Morocco’s Resilience Through Video
A few weeks ago, I read this quote, and I didn’t give it much thought at the time.
“We should not be ashamed to acknowledge truth from whatever source it comes to us, even if it is brought to us by former generations and foreign people. For him who seeks the truth, there is nothing if higher value than truth itself.”
― Albert Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples
Yet, this quote became increasingly relevant in the aftermath of the Moroccan earthquake. The focus shifted to the preservation of tourism with the understanding that the challenge would be incorrect reporting. The biggest hurdle, however, was Truthful Dispatching. You see, I just returned from exhibiting at ILTM Americas, and the phrase I found myself often using, one many of you have heard me say, is that we deal in trust, not just travel. Ultimately, you place your trust in us when your travelers are overseas with us, and you’ve come to expect this trust as second nature, something we don’t take lightly. It took 50 years to earn all your trust, and we intend to keep and honor it for the next 50 years.
Many of you have seen or heard the messages post-event in Morocco. “The country is fine, open for tourism, and not going would cause a second catastrophe.” Having been through tsunamis, protests, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and more in our destinations, we are definitely well prepared for events like what happened in Morocco. Our number 1 rule is to tell the truth. The day after the quake, and in a few cases, the evening of, I personally called every single advisor who had clients in Morocco or had clients confirmed to travel to Morocco within the coming days to give them live updates of what we knew. Clients in the country were located, and their guides, while worried about their own families, never left or missed a beat, heroically staying with the client. Some of you know that within 48 hours of the earthquake, the Spirit of Big Five foundation had mobilized, thanks to the help of friends, to assist 200 families in immediate need. We have plans to do more once we verify where the support is needed in smaller, more remote towns that are not part of the tourism focus, hence receiving less of the attention and aid.
Once we had taken care of that, the next step was fact-gathering. We knew the people of Morocco would recover quickly, as we’ve seen this happen before. It was important that we help them verify the status of the medinas in Fez and Marrakech, especially the High Atlas Mountains near Imlil. We checked on the properties we use in Marrakech, in the High Atlas Mountains, and around the country, speaking with their management and, in some cases, global executive leadership teams. We then asked our team and our partners in Morocco to start dispatching team members with cameras to drive around the High Atlas Mountains to inspect hotels and assess the damage. We also asked our guides and friends on the ground to take videos of specific sights in both Marrakech and Fez and the medinas, many of which are UNESCO Heritage sights.
We received a deluge of videos within the last 48 hours and have shared them with all our advisors who have clients currently slotted to travel to Morocco so their clients can make informed decisions about their travel plans. Rather than simply saying everything is open in Morocco, we compiled a filmed video from Imlil, Marrakech, and Fez to share with you in this week’s blog.
The scars of the earthquake cannot be hidden, and we included those in our video. We wanted to ensure you had the most updated information, filmed and taken in raw video and photos. Please feel free to share this video with anyone, regardless of who you work with for Morocco, as we all stand together with the Moroccan people. If anyone needs any of our raw videos or photos from any of the three locations, we will happily share a link to the shared drive where this content is stored and where we continue to add new files.
Let us share with you this Raw Film and Truthful Morocco Dispatch.
This past Saturday, the Big Five team had an epic weekend, celebrating 50 years as a company. The evening was a tribute to my colleagues, who have persevered through thick and thin to see the success of this company unfold, and it was also in honor of my parents, celebrating the vision that started in Kenya 50 years ago. In addition to those in attendance, physically and virtually from the Big Five family, a few important, influential guests who settled us as a company and family joined us to celebrate this milestone. I have to admit the butterflies were settling in my stomach a few hours before the event because I wanted this evening to be perfect for my colleagues, and it has been in the works since February of this year.
At the end of the evening, I was exhausted, but in a good way, as my thoughts returned to all the smiling faces. My parents, in particular, were beaming, especially my father, as he felt his parent’s presence at the event. This was just the second time that I heard him speak of his parents, as they had both passed away before my father turned 20. The first mention of them was when our office was built and how he wished his father was there to witness his success.
The next day, my parents sent me a thank you message, unlike any other message my father had ever written. It was gratifying and, at the same time, perplexing. While I knew the evening was special for everyone, I didn’t fully understand how special it was for my parents. Often, I think about how I came to Big Five. I recall talking with my father at the age of 17, saying that I wanted nothing to do with travel; I wanted to head out on my own, far away to college, to make my own way and make my own mark on the world. Years later, who knew that a BBC videographer in India’s Ranthambore Park would be instrumental in my return to Big Five back in 2002, considering I had worked in the mailroom when I was 8, I guess it was inevitable.
Sitting on the plane en route to ILTM, the gravity of the moment really hit home, and I have to thank my colleagues for bringing this clarity. All the sacrifices and struggles over 5 decades were worth it because we’ve always believed we were a higher-purpose company. At this party, we saw the journey and belief come to full fruition. This celebration served as an illumination, particularly for my parents. They finally were able to look back and see the body of work they started and the momentum to build on.
Here is to the next 50 years. Enjoy the video we played at our party. I think even Flat Ash made an appearance.