Record year for Morocco tourism with increased air links to Europe

A record 13 million tourists visited Morocco in 2019, up 5.2% from the previous year.
Sunday 09/02/2020
Tourists walk through the ruins of the ancient Roman site of Volubilis, near the town of Moulay Idriss Zerhounon in Morocco’s north central Meknes region.  	  (AFP)
Tourists walk through the ruins of the ancient Roman site of Volubilis, near the town of Moulay Idriss Zerhounon in Morocco’s north central Meknes region. (AFP)

CASABLANCA - A record 13 million tourists visited Morocco in 2019, up 5.2% from the previous year, a rise attributed to increased air links to Europe.

Tourism revenues totalled 78.6 billion dirhams ($8.2 billion) in 2019, up from $7.6 billion the year before, the Moroccan Tourism Observatory said.

Primary markets, which include France and Spain, were behind the rise in tourist arrivals because of increased air links and new routes from Europe. French holidaymakers topped the list of tourists visiting Morocco with approximately 2 million visitors last year.

Marrakech, with its UNESCO-listed Old Town, and Agadir on the coast together accounted for 57% of the 25.2 million hotel stays last year, the Moroccan Tourism Observatory said.

Marrakech reported a tourism growth rate of 8% in 2019, double the average growth of world tourism. The city received 3 million arrivals last year, while more than 8 million stays were made at hotels in the Marrakech-Safi region, with an occupancy rate of 61%.

A woman walks in the Old City of Morocco’s port city of Tangiers.	 (AFP)
A woman walks in the Old City of Morocco’s port city of Tangiers. (AFP)

Hotel stays increased 5% from 2018-19, with hotels posting a turnover of $760 million.

“2019 was a record year for national tourism. We must not be fooled by the figures, because tourism performance can be further improved,” said Abdellatif Kabbaj, president of the National Tourism Confederation (CNT).

In Morocco, tourism accounts for about 10% of GDP and employs more than 750,000 people. It is one of Morocco’s main sources of foreign currency, alongside exports and remittances from Moroccans working abroad.

The Moroccan diaspora accounts for approximately half of the tourists who visited Morocco in 2019.

“The occupancy rate of around 45% is still not enough for hotels to make a profit. We must work to achieve an occupancy rate above 70% by strengthening air transport and investing more in promotion,” said Kabbaj.

The CNT has presented a 2020 plan aimed at making Morocco an authentic destination offering a diversity of experiences to share. The plan, developed by private operators, seeks to promote inclusive development of the tourism industry and improve its competitiveness.

CNT Vice-President Fouzi Zemrani told L’Economiste newspaper that various actions had been introduced and others were planned during the year.

A kitesurfer manoeuvres at Morocco’s Dakhla beach.          (AFP)
A kitesurfer manoeuvres at Morocco’s Dakhla beach. (AFP)

A public-private partnership, the creation of a tourism academy to promote training in the sector, the digital transformation of the sector, the development of human capital, the strengthening of the competitiveness of tourism stakeholders, regulation of the sector and promotion of domestic tourism were among the actions.

The plan offers support for small and medium-sized enterprises and reorganisation of the Tourism Observatory to improve the analysis system.

At Madrid’s International Tourism Fair in January, Morocco went on the offensive to target the Spanish market, which has huge potential because of its proximity.

More than 200 operators took part in the fair, showcasing multiple facets of Moroccan tourism. Adil El Fakir, director-general of the Moroccan National Tourist Office, said all regions of Morocco were represented in the Morocco pavilion in Madrid.

“The main thing for us is that Morocco is well represented and gives the best image of itself,” said Karima Benyaich, Morocco’s ambassador to Spain.

The Moroccan Airports Authority (ONDA) seeks to increase the number of passengers to 60 million by 2025 with the opening of new routes and expansion of major airports.

The opening of the new Terminal 1 at Casablanca’s Mohammed V Airport in January 2019 doubled its annual reception capacity to 14 million passengers. The ONDA plans to rebuild Terminal 3 to increase the airport’s capacity to 23 million by 2025.

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