Published on Sunday, September 26, 2010
French connection adds style edge and ambition to global green tourism: Mogador may be world leading green tourism development
Morocco"s Essaouira has been around as a destination for a long time. Not perhaps as big and brash as its neighbour, Agadir, but in its own hip way the town is an iconic, quirky upmarket destination. The fabulous atmosphere and relaxed style has attracted the rich and famous from Jimi Hendrix to the 450,000 who flock to its annual Gnaoua en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnawa_music music festival.
Lovely vast beach and dunes as far as the eye can see, a walled city on the sea with winding streets and an ancient souk, superb food, great olive oil, and honey - these are just a few of the resort"s attractions. Tourists can even take a camel, horse, mule or quad bike ride on the sand dunes or buy the latest miracle cure superfood oil (Essaouira"s own indigenous Argan).
So what"s new in this gently rocking and very picturesque destination? A runway extension, a king who"s decided to up tourism to 10 million arrivals a year, and 17 new resorts. All this that will shortly mean Royal Air Maroc flights augmenting the scant arrivals into the local airport by operating a real international service and at least one new resort within the airports catchment area.
All of this, of course, is meant to be very sustainable, at least very eco-friendly.
Mr Thomas GREGGORY Sofitel Essaouira manager
In terms of style and architecture, the 10 year old Sofitel www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-2967-sofitel-essaouira-medina-spa/index.shtml currently dominates the walled-city end of the promenade and the beach. Built around a courtyard and swimming pool, medina-style, the hotel dispenses 5 star luxury to its mainly French clientele. Apart from the seamless service within the main establishment, the hotel operates a private beach and a rather swish beach-side restaurant.
There is also a Thalassotherapy spa centre providing a wide variety of treatments.
Even the picky could not fault the service and comfort at the hotel and guests benefit from delightful little touches like petal-strewn beds.
And the hotel has made real efforts to up its sustainability game - because it was built before sustainability became de rigeur, the hotel doesn"t have any inbuilt energy or water saving measures - but other initiatives have been put in place. For instance, local sourcing of food and other consumables is effected as much as is practical and 90% of staff working in Sofitel Medina & Spa are from Essaouira.
You get the feeling that the hotel is a beautifully-operating little machine in which time has largely stood still. That"s why the hotel has a very high repeat booking level from a clientele who probably don"t want to see much change and are very happy like it is.
But - look down the beach in the other direction from the walled city and you will see empty wave-lapped dunes and behind them the blades of a wind farm - and, maybe, the shape of tourism things to come.
The dunes are not quite as empty or as serene as they look. First steps in the development of a new resort include a Gary Player golf course. Billed as an ecologically-friendly links course, it certainly has taken sustainability seriously. Waste water from Essiouara and the local village is used for watering, new woods and watering gardens have been established and a number of measures have been put in place including:
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