Bilal El Hammoumy, co-founder of Includes Morocco

Bilal El Hammoumy, Inclusive Morocco:
Sands of change


There’s a lot more to this luxury travel enterprise than safeguarding monumental mountains like the Atlas, or the culture and traditions of the Amazigh and Arab populace: as the first LGBT-founded and led such outfit in Morocco, as their name suggests, inclusivity is another indispensable objective. And through a smorgasbord of tailor-made authentic activities and excursions, there’s a desire not only to make sure clients have the experience of a lifetime but also to use said escapes as an agent for empowerment and positive change.

Just over six months ago, one of your major destinations, Marrakech, was rocked by a devastating earthquake. Were you personally affected by the disaster, and has the city started to recover since then?

Thank you for your concern. I was not personally affected by the earthquake as I was visiting my family in Tangier, which was unaffected by the earthquake. However, we have had some team members who were in the city then and experienced it – thankfully, everyone and their extended families are safe. Since then, you can feel a sense of normalcy returning to the city, although you will notice the scaffolding supporting the 1,000-year-old walls within the medina. The Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech’s iconic landmark, is open for Ramadan prayers after it closed for restoration works after the earthquake. All the hotels, restaurants and shops are back to business and the city is as vibrant as ever.

Morocco just had a wonderful year when it comes to tourism, shattering the pre-COVID record with more than 14 million tourists in 2023. Marrakech has retained its position as the number one destination in the country, despite the earthquake.

So would you say right now is a good time to visit?

Tourism is a huge sector in Morocco and Marrakech especially. It is the main sector that puts bread on the table for many families in and out of the city. Now is the time to visit to support the local community and help a quicker recovery for the surrounding Berber Villages that were hardly hit. In addition to that, Marrakech is more diverse, welcoming and exciting than ever with new openings like IZZA Marrakech and Rosemary, and a vibrant design scene fused perfectly with the city’s cultural heritage. There is a lot to see and do. It is truly a sensory journey.

Why in particular do you think Morocco lends itself to luxury and adventure travel?

I believe that Morocco offers a unique blend of diverse landscapes, rich culture, and thrilling adventure activities, making it an ideal destination for luxury adventure travel. From the towering Atlas Mountains to the endless Sahara Desert and the vibrant coastline, the country’s landscapes provide a stunning backdrop for adventure. This combination is rare in other destinations because during a single trip at the right time of the year, you can enjoy the soothing Mediterranean coasts in Tangier, get lost in the 12th-century Medina of Fez, ski in Michlifen Ski Resort just an hour away, sand-board in the Sahara Desert the very next day, hike in the towering High Atlas Mountains, and maybe even surf in the wild Atlantic Ocean in Essaouira. 

The country also offers a variety of boutique luxury accommodations throughout which allows us the possibility to craft tailor-made itineraries that offer ultimate comfort, curated stays and immersive, adventurous experiences.

What was the driving force behind you guys setting up Inclusive Morocco? 

Inclusive Morocco came to showcase our passion and love for our country and our vision for its future. we noticed something about the luxury travel scene here: it’s mostly run by folks from abroad. Now, we’re totally cool with foreign investments – they do wonders for the economy and tourism. But we thought, why not add a local flavour to the mix? We wanted to bring in some fresh perspectives that really understand our culture inside out.

Then, there’s the issue of inclusivity. Morocco’s a stunning place, but not everyone feels welcome everywhere, especially if you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community. So, we decided to carve out a space where everyone can feel safe and embraced while experiencing the magic of our country.

There is also the issue of equal opportunities. Here, every company talks the talk, but walking the walk? That’s a whole different story. Take being a woman driver or an openly gay guide, for example – you’re in for a bumpy ride. It’s not that these companies don’t want to be fair, but without clear rules, it’s easy for things like stigma and harassment to creep in. I’ve been around the block in the luxury travel scene for nearly a decade, and I believe it’s high time for a change.

In very general terms, what two or three distinct services does your company provide?

Inclusive Morocco specialises in providing tailored travel experiences in Morocco. Our services include curated tours that highlight the cultural richness of the country, personalised itineraries designed to meet the unique interests and preferences of our clients, and a commitment to providing a safe and inclusive environment throughout our journeys. All our trips will be hyper-personalised as we work closely with our clients to truly listen and understand their lifestyle and travel preferences. Our ultimate aim is to translate their aspirations for a trip to Morocco into a living experience. Hence, we are always on the hunt for new openings, vetting old partners again and again, and creating new experiences across the country.

We also champion more intellectually stimulating experiences where our travellers are able to engage with what they see, hear, touch or taste, giving them access to more than just the surface insight and eventually creating a space for a conversation between two entirely different cultures.

If there was one trip you do that lets travellers explore the traditions, culture and people of Morocco, what would it be and why?

We’ve got this incredible trip called Echoes of The Atlas that’s all about diving deep into Moroccan traditions, culture, and people. It’s not your typical touristy route – we’re all about going off-the-beaten-path and really getting to the heart of things.

You start off in the vibrant markets of Marrakech, soaking in the bustling energy and checking out the city’s growing design scene. But here’s where it gets really special: we take you on a road trip down south, partnering up with the Memory Road and the 700,000 Heures Impact project. This isn’t just any road trip; it’s a journey through untouched Moroccan traditions and forgotten heritage.

