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:
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.