Investment and the Zanzibar Commission for Tourism to rebrand and refashion Zanzibar tourism.

This was a great beginning, that set the stage for Kotronis and his partners to create new concepts and rejuvenate F-Zeen and Zoe Hotel Zanzibar into regenerative enterprises.

The idea is to make these positive models, and to convince investors in mature markets like Crete of the value. What is needed is a regenerative philosophy that restores what’s been degraded and cements the business vision that supports the good life.

A quote I translated from talks about the choices we need to make:

“For every thinking person, the good life goes far beyond the material comforts imposed by the times. As much as we don’t believe it, we ourselves define the way and quality of our lives. Our well-being lies and must lie in our inner peace, way of thinking, choices, and ambitions.

All this will only be achieved through the individual effort of each one to improve the conditions of his life, to educate himself to think positively , to help his fellow man, to find alternative ways not only to survive in this hard time but also to live well and as he deserves.”

The Evergreen Direct Investing method, the brainchild of economist Tim MacDonald Fullerton synthesizes EDI and what needs to happen in a statement from a Capital Investing report:

“EDI makes possible a shift to real enterprise investment through negotiated partnerships in which the long-term interests of investors, management, financial intermediaries, and all enterprise stakeholders are truly aligned.”

The gist is that the way we’ve been doing business is not sustainable and certainly not regenerative. This is evident to anyone who has stood in a buffet line at an all-inclusive resort. That is, anyone open to experiences not geared by traditional economics. It may be cheaper, but that’s all. It’s not better.

Regenerative Tourism Zanzibar
Tourism is one of the main sectors of the economy. Credit: Rod Waddington, CC BY-SA 2.0/Wikipedia

Regenerative tourism is the buzzword

Companies and NGOs naturally seek to climb aboard the “regenerative tourism” trend. For example, a Saudi project called NEOM is billed as regenerative development when it’s just another crystal city in the constellation of tourist developments there.

Building a new city and reaching the stars in an already pristine natural environment is the old way of doing things, polished up to be eco-friendly and leading edge.

NEOM is not alone. Travel and hospitality channels push regenerative travel as sustainable travel with bells and whistles.

A report from Guide to Next by Publicis Sapient, a division of Publicis Publicis Groupe, the French multinational advertising and public relations company, grafts a brilliant PR and advertising twist to the movement John Fullerton and others began.

The problem is that hospitality media and its pundits suggest that regenerative economics and tourism mean doing the same things we are doing, only more of it.

The Publicis Groupe take keys on the same UN principles from the 1980s, adding elements like Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to detect – problems. By the way, Publicis used a paid search to put the report by Publicis Sapient’s senior travel and hospitality guru, Sanjana Gandhi, in front of this analyst’s eyeballs.

Ironically, Gandhi uses another Saudi mega-development as an example of regenerative tourism planning in motion.

The project is about erecting 50 luxury hotels, a new airport, a yacht marina, and 1,000 residences across 22 islands and inland areas. But, again, we are faced with problems of definition.

Regenerative methodology and ideology represents expansion and growth in the old-fashioned profitability way to hoteliers from Crete to Tabuk Province in northwestern Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, on islands from Indonesia to Greece, no one is rebuilding old villages, refining once-popular hotels, or instituting any new-age economic model.

A citation from a report from Red Sea Corporate hints at what Saudi oil princes consider regeneration:

“A burgeoning tourism and hospitality sector will allow Saudi Arabia to open up to the rest of the world like never before, and young Saudis are embracing this prospect.”

These Greek travel and hospitality experts have other ideas. They envision a truly regenerative and thriving tourism sector for Zanzibar, not a burgeoning one that degrades those beautiful islands. So, let’s keep an eye on Zanzibar and Orama Hospitality, which in Greek means “vision” or “goal.”

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