Tourism in Morocco is a strategic sector for the country’s economy, making up 7.1% of its gross domestic product. In order to boost its significance to the economy even further, in 2010 the government launched its Vision 2020, which plans to make Morocco one of the top 20 tourist destinations in the world and to double the annual number of international arrivals to 20 million by 2020.
A third of the way towards the deadline of this ambitious initiative, Morocco is doing well. The tourism sector attracted Dh14 billion ($1.62 billion) in investment for a number of developments in 2012, which represents around 93% of Vision 2020’s targeted annual average of Dh15 billion. Also, overnight stays are on the rise, jumping 14% in January 2013 compared to the same month a year earlier.
Since the signing of an open-skies agreement with the EU in 2006, arrivals to the most developed country in North Africa have increased, thanks in particular to new connections between Europe and Morocco launched by low-cost airlines.
“Tourism development in Morocco is sustained by an Open Sky policy that guarantees sufficient seat capacity to fuel demand growth,” says Philippe Doizelet
Managing Director of Horwath HTL France, and one of several guest speakers at this year’s Morocco Tourism Investment Forum
). “Access to land for tourism development is facilitated by the National Agency for Tourism Development (SMIT) and solid local banks and developers. As a result, Morocco is increasingly penetrated by international hotel operators.”
Europeans, particularly French and Spanish tourists, represent Morocco’s biggest number of visitors, however the Moroccan government would like to attract more people from throughout Europe. The Moroccan National Office of Tourism (Office National Marocain du Tourisme) will receive a 15% y-o-y increase in funding in 2013 from the government to improve the department’s international promotional campaigns.
“The ‘can do’ attitude of central government and local authorities towards new tourism investment is a breath of fresh air for developers,” says Kevin Scholl, Senior Vice-President of WATG.
The MTIF aims to take advantage of these positive growth trends to attract greater foreign investment in Morocco’s tourism sector.
“With its rich culture and a beautiful coastline, I have no doubt that Morocco’s tourism industry will provide growth opportunity, with business tourism following the same trends as leisure,” says Sanjay Tanna, Commercial and Investments Senior Director at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC).
Having consolidated the sun-beach and medina-desert tourism models, Moroccan and foreign entrepreneurs want to make the world aware that there are many more ways to enjoy the country. The authorities also want to target niche sectors, such as Morocco’s fledgling medical tourism sector, to boost visitor numbers. Adventure sports is another specialist area raising its profile.
“There is a real opportunity for Morocco to capitalise on its amazing natural environment, from the beaches of Essaouira to the Atlas Mountains, and help make Morocco a destination of choice for the millions of extreme sports enthusiasts out there,” says Alistair Gosling, CEO and founder of The Extreme Sports Company, Extreme Hotels and Extreme TV. “Morocco is a natural playground. There’s already a fantastic choice of extreme sports on offer, including dune boarding, surfing, kite-surfing and skiing, and I believe extreme sports could have an even bigger impact in Morocco and existing facilities could be further developed.”
All the speakers and participants know that this forum is obviously about tourism and investment, but also that it is dealing with branding. A country without a powerful brand will struggle to attract foreign investments and visitors. “Morocco needs to develop a more aggressive marketing strategy and to take advantage of the growing potentiality of digital media and social networks,” says Khalid Anib, Managing Director of Al Hokair Group’s Hotels Division. He also highlights the country’s proximity to Europe, improved infrastructure, growing economy and political stability as some of the main reasons why Morocco makes for a perfect tourist and investment destination.
“The next decade is a critical time for the brand ‘Morocco’ which will see a North African coastal country synonymous with sophisticated tourism, growing into a global benchmark for successful tourism. The key question is whether Morocco can leverage centuries of heritage, gastronomy and culture to shift from a ‘brand’ to an icon,” adds Filippo Sona, Head of Hotels and Resorts Hospitality (MENA Region) at Colliers International.
MTIF organisers Bench Events and SMIT have designed the event to be the perfect platform to communicate the country’s business-friendly climate and to be “a forum where industry stakeholders will assemble, network and develop new win-win partnerships while discovering the Moroccan business environment and investment opportunities”.
The Hyatt Regency Hotel in Casablanca will host the MTIF on April 15 and 16 2013, where the most important figures in the global tourism industry will be able to see the beauty of the country first hand and check out the tourism incentives, investment opportunities, services and products that Morocco offers.
For full details about the MTIF and its speakers and participants, visit www.morocco-forum.com