The Push of Climate Change action and the pull of economic growth: What sustainable tourism could look like in Morocco


The mausoleum for Mohammed V is an outstanding example of modern construction applying traditional values and skills. Such approaches should be considered for environmental sustainability solutions.

The mausoleum for Mohammed V is an outstanding example of modern construction applying traditional values and skills. Such approaches should be considered for environmental sustainability solutions.

As a country with 100 million annual beach visitors, nine delicate UNESCO world heritage sites and aspirations to double tourism, Morocco faces sustainable tourism challenges. These include rising
seas levels, extreme weather events and a desire to improve the quality of life for its lower income
population. The collision between such difference forces of Climate Change, population growth and
economic development was the backdrop for the Envirocities 2016 Coastal Cities Conference* held in
Rabat 24 and 25 October.

These challenges highlighted the need for capacity building, community involvement and integration
of government legislation. It also clearly put into perspective the difficulties of applying an Integrated
Coastal Zone Management system when the vision tourism is one of massification of coastal
development to replicate other destinations (e.g. Miami) rather than developing a more sustainable
approach. On the one hand you have the push for action of Climate Change and on the other the pull
for economic growth and job creation.

The Moroccan Minister for the Environment, Water and Mining, Dr. Hakima El Haite, told the audience
of over 300 local government officials and mayors from across Morocco, that “climate change is the
biggest challenge mankind has ever faced” and then went on to say this in her unscripted speech:
“Do not be surprised that tomorrow you will hear that 1 million people will die through flooding or
coastal storms. Everything has to change. We all have to change. The world of tomorrow will not be
like the world of today. Following the COP meeting in Marrakech ** the Moroccan government will
also be hearing from all the mayors what they plan to do to reduce emissions in their communities
from transport to waste.” The audience gave loud applause which echoed their earlier push for action
during question time during the course of the conference. Everyone appeared to agree and wished to
stimulate progressive change from this developing nation at the top of Africa. What is apparent is that
they need economic support to make this change. They have the will, but what is the vision.
What action beyond visitation goals should be taken to create sustainable tourism rather mass
tourism is unclear and perhaps ‘unseen’. As we move to the official UN International Year of
Sustainable Tourism for Development, 2017 requires an integration of Moroccan ministries’ Climate
Change policy to enable local government and communities to implement adaptation measures which
provide economic opportunities for communities from tourism. To guide sustainable tourism
development a plan is required to use the resources at hand and in a scale that does not make the
urban and environmental mistakes of other coastal destinations and so exacerbate Climate Change.

Morocco has supported sustainable tourism initiatives for seven years (e.g. awards programmes)
but what integrated solutions actually might look like at a destination level though is more complex for
any country. As guidance I strongly advocated that they reflect on their cultural heritage and religion
to guide their way to be innovative. While signature nations of COP22 will commit to emissions and
temperature targets, how we achieve them must reflect our different geography, climates and
cultures, just as these factors have created such a richly diverse world. Reflecting on past ways of life
can show us the way forward; and such new approaches ought to be unique to where we live.
Likewise integrating sustainable supply chains must also be scaled to what the fragile earth can feed
and should be a key mediating factor in development planning, particularly for energy and water

This of course is easier said than done. The scale of the challenges should in no way be underestimated, particularly if one communicates an approach that appears to contradict the
stereotypical first world nation economic model which, until now, most appear to still have full
confidence in. I framed my argument as sustainability-oriented innovation showcasing examples and thus sharing a vision which progressively harmonies process, organisation and product in a more sustainable way.

