The 60th annual congress of the World Federation of Tourism Journalists and Writers (FIJET) was organized in Morocco between 29 November and 3 December 2018. Under the patronage of King Mohammed VI, FIJET Morocco (AMJET) hosted 250 tourism journalists as the members of FIJET from 24 different national associations in the city of Marrakech. The theme of the congress was the relationship between culture and tourism as well as the future of that relationship.
The annual congress was held at the Museum of Water on the 1st of December. The opening ceremony started off with a dance show of a Sicilian Folkloric group which was followed by opening speeches. During his speech, the President of FIJET, Tijani Haddad emphasized the importance of the culture for tourism and pointed out to the problems that the industry faces by underlining the need for collective action for solving those problems with the following words: “We are devoted to promoting tourism around the world which respects environment and culture while increasing peace and better understanding. We do not consider tourism destinations as competitors but complementary to one another. Unfortunately, climate change and terrorism have destructive impacts on many tourism destinations around the world. However, they cannot be combated only by one country, and there should be an international and collective strategy which is financed and shared by all”. Following Haddad’s speech, the Minister of Tourism and Transportation of Morocco, Mohamed Sajid expressed their genuine tradition of hospitality in Morocco and stated followings “We are very proud to have a spirit of openness, tolerance, dialogue and friendship in our country”. In the end of the opening ceremony, FIJET did not forget to honour some of the important figures from the field of tourism journalism. The tributes were paid to Mustapha Trai, Ahmed Zghari, Moulay Mustapha Alaoui and Miguel Garcia Breira respectively.
Afterwards, the forum on “Tourism & Culture, What Relation? What Future?” was held under the moderation of the secretary-general of AMJET, Mohamed Laarousi. The keynote speakers of the forum were the president of National Museums’ Foundation of Morocco, Mehdi Qotbi, the chairman of National Institute of Archelogy and Patrimony, Abdelouahed Ben Ncer, and Dr Amelia Tomasevic from the University of Zagreb. At the beginning of the forum, Qotbi defined culture as the key which opens up minds and hearts, and stressed the significance of protecting cultures by following words: “Our responsibility is to protect the richness of what the history of humankind handed down to us”. Ben Ncer further urged upon that the tourist must respect local populations and cultures and stated that “the best way to understand the history of a visited destination is to visit archaeological sites”. On the other hand, Dr Tomasevic drew a striking picture of the dark side of today’s tourism phenomenon. The participants watched a short video about how some of the most visited tourist destinations around the world suffer by over-tourism and cultural vandalism. The video consisted of scenes from destinations such as Rome, Venice, Dubrovnik, Taj Mahal, Stonehenge and the Great Wall of China and revealed over-crowded attractions where one can barely walk and irresponsible tourist examples who adversely affect cultural and historical values at attraction sites. Dr Tomasevic also noted that 40% of the tourist share in the movement today are cultural tourists and it is estimated that this share will raise up to 60% by 2030. She concluded with recommendations and stated the followings: “we have to educate tourists, but we also must educate our own people and children about how to love and protect our universal values”. In addition, most of the young journalists from the last FIJET’s Young Journalists Academy which was held in Turkey were present at the conference and contributed to discussions. Their awareness about cultural values and tourism phenomenon happily welcomed by the family of FIJET World. Within the scope of the FIJET’s 60th Congress, the groups of journalists also had the chance to visit popular touristic attractions in the city of Marrakech, such as Jardins Majorelle, Berber Museum, Yves Saint Laurent Museum, Koutoubia Mosque, Menara Gardens, Ourika Valley and Palace of Bahia. Moreover, around 100 journalists have continued travelling towards the south of Morocco by post tours arranged by AMJET.