Recently The View from Fez met up with yet another Australian living in Fez - Julianne Kuhlmann. She kindly agreed to chat with us.
Julianne: I came here in early 2012 on a holiday with friends and fell in love with the place. Being the business entrepreneur that I am, I never resist an opportunity to hand out my business card and the holiday was no exception.
I returned to Adelaide and continued to stay in touch with the contacts I had made and researched some more about living/working in Morocco, particularly Fes. I networked like crazy both in Adelaide and online and within a few months I had some work for a Travel Company (Live & Breathe Morocco) based in Fes and was doing some virtual work for them (developing/writing/managing their new website, business cards etc). This led to an opportunity to continue the work in Fes as they saw some benefit in me being here to assist in developing a strategic plan & marketing strategy.
TVFF: What were you doing before this?
Julianne: I am the Director of my own business, Kool Results, which has been going since 2000 and based in Adelaide. My expertise is in Leadership Training & Development, Communication and Business Development. Our company specialises in Executive Coaching, Leadership Development and HR Consulting.
TVFF: How long have you been here?
Julianne:I have been here for 2 months and will return to Adelaide in time for Christmas.
TVFF: So what are your impressions of Fez - the good and the bad?
Julianne: Wow, what a culturally rich city Fes is. I have enjoyed:
· soaking up the Medina, its heritage
· the wonderful warmth of the people,
· vibrant colour,
· the artisans and their patience, meticulous labour intensive work and always with a smile on their face
· gaining a deeper understanding of the Muslim culture and gaining a great deal of respect for their belief, even tho I am not a follower of any religion
· traditions steeped in sooo much history
· call to prayer – it’s such a calming meditative call across the city
· strength of the women surprised me – the Hijab always seemed like a barrier to me but it certainly is not.
· food markets and Moroccan food flavours/aromas.
My experiences have been mostly positive and amazing but not without some challenges along the way:
· I crave a conversation in English,
· Learning to tell the taxi driver that I am married (even tho I am not!) to avoid being proposed to!
· the heat and the dust drained me when I first arrived and I wasn’t sure I would survive my planned time here
· could do with a good Aussie BBQ with one of our fabulous glasses of wine!
I hope to return next year to more work – or maybe I’ll do something more exciting like set up a business here eg Riad/Cafe. Need to do more research on this yet but it is inspiring!
TVFF: Where do your clients for Live & Breathe Morocco come from?
Julianne: they mostly come from Europe and Australia and have an average stay of a couple of weeks.
Live & Breathe Morocco provides VIP trips to Morocco so their style and unique service/product doesn’t see them facing too much competition, even though it is always good to have healthy competition. They don’t provide too many day trips, but mainly anything from 3 nights to 3 weeks.
TVFF: How do you see the present tourism situation and your view of the future?
Julianne: My perspective? There is a huge gap in how tourism businesses in general operate here compared to other parts of the world. I know the Government are keen to increase and improve the tourism market here but there is still a long way to go in these businesses developing a more professional approach to their operations.
Communication is key and is often missing, both within the company and with their potential or existing customers. This also includes a reasonable grasp of the English language. The finer detail is ignored or not even noticed by the staff or business owner. For example, a Riad I went to inspect recently for one of our clients had just painted all their woodwork. When I asked the people staying there how they liked the Riad, they where not at all happy with all the furniture being wet and sticky. No-one had indicated this to them before they arrived. Live & Breathe Morocco then offered to assist them to find somewhere else and to indicate to the staff that this was not appropriate for their customers. Their response was simply that they had painted it 2 weeks ago and is still wet!!! Customer Service is critical and although we don’t want Fes to `change' we do need the industry to improve in how it delivers a professional service to it’s customers.