Sustainability Criteria 

Sustainable tourism
Being able to meet the standards of sustainable development while applying the Global Sustainable Council for Tourism’s (GSTC) sustainability criteria is challenging for all stakeholders in the tourism sector. The Béni Mellal-Khénifra region has taken on this challenge: they have understood their strengths and special attraction to lie in sustainability, and consequently it is the only proper tourism development path they can follow.

For the longest time, the Béni Mellal-Khénifra region was cut off from the rest of the world, and this helped keep their environment relatively pristine. Today, thanks to the expansion of road infrastructure, the region is more easily accessible, and therefore also susceptible to negative human impact. There is a danger that rural gems are being damaged by improper use or rushed speculative development. Vigilance is now needed to ensure the region stays protected and pristine.

Tourist expectations have changed markedly over the past few years. Consequently, tour operators need to cater to the needs of a more heterogeneous, better-informed, and demanding client base requiring social and ecological mindfulness.

Adoption of the GSTC’s international sustainability criteria meets these expectations in various ways, and it will have consistently positive impact on the tourism sector; the travel destination of Béni Mellal-Khénifra will experience stronger domestic and international demand. The effects can be categorized into two groups:

  • Positive effects on the travel destination’s socio-economic sustainability: improvement in the living conditions of the local population thanks to new jobs, an increase in business, satisfaction of both employees and clients, and the development of hard and soft skills along with demand for local products.
  • Positive effects on the cultural and environmental sustainability through protection and more efficient management of cultural sites and rural areas, particularly those that due to their rural and environmental qualities are highly sought after, not to mention the avoidance of various pollution sources with a rational and proper use of natural resources.
"The initiatives provide for the overhaul and upgrading of the region’s most important tour attractions. Here it’s important to keep tourism growth under the natural tolerance threshold. Good examples of this are Ain Asserdoun Park in Béni Mellal, the Taghbalout Summer Centre in El Ksiba, and Tamda Gardens in Zaouit Cheikh (parking spots, sanitation facilities, footpaths, etc.).The least damaging leisure activities are being expanded and promoted, in preference to environmentally damaging activities for mass tourism, for example: sports and leisure activities such as hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, spelunking, and bird watching."
Driss Achbal, General Director of Services in the Regional Council and Chairman of the M’Goun Geopark Association


The region is pursuing a pragmatic approach based on listening to the local population, local businesses, and public and private sector stakeholders in order to identify appropriate initiatives together that enjoy broad support and therefore can be implemented efficiently.

For hotels and restaurants, the most important initiatives include water and energy efficiency, sustainable waste management, and integration of the rural community (e.g., being mindful of local architecture and using local materials).

At present it is about helping raise awareness among lodging hosts of hygiene and related safety of their employees and guests, as the health policy context demands; it is also about increasing awareness of the environment and sustainability. This is achieved with suitable tools and trainings that make it possible on the one hand to measure and consequently improve performance while lowering costs, and on the other it sends a positive message to potential clients. 

As part of the Switzerland-Morocco Sustainable Tourism programme, various activities have already been implemented. For example, technical skills are being shared among the various stakeholders, while tourism services and their sustainability have already improved. This is reflected particularly in the equality of the 40 guest houses that have been renovated to meet the GSTC (6 lodgings have already been renovated and a further 34 are to be upgraded in a second phase).

The majority of pilot lodgings in Béni Mellal are run by women (supporting our gender equity approach) and also make up the living spaces for guest families, spurring social development. This helps people in the region to secure their economic livelihoods and a social future.

MSMEs in the region producing agricultural and artisanal products will be assisted in the future to ensure they can upgrade their skills for successfully marketing their products to tourists. 

Other sensitisation activities target other value chain actors such as nature tour guides and travel agencies. The purpose is for these service providers to use the concept of sustainability as a communication and sales tool.


In the tourism sector, decisions are made at various levels: national, regional, and local. This makes it more difficult to implement action plans locally, particularly with regard to the social and environmental aspects. Thanks to step-by-step consolidation of various initiatives, today there exists a broadly popular and supported fundamental concept. The goal is to create the conditions for sustainable tourism development and establish the region as a tourism flagship on the domestic and international levels.

First, it is about establishing a coordination platform to develop sustainable tourism, where all interest groups are bound to a common vision and ambitious but implementable action plan. This is done through participatory methods and application of a “bottom-up” approach.

"Today we are using the programme because we have realized that it’s about ideas offered by the local community, and we are closely involved. Since the start of the programme we have worked together. We see eye to eye and the initiatives are being implemented well. You already can sense the programme’s impact in the region.
The committed involvement of all state authorities, from representatives of the regional council and provincial councils of Azilal und Béni Mellal, to the municipalities and Wali (Governor) of Azilal are all welcome news. They all know how important tourism growth is for social and economic development of families living in mountain regions. Therefore, they have made it their goal to make the region a top destination for mountain tourism and sustainable tourism on the domestic level."
Driss Achbal, General Director of Services in the Regional Council and Chairman of the M’Goun Geopark Association 
Sustainable tourism
Switzerland-Morocco Sustainable Tourism Programme
The Swiss-Moroccan sustainable tourism programme aims to support the provinces of Azilal and Beni Mellal in developing sustainable tourism with integrated sectors in order to reduce poverty, create income and new jobs and improve existing jobs, particularly for young people and women.