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Sustainable tourism has become the biggest buzzword within global tourism today. According to the World Tourism Organization, sustainable tourism is tourism that leads to the management of all resources in such a way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity and biological diversity. The objective of sustainable tourism is therefore to retain the economic and social advantages of tourism development while reducing or limiting any undesirable impacts on the natural, historic, cultural or social environment. This is achieved by balancing the needs of tourists with those of the destination. Rather than being a type of product, it is an ethos that should underpin all aspects of tourism development and management rather than being an add-on component.

Truly sustainable tourism is still in its infancy within Morocco, contrary to the marketing of many local and international companies. Moroccans are largely ambivalent toward both their social and environmental footprint, mostly through lack of education but also because it is a luxury that most don't have the time or money to afford. The government is also partly to blame, as most hotel developments seem to be approved no matter the consequences for the environment and the locals. Basic infrastructure such as waste disposal and sewage are also criminally lacking in some parts of the country. The amount of waste that litters many of the country's waterways, beaches, roadsides, and mountains is a sight that Western travelers consistently mention as disappointing and worrying. However, it is only through increasing demand from international visitors that some tour operators, travel agencies, and accommodations are beginning to operate with truly dedicated ecologically and sustainable principles and practices.

The Web-based travel directory responsibletravel.com (tel. 01273/600-030 in the U.K.) lists thousands of "eco holidays" available worldwide, including a vast selection in Morocco. Jane Bayley's Naturally Morocco (tel. 01239/654-466 in the U.K.; www.naturallymorocco.co.uk) is considered the leader in eco-travel in Morocco. This U.K.-based responsible and sustainable tourism operator also has a cultural and environmental center in Taroudannt, from where it offers a range of hands-on cultural and environmental experiences. Clients can choose between diverse themes such as anthropology, language, cooking lessons, architecture, music, art, and wildlife. It also operates as a travel agency, recommending similar-principled accommodations and tours throughout the rest of Morocco. Equatorial Travel (tel. 01335/348-770 in the U.K.; www.equatorialtravel.co.uk) is a small U.K.-based travel company owned by friendly journeyman John-Paul Rodgers. It offers small-group, personalized tours to central and southern Morocco, with a heavy emphasis on the local culture. Besides desert excursions, it also offers an itinerary that culminates in the Essaouira Gnaoua & World Music Festival, a photographic tour escorted by a professional photographer, and itineraries structured toward families. Operating on fair-trade principles and practices, up to 20% of the company's profit is redirected back to the communities with which it works. Tribes Travel (tel. 01728/685-971 in the U.K.; www.tribes.co.uk) is an independent specialist-travel company based in the U.K. operating tailor-made holidays to a number of exotic destinations, including Morocco. It practices fair-trade principles, combining discerning travel with the needs of local communities, intended to protect both biodiversity and cultural diversity. The Tribes Foundation concentrates on poverty alleviation, education, cultural preservation, and conservation projects within the destinations that Tribes Travel operates. The company offers a range of itineraries throughout the majority of Morocco, as well as organizing weekend breaks in Marrakech.

General Resources for Green Travel

In addition to the resources for Morocco listed above, the following websites provide valuable wide-ranging information on sustainable travel. For a list of even more sustainable resources, as well as tips and explanations on how to travel greener, visit www.frommers.com/planning.

  • Sustainable Travel International (www.sustainabletravelinternational.org) promotes ethical tourism practices, and manages an extensive directory of sustainable properties and tour operators around the world.
  • In the U.K., Tourism Concern (www.tourismconcern.org.uk) works to reduce social and environmental problems connected to tourism. The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO; www.aito.co.uk) is a group of specialist operators leading the field in making holidays sustainable.
  • In Canada, www.greenlivingonline.com offers extensive content on how to travel sustainably.
  • In Australia, the national body that sets guidelines and standards for eco-tourism is Ecotourism Australia (www.ecotourism.org.au). The Green Directory (www.thegreendirectory.com.au), Green Pages (www.thegreenpages.com.au), and Eco Directory (www.ecodirectory.com.au) offer sustainable travel tips and directories of green businesses.
  • Carbonfund (www.carbonfund.org), TerraPass (www.terrapass.org), and Carbon Neutral (www.carbonneutral.org) provide info on "carbon offsetting," or offsetting the greenhouse gas emitted during flights.
  • Greenhotels (www.greenhotels.com) recommends green-rated member hotels around the world that fulfill the company's stringent environmental requirements. Environmentally Friendly Hotels (www.environmentallyfriendlyhotels.com) offers more green accommodations ratings.
  • For information on animal-friendly issues throughout the world, visit Tread Lightly (www.treadlightly.org). For information about the ethics of swimming with dolphins, visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (www.wdcs.org).
  • Volunteer International (www.volunteerinternational.org) has a list of questions to help you determine the intentions and the nature of a volunteer program. For general info on volunteer travel, visit www.volunteerabroad.org and www.idealist.org.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.