Each year, 27th September marks a day to celebrate tourism around the world. It is a day to raise awareness on tourism and its importance socially, culturally, politically and economically. Tourism is a huge market and consumes 1 of 10 jobs globally. This creates great opportunities to provide fair work and employment to local people all over the world.
However, the #WorldTourismOrganisation (UNWTO) outlines that with certain types of mass tourism, like hotel resorts, tour operators and cruises, only 10% of the profit actually gives back to the local people and their country. Mass tourism is focussed on generating income and takes away from the true nature of travel. #Travel should be all about broadening your horizons and creating memories for a lifetime. Sadly, when tourism isn't managed properly, it can be detrimental to social systems and can negatively impact natural resources, consumption patterns and pollution.
So, how can we change this?
It's simple, all we need to do is travel sustainably.
#Sustainability and #SustainableTourism are being heard more and more frequently. Yet, the concept can be overwhelming. Are you unsure what the whole thing is actually about? Or do you want to make an impact but not sure where to start?
Don't worry - you are not alone. But you may be surprised, if you have made it this far - you may have actually travelled sustainably (without even realising).
It happened to me!
Let me take you back...
Growing up I was fortunate enough to go on a two week holiday with my family each year. Mostly, we stayed in all inclusive resorts where we would meet other English families and friends. Then when I turned 16, the girls group holidays came – lots of sun, lots of dancing, lots of drinking and once again lots of English. It was only when I was 18 I started thinking, there must be more out there.
Everything that I was experiencing on these holidays was something I could enjoy at home, maybe with a little less heat because well Manchester skies can never promise that. Now, I am proud to be English and I don’t think there is anyone in the world quite like us. But, I was so curious to understand more about the planet we call our home. I was curious to see places that were totally different to the world I knew. I was curious to see if these places actually existed. I was curious to understand different traditions, meet different people and see if life is different elsewhere.
So, my very first adventure took me to the rain forest for two months on the very north tip of Australia. Well, that kicked off this bubbling curiosity and desire to see more. Every year in the summer break at university, I would take myself and my backpack somewhere new. In summer 2014, I did a six week round trip of Western Europe by train. The following year I did the East side by bus. Then on the 1st February 2016 I set off on what I thought would be an 18 month round the world adventure that actually ended up being a three year, half of the world adventure. It took me twice as long to see half as much!
#OurPlanet is amazing and the people we share it with are amazing too. I found out, there is so much of our world to explore, so much to learn and so much to experience. I found it difficult moving on from one place to the next.
When I was on the road, I travelled slow, I immersed in local culture eating their food, sleeping in their villages and embracing their traditions. From the dosas in South India to the floating homes in the Mekong Delta and the Hakka performed in Maori tribes. I am eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to experience all of this and I certainly know my backpack isn't in storage forever.
However, it never occurred to me then that what I was doing when I was on this journey, was travelling sustainably. My curiosity led me to seek out these experiences because I kind of thought that was the point of travelling. It was only when I decided to start this business that I found out the experiences I had on the road was me travelling sustainably. It is these authentic experiences that I want to recreate in #Marrakech and share them with you.
So what exactly is sustainable travel?
UNWTO defines sustainable tourism as "Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities"
- helps local communities conserve and celebrate their heritage and #culture
- protects natural environments
- improves working conditions for local people
It is all about making better places for people to live in and better places for people to visit.
Tourism is continuously changing and now more than ever before, people travel to create memories and return home with real experiences and a sense of fulfilment. Travelling sustainably can be achieved quite simply and makes the purpose of your holiday much more worthwhile.
How can you travel responsibly?
Here are five simple things that you could consider to help you be a #ResponsibleTraveller
#1 Consider how you choose to explore
When you arrive at your destination, why not try using public transport? Not only is this more environmentally friendly but it can give you a real local experience. Be involved in the hustle and bustle of a public bus. You'll find locals are intrigued to find you there and you could spend the journey sharing stories and learning about their culture. You might even get some top tips of things to do in the area (or even the best places to eat).
#Marrakech is one of the best cities to explore by foot. Getting lost in the souks is something I highly recommend. Filled with vibrant colours and spiced aromas, the souks are an endless web of carefully crafted beauty. Just as you think you're starting to find your way around, you'll take a few steps forward through the entrance of a whole new labyrinth.
Or why not hop on a bike? A unique way to discover the city, experience the culture of Marrakech - all while keeping it green. Marrakech Green Wheels is a fantastic local tour company who are committed to providing an authentic experience of Marrakech, all on two wheels. As part of their mission, they also lead educational programs and workshops to empower kids to make smarter choices to protect the environment. Plus they offer free bike repairs to people in rural communities!
#2 Consider how you arrive
Why not start your adventure before you land in Marrakech! Did someone say road trip? Can you arrive by bus, car or even bike? Cycloscope are travelling the planet, yes by bike - show them some love, their adventure is amazing!
Of course, this is not always possible. If you are travelling from afar, plane travel is sometimes the only option. Especially if you are restricted with time. But never fear, you can now offset your carbon emissions and by doing so, you will be helping a number of amazing charitable projects from around the world. Check out this article to find out how.
#3 Consider where you buy
From the food you eat to the goods you buy and the tours you book - buy local. Keeping it local, you are giving back to the people and communities of the host country. Buying local will also introduce you to the art of the haggle. You can't buy anything in Marrakech without engaging in a friendly barter. Even when bargaining for the price, you will still find yourself getting a better deal than that offered in large corporations. So, get that smile at the ready and a bit of cheek and enjoy the bartering experience.
#4 Consider packing reusable items
For all your shopping goods, why not pack a reusable bag so you don't have to use plastic bags offered in souks. Recently, a law was amended in Morocco to prohibit the manufacture, import, export, marketing or use of plastic bags. This is a huge movement forward to conserving our oceans. Have a look at this review of the eight best bags for life.
Whilst I would recommend packing a reusable water bottle too, here at Manira Palm - as a little welcome we will provide you with your very own so you can enjoy our filtered water whenever your in need of a little hydration.
#5 Consider your food choices
Moroccans love to eat. Their days are revolved around enjoying taking time out of the afternoon heat, eating, laughing and drinking tea. Food in Morocco is cheap and often this can lead to over indulgence. Being conscious of limiting your food waste will contribute to being a responsible traveller.
This can sometimes be difficult as often when welcomed into Moroccan homes you will be told repeatedly 'kul, kul' (which means 'eat, eat'). However, if you find yourself with excess leftovers, why not take it away and feed the homeless. Zero Hunger has developed an app which helps pin point hunger zones around Morocco!
But, please don't stress!
It is important to remember, to travel sustainably you do not have to adopt all these practices. Trying to do everything at once can sometimes feel forced. A holiday is about getting away from stress, not creating it. You don't need to put too much pressure on planning everything sustainable if you are new to all this. Any contribution is better than none at all. If we were all to contribute a little, it can impact a lot.
Manira Palm all started because of my passion for travel and the desire to share part of my heritage with you (oh yeah, if you didn't already know - I'm half Moroccan). My goals at Manira Palm are to create the same immersive, authentic traditional experiences that I had when I was away but in Marrakech and with you. I want to share Morocco, its rich culture, its unbelievably flavoursome food and the warm hearts of its people. At Manira Palm, I can help you be a responsible traveller naturally.