In summary the vision might include:

  • quality nor quantity approach to visitor numbers and spread visitation across the year
  • the scattering of tourism accommodation across the country rather than dense enclaves
  • linking renewable water and energy to these low density tourism sites
  • constructing accommodation which reflects the cultural heritage and traditional building design to
    moderate climate conditions
  • efficient public transport linkage between locations
  • involve visitors in responsible food, water, energy and waste consumption levels that respect the
    land and people
  • furnish accommodation with traditional arts and crafts and link accommodation with retailers/sellers
  • invest in water efficient agriculture and marine fish farms
  • train community guides and promote responsible tourism opportunities of authentic community
  • charge international visitors entry to heritage sites with funds used for conservation and local
    economic development

*The Envirocities Conference, organised and supported by the Environmental Centre for Arab
Towns, was a thought provoking two day event which brought together climate, ocean and biological
scientists with valuable examples from the Arabian Gulf (Dr Marouane Temimi) and Red Sea (Dr
Salim Al-Moghrabi), together with insights on how Morocco could protect its coastal marine waters
and benefit from fisheries for local economies (Eng. Ayet Lahsan).

**UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – Conference of Partners – progressing from
Copenhagen and Paris.

Note: Morocco is pushing for renewable energy in world’s largest solar power project.

Political skills, social and economic issues: challenges for tourism sustainability

Making tourist destinations more sustainable takes political skill, focus and community engagement argues Harold Goodwin, associate director of the ICRT-Australia. He explains, in his interview with Sustainability Leaders, that environmental factors are increasingly been considered but need to be addressed at a local level just as we still have a challenge to incorporate social and economic issues into destination management. Read the Harold Goodwin interview.

Key Global Responsible Tourism Events in November

November Responsible Tourism events include: World Responsible Tourism Day on 4th November which will be showcased at the World Travel Market in London with the Responsible Tourism Awards. Three weeks later is the World Summit on Sustainable Tourism 26-27 November 2015 Vitoria-Gasteiz Spain. There are six themes including Tourism Supporting Biodiversity and Intelligent Visions and Innovations which seeks to highlight how technology can promote imagine small destinations which are spearheading responsible tourism.

Responsible Tourism and Hospitality Management Conference 25th September 2015

Expert speakers provide insights on the progress of Responsible Tourism

The programme includes Helena Rey from UNEP discussing sustainable consumption and production, corporate reporting on biodiversity presented by Giulia Carbone form IUCN.

Case examples of responsible tourism include Fran Hughes from the International Tourism Partnership, local economic impact of Tour de France in Yorkshire by Sir Gary Verity, and Rebecca Hawkins discusses managing waste in hospitality.

The venue is: The Rose Bowl, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK. Further details can be found here.

The Opportunity for Responsible Accommodation in Australia

Providing guests eco-friendly accommodation appears to be moving to a commercial tipping point in Australia. New Roy Morgan Research states that 21.6% of Australians would like a “real eco-tourism experience” but their study found that only 1.1% had actually experienced one during their last trip. The report strongly recommends domestic destinations offer more “green-friendly” accommodation options.
Australia has tens of thousands of accommodation providers available online, most of whom would gladly choose a competitive point of difference which does not result in price cutting. However, | developing a greener business requires serious thought if it is going to be a long term proposition with integrity.
Crystal Creek Meadows has been focusing on eco-friendly accommodation since 2006 when it became accredited by Ecotourism Australia and has just published its Responsible Accommodation Report for 2014-15 which compares nine years of sustainability monitoring.
Efficiency Cuts
In addition to buying green energy and running a solar farm, the tourist accommodation business has managed to cut electricity consumption by 45% (between 2006-07 and 2014-15). Despite occupancy increasing during this time, electricity consumption by guest night has dropped by 55%. Responsible practices have also resulted in landfill declining by 63%. Overall the guest night CO2 footprint has fallen by 53% to 6.12 kg.
The Responsible Accommodation Report shows that continuous efficiency improvement reaches a point where progress becomes harder to achieve without the direct participation of guests. Introducing new green experiences that directly involve guests helps motivate them to conserve resources. Responsible activities planned well can have the added benefit of building a more distinctive experience and increase guest satisfaction, which can be further enhanced through Trip Advisor’s new Green Leaders programme (launched in Australia in April).

