|Instability caused by the Arab Spring has slowed tourism growth in Morocco|
In a press conference held yesterday in Casablanca, a Moroccan tourism official, Kamal Bensouda, reported that despite the turmoil of the Arab Spring and the instability it has created, the Moroccan tourism sector remained stable. Bensouda told the media that 9.34 million tourists visited Morocco in 2011 - 1% increase over 2010. Overall revenues were up 4 percent to 59 billion dirhams (about 5.7 billion Euros) "despite a difficult environment."
Tourism operators and officials in the tourism sector say that the Arab Spring has affected tourism in Morocco even though, overall, the numbers are similar to 2010. The political developments last year in North African countries, including Morocco, Tunisia and Libya, have decreased the demand for Morocco among foreign tour operators.
According to a hotel owner in Agadir, the political changes in recent months in Morocco, including the rise of the Islamists, have created doubts in foreign markets. "During the last referendum on the new constitution and thereafter the general elections on November 25, we observed a wait and see trend among foreign agencies towards Morocco,'' he said. However, he added that, "Today, there is a slight rise in bookings for March."
The same view is shared by the president of the National Federation of Tourism, Ali Ghannam, who said that, "The year 2011 was a difficult year for the sector.'' He noted that, globally, Morocco ranked 24th in terms of arrivals and 36th in terms of tourism receipts.
In analysis of the Moroccan tourism sector by the Jordanian based news organisation, Albawaba, Agadir, one of the preferred destinations for tour operators, illustrates 2011's drop in tourist activity. Last January, Agadir registered in its classified hotels a total of 48,367 arrivals and 266,633 overnight stays, a drop of 19.93 percent and 23.36 percent respectively compared to the same period in 2011.
|recent days have seen a slow increase in tourists visiting Fez|
The situation in Marrakech and Fez reflects the same downturn. Riad owners in Fez report that the last few months have been the hardest they can remember. Many are cutting back on staff and advertising, with at least two saying that they are considering putting their properties on the market. Others are quick to point out that decreasing advertising during a slow period can be counterproductive.
Meanwhile, the new Moroccan Minister of Tourism, Lahcen Haddad, believes that 2011 was still a good year. Despite the local and regional events, Moroccan tourism has had good achievements, he conveyed. "The sector, which contributes about 9 percent of the GDP, achieved satisfactory results in 2011 despite a difficult world and declining travel demand due to the economic crisis which hit the main tourist source markets of Morocco,'' said the Moroccan minister, whose remarks were reported by the MAP news agency.
It is to be hoped that the Moroccan Tourism authorities can get the message out that despite turmoil in other countries, Morocco remains an extremely safe and welcoming destination.