It is interesting how globalization affects us. For example, how an idea comes to fruition in the USA, can be nurtured in Canada, and then achieved in the Middle East. While attending the 2012 Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC), attendees were fortunate enough to listen to a fantastic panel discussion led by Muna Haddad, from the Baraka Consulting Agency, on conducting tourism in a crisis situation. She gave interesting examples of realities and perceptions of life in her home country of Jordan, and how communication channels like social media disrupt reality and create illusions that can have an enormous effect on a destination.
One particular subject that Muna focused on was sustainable tourism in Jordan and other Middle Eastern locations, especially in the realm of architecture. Interestingly, hotels in the region are often built with sustainable materials, such as LED lights and solar panels, and are made to co-exist with the dangerous sand dunes affecting the region so negatively. What was even more interesting was the proposed creation of mobile tents, designed to assist the Bedouin community to engage in sustainable tourism in Morocco.
The head architect of these innovations, Aziza Chaouni, is nothing short of a visionary. Working with Middle Eastern governments and NGOs, graduate students from Harvard Graduate School of Design are creating and designing an ecological tourism lab with students at the University of Toronto; she is laying out a blueprint for innovation in sustainable tourism.
As a student of international development, I was impressed by her views on participation from the communities that her programs work with. Her programs allow students to look for opportunities and create capacity within the community. Through collaboration with the communities, the students are able to build solid projects that benefit from the understanding of local ministries.
Aid workers and those in the sustainable tourism industry forget how large a role the initial design process plays in any project. The materials we use, the way we interact with the environment, its long term use and sustainability for the community have as much to do with the success or failure of a project as the social and financial issues the industry seems to grapple with on a constant basis.
After talking with Chaouni, you gain a better understanding of how design is a necessary part of any project in the tourism sector. Not only because of its social and environmental implications, but the ability it has to bring communities together, encourage understanding and bring all sectors of tourism, non-profit and government to work together for the greater good.
I look forward to what I’m sure will be nothing but positive outcomes from these projects in Jordan and Morocco as they come to fruition. I am also very excited to see how Chaouni and her partners input here in Toronto as they work with Parks Canada to research theRouge Park, Canada’s first Urban National Park.