Posted by Jeff | September 7, 2011
I recently had the opportunity to visit a number of hotels in Morocco. I had spent several weeks studying Arabic at the Arabic Language Institute in Fes, and after my language skills reached a level of bare proficiency I set off to talk to hotel owners in Fes and Marrakesh about buuteeq’s service.
Over the past two decades more and more tourists from Europe and America have begun to realize what a gem Morocco is, and they’re going in increasing numbers to experience the rich history and open, friendly culture of the Moroccan people. While I was there I saw massive Roman ruins and the seats of Muslim Caliphates encased in medieval walled cities, marked with a lasting French colonial influence and surrounded by stunning natural beauty that rivals anything else the world has to offer.
Morocco’s medieval walled cities (called ‘medinas’) are one of the country’s greatest charms. In these thousand year old architectural gems, narrow winding streets are filled with merchants and cafes, and I just as often saw fresh produce being delivered by donkey as by motorbike. The commotion and industry that these streets hold disguise the fact that just behind the nearest door is the cool, peaceful garden of a boutique hotel.
These were the properties that I visited. Called ‘riads,’ these hotels are old homes (many of them several hundred years old), built around a central courtyard with rooms facing inward.
The high walls, fountains and trees turn their interiors into calm, peaceful oases that exist right in the center of bustling markets.
A large number of Moroccans and (particularly French) expats have purchased old riads, refurbished them and turned them into five star boutique hotels. Each riad features the central courtyard and a beautiful terrace, yet each has the unique touch of its owner. In one such riad, for example, the owner showed me how he’d turned his courtyard into an art gallery; in another the owner pointed out to me the detail in the two hundred year old hand carved ceiling he’d refurbished. Of the four riads I stayed in, each was beautiful, unique and on par with the best B&Bs in Europe or America.
Riad owners in Morocco share the same problems that most boutique hotel owners share: how do they market themselves effectively to a world audience? Currently, nearly all riads receive the vast majority of their reservations through a few select booking engines, and time and time again I heard stories about the high commissions charged by these. I showed owners how buuteeq is able to draw more traffic to their site (and thus bring in more direct, commission free reservations) with effective presentation, search engine optimization and translation services.
The response I received was tremendous. Owners loved the simplicity of the platform and the high quality of buuteeq’s websites. As more and more tourists visit this open, welcoming country, more and more riads will be opened. It will be essential for these new (and established) hotels to reach Europe and America with their websites. It’s a sure bet buuteeq will be helping them along.