Before jumping into 2024, catch up on some of the best articles highlighted by Rooted in 2023. | Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash

December 18, 2023

It seems like just yesterday I was writing the annual 2022 wrap-up article for Rooted, but, alas, it was 52 weeks ago.

And a lot has happened in those 52 weeks. It’s been quite the year, hasn’t it?

In one-on-one spaces with colleagues, travelers, and changemakers of all stripes, there seems to be a bit of tension. People are both eager to change and adopt new ways of approaching their work while recognizing the need to slow down, proceed with caution, and think more mindfully about their actions, words, and relationships.

In the tourism ecosystem, there’s a buzz of energy about what the future in our space could look like. Indeed, some forward-thinking destinations are actively rethinking how they show up for travelers and, importantly, their own residents. And, there are many small businesses and entrepreneurs already operating from a community-led and -focused perspective and/or recognizing that travel as we’ve known it in the past needs to fundamentally change. Yet, it also seems, in general (and especially at the highest levels of tourism and in the largest travel companies), the industry at large is eager to embrace buzzwords while failing to actually embrace the paradigm shift needed at the deepest levels of this space.

And in the world as a whole, humanity feels hopelessly fragmented even as it collectively faces dangerous tipping points related to the climate crisis, biodiversity collapse, technological advances, and basic kindness and compassion. Now, more than ever, we should be standing together. And yet, we often do not.

Nonetheless, I continue to have hope. I continue to watch communities and small businesses embrace ingenuity to address these challenges. I continue to have conversations with colleagues who are investing their own resources, ideating creative projects, willing (and interested) in asking hard questions, and pushing against the status quo. 

I continue to find inspiration both within and beyond tourism. And, I continue to look forward, even as I learn from the past and make adjustments accordingly in the moment.

With that in mind, here are some of the ideas, solutions, and insights that caught my attention over the last year. All of these articles were either published here on the Rooted platform or shared through the bi-weekly newsletter.

If you’ve missed previous years’ round-up articles, you can find them here:

Spaces and Places

These Museums Are Curated by The People They Represent (Reason To Be Cheerful) - “Centering community members is especially resonant in the context of museum pieces that were taken without consent centuries ago — and have not always been presented with the object’s whole story.”

Biomimicry’s role in shaping a sustainable built environment (GreenBiz) - “While biomimetic design is definitely not the holy grail towards achieving a regenerative built environment, it could become a source of inspiration.”

European tourist island declares itself a phone-free zone (CNN) - “Though it may be difficult for some to resist work emails and updating social media during vacation, the island of Ulko-Tammio in Finland is urging visitors to ignore their screens and enjoy nature.”

Why a Local, Place-Based Focus is Key to Addressing Tourism’s Challenges (Rooted) - “If these small, micro-moments are the bedrock of tourism’s success, perhaps there’s value in stepping back from our global focus and giving local, place-based stories, knowledge, and solutions more time and space.”

Urban ‘Microrewilding’ Projects Provide a Lifeline for Nature (The Revelator) - “While large-scale urban rewilding projects are increasingly being embraced by city governments around the world, such as the High Line gardens in New York City or the network of six biodiversity parks totaling nearly 2,000 acres in New Delhi, India, what will play a key role in the success of wildlife recovery efforts in cities, is not just protecting a city’s parks and rivers, but making its streets, homes, and skyscrapers greener.”

People First

Sowing Seeds of Justice Along the Rio Grande (Earth Island Journal) - “It also signals a new era of conservation focused on collaborative management with historically marginalized populations.”

Destination Marketing Redefined: Challenging Stereotypes with People-Centric Storytelling (Rooted) - “If a good place to live is a good place to visit, then how can local people be acknowledged, represented, and even centered in destination-focused content while still appealing to travelers?”

The fine-dining restaurant that serves only Indigenous cuisine (Positive News) - “Taha is a firm believer that the act of preserving and celebrating Indigenous cuisines serves as a vehicle for recognising and ‘revalorizando’ (giving new importance to) the traditional cultures from which these cuisines derive.”

