The Moroccan city of Marrakech is committed to green tourism. A leading global tourist destination and Morocco’s top attraction, the city has recently hosted the COP22 climate change summit and is fast turning into a green city that encourages eco tourism.
Tourism is the second highest source of income, making up 12% of Moroccan GDP – more than 10 million tourists visited the country in 2015. The National Tourism Office is keen to integrate environmental awareness and protection initiatives into the tourism sector.
General Director Abderrafie Zouiten said: ‘We never wanted to develop mass tourism. Morocco intends to emphasis the eco tourism, its special tangible and intangible heritage, together with the tourism professions, with the regions.’
Sustainable Tourism Charter
The new Moroccan Sustainable Tourism Charter came into force on 25th January 2016 launching the first ever Sustainable and Responsible Tourism Day. The Charter is designed as a framework reference for all industry stakeholders to come together around the four principles of sustainable tourism:
- Biodiversity Protection and the Environment
- Sustainability of Culture and Heritage
- Prioritising Local Development and Respect for Host Communities
- Fairness, Ethics and Social Responsibility
Morocco’s eco tourism efforts have also been recognised internationally with a Silver Award at the African Responsible Tourism Awards in Cape Town.
More than 72 Moroccan hotels, hostels and smaller accommodations have now been awarded the prestigious Green Key for their environmental efforts and responsibility, of which 30 can be found in Marrakech.
The Green Key is a voluntary eco label supported by the United National Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). At present, 2,500 establishments across 53 countries are accredited.
These efforts form part of Morocco’s new policy to encourage sustainable development in order to achieve its Vision 2020 Tourism Strategy. This strategy is designed to make the country’s tourism industry more competitive, aiming to attract 20 million tourists by 2020.
Marrakech, where history and culture merge in a most attractive way, is part of this ambitious vision for the future. The city was awarded ISO 14 011 certification for its sustainable tourism efforts, and there are plenty of options for the eco tourist to enjoy and discover the beauty of this ancient city.
Here are some tips to help promote sustainable travel during your visit:
Marrakech’s famous souks boast over 3,000 ‘shops’ and all will reassure you that their wares are authentic, local made and of the finest quality when, in fact, many products will have been mass produced and are not good quality. If you’re looking for genuine souvenirs that also support local business, why not visit fair trade outlets such as Al Nour, a social enterprise that supports handicapped women, or the Cooperative Artisanale des Femmes de Marrakech.
Argan Oil is another classic example. Once a Berber tribal ingredients, it is now a global multi million dollar industry. The Argan tree, native to Morocco, plays an important part in protecting the soil in the South West of the country and preventing more desertification. With the help of UNESCO, Argan trees are now protected while cooperatives have been set up to promote better wages and work conditions for local women. If you wish to buy some Argan Oil to take home, you’re advised to shop at the cooperatives. They may charge a little more but chances are higher that you’ll be getting good quality or even certified organic oil as opposed to cheaper and inferior products sold widely elsewhere.
The best way to explore Marrakech is on foot. The Medina provides plenty of opportunity to step back in time and discover architectural gems and hidden alleyways. As far as green space goes, the Menara Gardens are filled with olive trees and great sites, making them a fantastic place for a nature walk. The colourful and exotic Majorelle Gardens contain botanic specimen from around the world as well as the former home of Yves Saint Laurent.
Of course, for the authentic Moroccan experience, a Mehari dromedary ride is the best way to see the region and discover some of Morocco’s dessert environment…
Respect local customs
While Marrakech is a cosmopolitan city, modest dress is always appreciated in order to be respectful of local customs, particularly in the Medina. Some tourists go around in skimpy t-shirts and shorts or miniskirts, which can create unwanted attention. As a Muslim country, most local women do not show skin apart from face and hands. Do at least have something to hand to cover up your shoulders and keep our knees covered.
Similarly, overt public displays of affection between couples should be avoided, as should eating and drinking while walking along the street, and smoking in the street during Ramadan.
Written by Dakota Murphey, a freelance travel writer working with luxury 18th century courtyard house Riad el Zohar, in Marrakech.