It has been like the Arab Spring of tourism in Morocco. A revolution of revellers as hordes of holidaymakers are dropped in by budget airlines. With 5.5 million visitors in 2005 and 10.5 in 2013, the development of multinational golf, hotel and even ski resorts has gone ballistic. All-inclusive resorts are a big feature of Agadir, and now also in Marrakech. And we have seen other destinations around the world crash and burn after such rapid growth, if the people who really need to benefit economically are being shut out of the development plans. Creating an inequitable and unfair distribution of wealth in a country that needs to spread its newfound tourism income far and wide, is irresponsible tourism per se. Growing and developing to bring wealth, increased education and career opportunities for local people isnít.
As it is now, with the influx of multinational, one size fits all tourism, few local people are benefiting. Not the holiday makers, nor the hosts. The streets and souks are more congested, the beaches are more polluted, land is becoming overpriced due to development potential, illegal activities more prolific, the natural resources such as water more depleted, and the local people more deflated. Indeed the political Arab Spring of 2011 included protests by Moroccan young people who were unhappy about unemployment, democracy and corruption. The King responded by launching a comprehensive program of reforms, granting greater human and social rights and creating a more open system of governance. Letís hope this fairer, squarer approach filters through to tourism.
What you can do:
We love Morocco because it is very different from Europe, and yet so close to home for ease of access. But this rapid development with regards to tourism risks to impact heavily upon this uniqueness. Of course an organic change in culture is inevitable, and a responsible tourist canít expect Moroccans to preserve and pickle their traditions and lifestyles just for our enjoyment. Especially when this development has the potential to break the poverty cycle for many people.
However, in our experience, when tourism is imposed by outside sources, local people are more likely to lose sight of their heritage, and get swamped by the generic tourism products that emanate from globalization. So, by supporting small, sustainable businesses, we can remind Moroccans that we tourists do value their heritage and culture, and that a wonderful holiday is as much about the experience and cultural exchange as it is about growing tourism numbers.