Wildlife Tourism Conference: force for biodiversity & LED

3rd Australian Wildlife Tourism Conference 29 September – 3 October 2015 – Geelong, Victoria.
Wildlife Tourism can be a key force in both conservation of biodiversity and contributor to local economic development. Hear about the trends and contribute to the critical debates that will influence Australia’s most iconic tourism assets. Christopher Warren is a keynote speaker and will illustrate how responsible wildlife tourism can make a real difference. Find our more. The international speaker list includes Dr Jeff Skibins, with presentations which provide practical examples and advice on how to involve tourism more in conservation.


ICRT-Australia joins UNWTO sustainable tourism programme

The ICRT-Australia has officially become a partner to the UNWTO/UNEP’s new 10 year framework programme on Sustainable Tourism. The ICRT – Australia will seek to contribute and support training, workshops and the sharing of knowledge to contribute to sustainable tourism/ecotourism as part of international development, which promotes resource efficiencies. More details of the programme will be announced on 5th November 2014 at the London World Travel Market.

Tourism’s bushfire challenges

Findings from Bushfire Preparedness and Tourism Seminar November 2013

Tourism faces increasing threat of bushfires and subsequent visitor economy impacts for communities.


While the impacts of climate change will continue to contribute extreme weather events, tourism is struggling to prepare itself and adapt to the challenges which lie ahead. This was a conclusion from the first dedicated tourism industry and bushfire meeting held in Sydney last week. The speakers’ presentations revealed a gap between the available information/advice verses the actual uptake and practical action taken by tourism to prepare for bushfires. This is a situation which could worsen as the pace of climate change accelerates delivering increased and prolonged extreme weather conditions.

“Tourism must develop a far higher level of bushfire preparedness and product resilience if the visitor economy is to continue to be a strong contributor to rural communities” says Christopher Warren, director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism-Australia (ICRT).

Warren was amongst seven expert speakers at the ‘Bushfire Preparedness for the Tourism Industry: Managing Visitor Economy Risks Seminar’ in Sydney on 28th November conducted by the Tourism Industry Council NSW and the ICRT-Australia.

Dr Sarah Perkins of the Climate Change Research Centre (UNSW) revealed that extreme weather events are increasing and the number of hot days will increase as a direct result of human induced CO2 emissions. This will increase the threat of bushfires in Australia.

Bushfires are not only an environmental threat but a high economic risk. The economic impact of the recent fires in the Blue Mountains region has cost the local tourism industry over $56 million in six weeks alone, said Randall Walker, chair of the Blue Mts. Lithgow and Oberon Tourism. The economic waves were also felt outside the direct Blue Mts region with many of the seminar’s participants reporting that their neighbouring regions had seen a drop in visitors number as a direct result of the fires in the Blue Mts.  This suggests that visitors take safety very seriously and prefer to avoid a wider region than just the localised bushfire impacted area.

Perceptions of where the fires were located was a major cause of concern for Walker who pointed out that the fires did not consume the entire Blue Mts. destination, but affected only sections. He cited that some media reports gave a false impression of the situation and recalled examples where the inaccurate naming of fires as “the Blue Mts bushfire fires” suggested a region wide impact. Despite endeavours to encourage the media to use the specific bushfire locality names, reports continued to suggest a large affected area resulting in people staying away from the region. Many international travel organisations were reported to have diverted tourists. It might be argued that long-term this might  demonstrate  that tourism can adapt to climate change impacts i.e. visitors simply move to safer destinations. However, it not possible for affected locations to so simply adapt with consequential long-term visitor economy impacts and mounting insurance pressures on high bushfire risk tourism properties or ecotourism experiences.

