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About three years ago Peak DMC, Intrepid Group’s destination management company, set itself a target of doubling its number of female guides.
“As a business we actually realized that we had a problem in terms of gender equality in our tour guides. Basically, we started to challenge ourselves three years ago and thought about, OK, are we actually doing the right thing?” Zina Bencheikh, regional general manager Europe, Middle East, and North Africa at Peak DMC, told attendees on Tuesday at Skift Forum Europe.
Eventually the company pulled itself up to 50-50 across Bencheikh’s regions, but it proved to be a big challenge especially in a country like Morocco, where there are few women working in the sector.
Bencheikh and Peak DMC worked hard to lobby the Moroccan government to help it understand the importance of getting more female guides licensed, not least because it made good business sense.
Bencheikh estimates that more than 65 percent of travelers coming to Morocco are female, and many of them want to go on female-only tours. In her frustration, she was tempted to send travelers to other parts of the world.
“We get a lot of request for female-only tours… I literally said to them [the Moroccan government] should I send them [tourists] to India, because in India in our DMC actually we had 60 female tour guides, they’re not licensed so it’s a different way of working,” Bencheikh said.
“I was showing them articles in the newspapers…about the success story of India, and I was like, don’t you want to repeat this in Morocco?”
Part of Bencheikh’s plan was to bring on board some of the few female tour guides already working in Morocco, and she managed to get in touch with Hafida Hdoubane, who now works at Peak DMC and was also speaking at Skift Forum Europe.
Hdoubane has trekked Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, many times, led hundreds of tour groups across the region, and now even runs women’s expedition tours in Morocco, a full-on adventurous expedition, just for women.
Hdoubane, who has worked in the sector since 1994, spoke of the sexism she encountered training to be a guide and how her father “pushed us [her sisters] to be equal to men.”
However, in the end, it has all been worth it.
“I think I have the best job in the world. I love it,” she said.