Inside Europe’s people-powered green transition (Anthropocene) - “The initiatives range from an Italian community that installed wind turbines and solar panels on public buildings to provide free-of-charge electricity, to a Lithuanian housing association in an apartment building that installed a geothermal heating system, to a consumer cooperative in Spain with a fleet of electric cars.”

‘I stopped poaching’: Philippine sea turtles gain an unexpected ally (Christian Science Monitor) - “But the conservation effort established in 2009 has transformed sea turtle poachers into allies, offering incentives and training to help save thousands of turtles and keep their eggs from ending up in markets and on plates.”

Reimagining Tourism

Partnership Creates Tree-Planting Rail Travel Booking Tool (PhocusWire) - “While receiving over 2 million search enquiries per month for train booking phrases across Europe, Ecosio saw clear user demand for easy-to-use, train travel booking tools.”

How to Make Flying Fairer (Yes!) - “This is why flying, like environmental impact broadly, is an equality issue.”

Here Be Dragons: How Kayaking is Bringing New Life to Komodo (Much Better Adventures) - “But by training locals to be kayak guides or boat skippers, you can begin to address leakage - and make tourism work for locals.”

From Environmental Conservation to Women’s Rights, Non-Profit Organizations Offer Enriching Experiences Without Centering Travelers (Rooted) - “More than simply donating money, giving travelers the chance to interact with non-profits gives these organizations agency and builds a connection that can be the highlight of a traveler’s trip.”

The hike making Australia a better place (BBC) - “Although the hike is along one of Australia's most beautiful stretches of coastlines, wukalina Walk is much more than a tourism product with magnificent scenery.”

The Stories We Tell

‘If you win the popular imagination, you change the game’: why we need new stories on climate (The Guardian) - “What the climate crisis is, what we can do about it, and what kind of a world we can have is all about what stories we tell and whose stories are heard.”

Reframing Tourism with Two Powerful Questions (Rooted) - “This means it is also the perfect time to reframe tourism, its purpose, and how people engage with it — starting with these two new questions.”

Plan to ‘retain and explain’ controversial statues is flawed – why we should always question our monuments (The Conversation) - “We need to learn to question all monuments rather than read them as factual documents of the past.”

Designing waste to be valuable (GreenBiz) - “Knowing the stories of those who made our stuff would foster emotional attachment and discourage waste.”

This student was overwhelmed by ‘alarmist’ environmental education. So she designed her own college course. (The 19th) - “Lenier’s class, Solutions for a Sustainable and Just Future, was radically different from the environmental education norm, focused on explaining both the most pressing environmental issues of our time, and then offering solutions.”

A Little Bit of Everything Else

Pay-What-You-Can Farm Stands Feed Communities Against Tough Odds (Civil Eats) - “I started looking around, and I said, ‘What can I do to get the south side of the park to help support the people that live on the north side?’”

Trees, rivers and mountains are gaining legal status - is this a promising approach to protect nature? (World Economic Forum) - “This idea can be traced back to the early 1970s, when American legal scholar Christopher Stone spontaneously threw it into a classroom discussion about the gradual expansion of rights, and was pleasantly surprised by the positive response it got.”

Peace: A new tool for reducing deforestation in the Colombian Amazon (Mongabay) - “Although deforestation is often seen as a biophysical process — cutting down trees — it is just as much a socio-environmental process.”

Finally, a Peek Into the Arctic Seed Vault That Could Save Humanity (Mother Jones) - “As you make your way between what look like the shelves of a DIY warehouse, you can click on a country’s box to find out more.”

A Virginia Museum Repatriated a Nigerian Sculpture and Received a High-Tech Replica in Return. Could the Exchange Shape Future Restitutions? (Artnet) - “The aim was to pilot a new restitution model, and “show how digital technologies can be used to share objects, so that repatriation is not necessarily a zero sum game,””

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