Preparing a crisis communications plan, in the event of a natural disaster, was explained by Dr David Beirman from University of Technology Sydney.  He demonstrated that it requires a sophisticated multi-channel recovery plan where communication efforts must be coordinated and presented by a key spokesperson. Beirman gave international examples showing  the need to ensure media accuracy, considered use of social media, the preparation of communication materials and management systems, including training, to ensure the destination was proactive rather reactive to media coverage. “You are managing the destination’s reputation and consumer trust,” said Beirman.

Following the catastrophic Black Saturday fires, Tourism Victoria and the CFA have worked hard to develop a programme which improved education, communications and preparedness for destinations, operators and visitors. Dr Stuart Toplis from Tourism Victoria presented 10 key findings from their programme. He emphasised that it was essential to establish a strong working relationship between emergency services and tourism. Tourism Victoria works with Victorian Tourism Industry Council in a collaborative manner under the ‘Tourism Crisis Management Group’ to work with emergency services, destinations and subsequently operators and visitors; an arrangement that is not in place in NSW.

Toplis also outlined workshops, media management and visitor information activities that were conducted in Victoria. Tourism Victoria’s current activities involve integrating its bushfire information into general tourism collateral so that it reaches visitors outside of bushfire danger periods and presents it as normal destination advice. Despite these measures Toplis confided that challenges included “apathy, people are going back to their old ways”.

The third part of the seminar concentrated on understanding why tourism providers did not prepare sufficiently for bushfires and how to turn preparedness into an opportunity.

Caroline Bollrich summarised her master’s thesis report (Leeds Metropolitan University) on barriers for bushfire preparedness. This unique study of 30 tourism providers in a high bushfire prone region at the South Coast of NSW , showed the complexity of tourism providers’ decision making.. While operators where aware of the threats of bushfires Bollrich’s findings showed that they were generally unprepared with inconsistent plans, unclear communication channels and low levels of training. Only 10% of the tourism businesses had any staff and guest evacuation plans in place. This scale of preparedness was confirmed by Tony Jarrett, acting Community Manager of the RFS who confirmed that only 10% of the residents in the Blue Mts region held any bushfire survival plans and few undertook regular training. These findings suggest that NSW tourism and rural communities are not sufficiently prepared for bushfire threats beyond simple property protection. Consequently visitors, staff and the overall visitor economy are at high risk.

One method to encourage wider tourism provider participation in being prepared is to promote the dual benefits of taking action and offering a better visitor experience. The ICRT’s Christopher Warren presented examples of how tourism managers could engage with tourism using parallel motivations. Warren showed nine examples involving visitors in reducing bushfire threats to generating wider tourism cooperation. “While tourism owners and managers are aware of bushfire threats they have may other factors which they consider priorities, a strategy is therefore to develop a suite of activities which have two parallel benefits, one to improve the experience/destination while at the same time reducing risks”, said Warren.


1.       Use the online resources found here

2.       Destination managers should review assets and devise a preparedness plan which involves tourism operators and community, strategies can be found here

3.       Conduct a training programme for guides, caravan Parks, B&B and other rural tourism providers, contact local emergency services or ICRT

Practical advice to improve bushfire preparedness and protect the Visitor Economy

Expert speakers and panel have been announced for the for the first seminar on tourism and bushfires ‘Bushfire Preparedness for the Tourism Industry: Managing the Visitor Economy’ . This is being run by the Tourism Industry Council NSW and the ICRT-Australia in Sydney on 28th November.

The recent bushfire events in NSW and its economic impact on tourism and communities have been well reported. How can we better prepare destinations and the tourism industry? The Tourism Industry Council of NSW, together with the ICRT-Australia are running a special seminar on bushfire preparedness and tourism for senior tourism professionals and tourism operators.

