At first glance 2013 appeared to be a great year for tourism in Morocco, with large numbers of visitors. The down side, according to to Ministry of Tourism, is that the visitors spent considerably less money than in the previous year
The same observation is made by riad owners in Fez. Sue Bail, from Riad Rcif, says "There is a huge difference now. Before visitors would return to the riad with bags of shopping. These day, however, they appear to be limiting themselves to cultural rather than shopping trips."
|Many more tourists - spending less|
Morocco welcomed 10.5 million tourists last year, a gain of seven percent, but the money they spent in a country whose cash-strapped government relies on them actually dipped.
Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad confirmed the trend when speaking to the media recently. "The number of tourists who went to Morocco in 2013 reached 10,046,000," he said on Friday.
Ministry figures showed that revenues from non-resident tourists eased 0.5 percent to 57.5 billion dirhams (5.1 billion euros/6.9 billion).
Morocco was badly affected by the financial crisis in Europe, its top trade partner, aggravating the economic challenges facing the government of Islamist premier Abdelilah Benkirane.
The rise in arrivals last year was due, notably, to an influx of tourists from Italy, Germany and England, with the number of holidaymakers from those countries rising by between 12 and 15 percent.
By contrast, tourist arrivals from France and Spain grew by just four percent.
Marrakech and the coastal city of Agadir were the most popular destinations, receiving two-thirds of the visitors.
Tourism is the second-largest economic sector in Morocco. It accounts for around eight percent of GDP, employing some 500,000 people, and the government hopes to see the number of visitors rise to 20 million by 2022.
Haddad said in November that the government planned to levy a small tax on all flights out of the country, which he said would be used to promote it as a holiday destination.