As you travel, you’ll see firsthand how travel can make a real difference. You’ll meet locals, hear their stories, and witness the positive impact of projects that are changing lives and communities for the better. And then comes the cherry on top: spending a night in a restored village from centuries ago. This place was once in ruins, but now it’s a thriving micro-hospitality project that’s breathing life back into the region.

And to wrap up this unforgettable journey, we’ll take you to the marvellous Dar Ahlam in Skoura. It’s the perfect ending to an incredible adventure.

For me, it’s not just a trip. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that’ll make a lasting impression on you. It’s hard to put into words the mix of emotions you’ll feel at every turn, but one thing’s for sure – it’ll change you in ways you never imagined.

Homosexuality is still illegal in Morocco. What motivated you to establish and lead your nation’s first LGBT+ luxury travel company in what could be viewed as a semi-hostile environment? Also, have you taken any specific steps to ensure the non-straight community feel safe on your junkets, and is this particular subset of society accommodated in any other ways?

Establishing Inclusive Morocco stemmed from a deep commitment to providing safe and inclusive travel experiences for the LGBTQ+ community, even in challenging environments. While acknowledging the legal context, we felt compelled to create a space where LGBTQ+ travellers could explore Morocco without fear of discrimination or harassment. To ensure the safety and comfort of our guests, we take several proactive measures, including working with LGBTQ-friendly accommodations and guides, providing sensitivity training to our staff, and offering private and discreet experiences when necessary. Our priority is to create an environment where all travellers feel respected, valued, and free to be themselves.

We also understand the importance of visibility in fostering change. By openly embracing and advocating for LGBTQ+ inclusivity in the travel industry, we aim to challenge societal norms and promote acceptance and understanding. Through our efforts, we hope to contribute to a cultural shift that celebrates diversity and empowers individuals to express themselves freely, ultimately paving the way for a more inclusive society.

Your company seems to be particularly forward-thinking, so we were curious to know if you were doing anything in relation to DEI?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental values at Inclusive Morocco, and we are committed to integrating them into all aspects of our operations. We actively promote diversity in our hiring practices, ensuring that our team reflects the diversity of the communities we serve and allowing members of our team to express themselves freely without limitations. Additionally, we provide ongoing training and education to our staff on topics related to DEI, fostering a culture of understanding, empathy, and respect. We are also members of international organisations like IGLTA and the Adventure Travel Trade Association, through which we learn about and contribute to initiatives that promote DEI in Morocco, contributing to positive social change within the communities we operate.

One of your abiding principles is sustainability/eco-friendliness, so could you tell us about one or two ways this works in practice with regard to one or two of your actual tours? 

Sustainability and eco-friendliness are core principles that guide our tour operations at Inclusive Morocco. One way we incorporate these principles is by minimising our environmental impact through responsible travel practices. For example, we prioritise accommodations that implement eco-friendly initiatives such as recycling programs, energy-efficient lighting, and water conservation measures, including Jnane Tamsna, La Sultana Marrakech, and Merzouga Luxury Desert Camps. Additionally, we promote sustainable transportation options and through our collaboration with WeTravel, we offset our travellers’ carbon emissions. Furthermore, we collaborate with local communities to support initiatives that promote environmental conservation and sustainable livelihoods, such as Pikala Bikes and MJ Bikes Morocco, ensuring that our tours have a positive impact on both people and the planet.

You’re partnered with/or help some inspiring organisations such as Association Darna and the High Atlas Foundation, so why did you pick this pair? Is it a way to give something back to the community?

We are proud to partner with organisations like Association Darna and the High Atlas Foundation as part of our commitment to giving back to the communities we operate in. Association Darna works to empower marginalised women in Tangier and the northern regions by providing them with education, vocational training, and support services to help them build brighter futures. By supporting Darna, we contribute to initiatives that promote education and economic opportunities for disadvantaged women, fostering positive social change and community development.

Similarly, the High Atlas Foundation works to improve the lives of rural communities in Morocco through sustainable development projects focused on agriculture, education, and environmental conservation. They have played a vital role in the recovery process from the recent earthquake.

Through our partnership with the High Atlas Foundation, we support initiatives that promote sustainable livelihoods and environmental stewardship, creating lasting benefits for communities across Morocco and especially for remote communities in the High Atlas Mountains.

If there was one thing you could change about the travel industry, what would it be?

If I could change one thing about the travel industry, it would be to infuse every journey with a deep sense of inclusivity and diversity. For me, travelling is about more than just seeing new places – it’s about feeling truly seen and accepted for who I am, no matter where I go. I believe that every traveller, regardless of their background, identity, or preferences, deserves to feel like they belong. Whether it’s exploring ancient medinas or lounging on a sandy beach, everyone should have the opportunity to experience the beauty of the world without fear of judgment or exclusion.

By embracing inclusivity and diversity in every aspect of travel, from accommodations to tour experiences, we can create a warm and welcoming environment where everyone feels valued and respected. And in doing so, we open up a world of possibilities for meaningful connections and unforgettable experiences that transcend borders and boundaries.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to emphasise our unwavering commitment to providing exceptional travel experiences that are inclusive, sustainable, and enriching for all travellers. At Inclusive Morocco, we believe that travel has the power to inspire, educate, and unite people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. We are dedicated to creating a more inclusive and sustainable travel industry, one journey at a time.

Photography courtesy of Inclusive Morocco and Virgin Limited Edition

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