Northumberland College students travelled to Morocco earlier this month to learn about the importance of sustainable tourism in an area recently devastated by flooding.
The group, who are studying for the Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Travel and Tourism Management, camped on the edge of the Sahara Desert for 10 days, visiting local attractions to highlight an alternative, more sustainable approach to tourism with the aim of supporting a destination’s economy and community.
The region had been left flooded after an unusually wet winter, having a detrimental effect on the local economy, which relies heavily on the area’s tourism activity.
Students interviewed local business entrepreneurs and also members of the community who they found had traditionally farmed, but are now working in tourism.
The trip was part of a project comparing the desert region to that of a rural destination in the UK – Northumberland.
The project focused on issues such as planning of tourism projects and how tourism affects society and culture in host destinations.
Students also visited the annual Festival de Nomades for local music, where they were interviewed by a Moroccan TV station, watched camel racing through the town of M’Hamid and participated in Moroccan traditions such as henna art and visiting a kasbah to drink mint tea with a Moroccan elder.
Student Nicola Robertson, 20, said: “It was amazing to see traditional Moroccan villages and the culture they hold.
“It was also interesting to see the effects of western culture upon Marrakech and the contrast. The trip has allowed us to interview many people linked to the tourism industry, this has helped us to learn about how important tourism is to the country.”
Mark Rossi, course leader, travelled with the group along with head of department, Sheena Towns. He said: “What better classroom could a student ever want than the Sahara Desert. The experiences of the students, will last with them forever. They showed a great deal of enthusiasm and maturity – true ambassadors for Northumberland.”