According to journalist, Hassan Benmehdi, writing from Casablanca for Magharebia, Morocco's main tourist customers, particularly Europeans, have been opting for other travel destinations. But the sector has withstood the difficulties by re-orienting toward domestic travellers.
|Tourism in Fez is picking up - slowly|
The number of tourists arriving in the kingdom from abroad stagnated last year, according to the tourism ministry.
"This year, national tourism has seen growth of just 1% against the backdrop of the Arab Spring and the Argana attack," Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad said in his first media appearance on February 21st.
This year is likely to be just as difficult because of the economic crisis affecting Morocco's main tourist markets. "2012 will be a challenging year, and we shall need to step up our efforts even more," the minister said.
Despite the global economic challenges, professionals in the trade stress the need to show more imagination and innovation to lure foreign tourists.
Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT) chief Abdelhamid Addou commented that significant action was needed now to guarantee a major presence for Morocco on the main tourist markets.
"That's our role. But we also need Moroccan hoteliers to prove what they can do in terms of the rates they charge, the quality of service they offer, the events they put on, etc.," he said.
Every hotel has a sales policy which has been adapted to the problems in the market and to satisfy the law of supply and demand, said Catherine, a sales manager at a five-star hotel in Marrakech.
"As far as we're concerned, we've revised our room rates and also diversified our offer to Moroccan families," she explained. "We've also improved our internet communications, with a new platform providing information and online booking facilities."
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Riad owners in Fez tell us that bookings have increased in the last month and up until Easter things are looking better. "We just hope it continues after Easter until the Sacred Music Festival," said one cautiously optimistic owner.
Marrakech Slows Down
Tourism figures in Marrakech are beginning to concern professionals in the sector, who are expecting a very difficult year, mainly as a result of the economic crisis sweeping through Europe, from where the majority of tourists arrive. Hoteliers in the region already felt the effect of the crisis in 2011, which ended in a 9% fall in tourists compared to 2010.
The negative trend highlighted by professionals has been confirmed by official figures from the tourism watchdog for 2011. For the first time, real figures have been worse than expectations, while the fall in bookings for 2012 has also been a cause for concern. The countries from which there has been the most marked fall in tourist numbers are Italy, Spain and France.
The French market is the most worrying, explains the Moroccan financial daily L'Economiste, which alone represents half of foreign tourism in Marrakech.
Arrivals from Arab counties, however, have been positive, as have residential tourism figures, which rose by 14% in 2011 to a figure of 145,000 nights.