The Kasbah and the community
Mike McHugo first visited the Imlil Valley in 1978 to do reconnaissance for adventure trips for his company (Hobo Travel that would become Discover Limited in 1986). During this trip the first person he met was Omar Ait Barmed, a young mountain guide who would become his lifelong friend and business partner. Omar inherited the nickname of Maurice following formal training in France as a Ski Instructor. He is now known affectionately through the area as Hajj Maurice having been on the Pilgrimage to Mecca.
This friendship, of now over 25 years, is the basis of Discover’s business in Morocco and the pre-requisite to the purchase and development of Kasbah du Toubkal.
In 1989 when revisiting Imlil with their mother the McHugo Brothers decided to find who owned the ruin. After lengthy search and convoluted negotiations Discover purchased the ruin believing they could be a safe pair of hands to become part of tourism development but putting the benefits to the local community at the core. The ruling value being that we were guest of the local community and have much to learn from them.
In 1991 a postcard of the derelict kasbah was produced with the following caption “Discover Limited has plans to develop a small hotel designed and built on sustainable principals, which will compliment the site and be of benefit to visitors and the local inhabitants.”
In 1995, Kasbah du Toubkal was formally opened and a brass plaque on the door proclaimed “Dreams are only the plans of the reasonable – dreamt by Discover realised by Omar and the Worker of Imlil.”
Benefits to visitors is now widely recognised by the travel press and books who give it glowing coverage. The Kasbah’s benefits to the local community are wide ranging – the building is carried out by local inhabitants, staff are recruited locally, mule transport that is a significant service is distributed around the more than 100 local muleteers, meat and vegetables are bought locally as are most services. Extensive training has taken place to create the world class team.
Indirect benefits to the wider community are created by the charging of a 5% surcharge on all Kasbah services and passing this to The Association des Bassin d’Imlil that is managed by a local management committee with international input from Discover management. The Association has created and manages the following:
- Rubbish clearance and disposal by small local incinerators
- 4x4 Ambulance service
- Community Hammam (shared on a timetable between men and women)
- Provision of accommodation in Asni for school children to attend school
- Provision of improved safe water to outlying villages
- Provision of téléboutique and internet café
- Promotion and adoption of design code of practice to preserve architecture
On the basis of this initiative Discover Limited has won the following awards:
- Green Globe Award for Sustainable Tourism (1998)
- British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award (2002)
- Responsible Tourism Award – Mountain Resort (2004)
- 2008 Winners Moroccan Sustainable Tourism Award (see award below)