Riad Al Massarah, Morroco

When owners Michael Mathews and Michel Contreras redesigned Riad Al Massarah in 2004, their goal was to make the house as sustainable as possible by minimizing their water consumption, waste production, generating their own energy and supporting their local community. Since then, they have achieved a Travelife gold award and have shown a real commitment to sustainability, communicating this to their guests effectively, showing them how these actions enhance their holiday experience.

How they have improved water efficiency
Water conservation is a priority in a country where rainfall is scarce and droughts are frequent. To preserve every possible drop, Riad Al Massarah installed dual-flush toilets and flow restrictors in their water taps. “Our taps and shower heads give the illusion of using lots of water, but in fact they don’t. They feel like power showers, but it’s nearly all air!” says Mathews. Cleaning routines, too, have been improved. In Morocco, buckets of water are commonly poured across floors and stairways to wash away the day’s dust and dirt. “We used to have a weekly waterfall down the stairs to clean them, but now that has stopped,” says Mathews. And staff have responded positively to changes in routine. “They have taken these practices home with them and are hopefully making family and friends more aware of environmental issues,” says Mathews.

How they reduced waste
Realizing that bottled water creates tonnes of plastic waste each year, they responded by offering free filtered tap water to guests. This has reduced plastic water bottle purchases at the Riad by about a third.

How they generate energy Although a new concept in Morocco at the time, solar water panels were installed, heating much of Riad Al Massarah’s water, while wood-burning stoves produce efficient heating. “A big challenge was sourcing sustainable firewood, but our supplier has assured us that it comes from old olive groves that have been grubbed up for replacement with orange trees or new olives,” says Mathews.

How they support local charities
Knowing that their guests often come to shop in the Marrakech Souks, Riad Al Massarah encourage guests to fill the empty spaces in their cases with children’s clothing which can be donated to their partner charity, Atfaluona Marrakech, which provides assistance to street children and orphans, as well as making donations to the charity too. Mathews commented “We make our guests aware of our sustainability aims before they arrive and encourage them to get involved.”

How they have enhanced guest experiences
Riad Al Massarah has produced self-guided activities that add value to the guest experience, such as their own walking tours. They visited the local Souks to identify the cooperatives where their guests can buy local goods, so that they purchase products from legitimate local business that do not charge tourists unfairly inflated prices. They used this information to develop their walking tours, which are promoted to guests on arrival. Mathews is proud that their walking tours help to benefit the local community because they ensure that their guests spend goes directly to the individual manufacturer.

And what their guests think?
Mathews has also surveyed his guests to find out if Riad Al Massarah’s sustainability credentials has affected their guests’ choice of accommodation when booking. In 2010, 33% of guests said that it had influenced their decision, with 45% saying maybe, 17% saying no, and 5% not responding. However, in the same survey conducted in 2011, guest interest had significantly increased, with 44% agreeing that Riad Al Massarah’s sustainability credentials influenced their decision, with 41% saying maybe, 9% saying no and 6% not responding. Such an increase suggests that guests of the Riad Al Massarah are taking much more of an active interest in sustainability issues and it looks as though this trend will be on the increase in the future.

To find out more
This is just a snapshot of the Riad Al Massarah’s actions on sustainability and to find out more, please visit their page on the Travelife Collection.