The expert panel include:


  • Dr Sarah Perkins, from the Climate Change Research Centre (UNSW), will outline extreme weather event trends and impact for bushfires
  • Dr Stuart Toplis from Tourism Victoria who will share how the Victorian tourism industry has tackled the challenges of preparedness.
  • Dr David Beirman, University of Technology Sydney, will discuss preparedness for recovery and terms of business
  • Tony Jarrett, acting community officers of the Rural Fire Service, will provide insights into community involvement
  • Randle Walker, chair of Blue Mountains Tourism will report on the economic impacts for toruism from the recent fires
  • Caroline Bollrich (ICRT) will report on her research findings of how prepared torjsim operators actually are and the barriers for improvement
  • Christopher Warren, director of the ICRT-Australia will discuss tourism’s responsibility to protect assets and communities and how prevention can turned into business opportunities.

“The seminar includes findings from a unique ICRT research study of 30 South Coast NSW tourism operators in a rural community. This makes the seminar of particular value because it demonstrates the challenges tourism faces to improve preparedness. It also indicates actions required from destination management planning and local government’s role,” says Christopher Warren, director of the ICRT-Australia.

This is a practical seminar that will offer guidance and advice to tourism professionals and tourism owners to protect the visitor economy. There are three Q&A sessions with the expert panel.

The Tourism Industry Council of NSW would very much welcome your support at this seminar next Thursday 28th November in Sydney. It is an important and timely subject and we would welcome your participation to help make tourism and the visitor economy more secure and sustainable.

To book please click here to download the Credit Card form and return back to Candice Scharkie via email [email protected] Alternatively if you would like further information please email Candice or contact her on 02 9458 7008.

Bush fires and the Visitor Economy: How prepared is NSW tourism?

Source RFS

Shared responsibility – protecting the visitor economy from bush fires (Source RFS)

Tourism in NSW is focused on doubling visitor expenditure by 2020. Much attention has been given to events/festivals and improvements to infrastructure. However, as we promote the value of the visitor economy so should we protect it. Currently tourism is vulnerable to extreme weather events and their consequences. The direct impact of recent bush fires in NSW stops the flow of tourists and their expenditure, even in areas that are not affected.  Visitor nights are perishable, lost sales cannot be recovered. Preventing bush fires and protecting tourists and tourism assets is increasingly essential if we are going to help build long-term rural community prosperity and a competitive tourism industry .

Research into NSW tourism bush fire preparedness by the International Centre for Responsible Tourism-Australia,  clearly shows a high level of awareness, but a low level of preparedness in bush fire risk management at a state, regional, community and business level, even in high risk areas. The lack of action is caused in part by resources, time and the type of tourism business.  On a destination management level responsibilities would benefit from greater clarity.

The term ‘Shared Responsibility’ has been used widely in emergency management issues in Australia since the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission (2010) publication on fire preparation, response and recovery. ‘Shared responsibility’ is the keystone of the Council of Australian Governments’ National Strategy for Disaster Resilience (2011). Preparedness is therefore not solely the role of the emergency services but also communities, tourism stakeholders, destination managers.

Part of preparedness at a grass roots level also requires clear insurance cover, guest education, responsible terms of business and stakeholder collaboration.  Since 2010 Victorian tourism has made many progressive steps to offer a more responsible tourism with regards to disaster management including establishing the Tourism Crisis Management Group between Tourism Victoria and the Victorian Tourism Industry Council. Likewise Queensland offers advice and support for disaster management.

NSW tourism would benefit from a concerted holistic preparedness programme. Part of this requires us to better engage the tourism industry to protect property, guests, staff and the very assets that attract tourists. It is recommended that tourism operators need to be incentivised to act and destination managers and industry leaders collaborate broadly with their communities (as discussed in the article below).

Failure to act leaves NSW tourism vulnerable to negative public opinion, the destructive results of bush fires (and other extreme weather events) and ultimately not ‘shared responsibility’. To double visitor expenditure requires sustainable growth strategies and risk management.


 Article: Motivating tourism to protect destinations: the gap between extreme weather threats and preparedness

ICRT Resources: Risk Management Resources

Risk Management Paper: Encouraging Rural Tourism to embrace Bush Fire Risk Management through business and visitor improvement strategies