Thursday, August 20, 2015

Casablanca - Bad Press and Fewer Flights

The headline "Easyjet stops Casablanca flights from November" must have sent shivers down the spine of Casablanca's tourist operators. It comes at the same time as news that the city is in the top 10 least friendly cities in the world

According to a report carried by Yabiladi, low cost airline Easyjet will cease Casablanca routes due to worries of profitability and operational problems at Mohammed V airport.

Easyjet flights Casablanca-Paris will end on October 31, while Casablanca-Lyon ends November 3 and November 29 will be the last flight Casablanca-Milan.

Other Moroccan cities such as Agadir or Marrakech will still have services through to March 2016.

An Easyjet spokesperson says, "Easyjet has decided to stop its activities in Casablanca for the winter 2015-2016. This suspension is "following disappointing results on these destinations and operational problems for some time at Casablanca airport," says the spokesperson.

The National Office of Airports (ONDA) reports that they have no information on flight suspensions. "We have not received anything official from the company," an official told Yabiladi.

Lack of space at the airport due to the closure of Terminal 1 has posed problems for certain low-cost airlines including Easyjet, which was forced to drop from two daily flights to one last year. The French press has hinted that extension of Terminal 1, that began in 2010, is only part of the problem and that Morocco wants to "push low cost airlines to the exit" in Casablanca in favour of Royal Air Morocco. This thesis, has been rejected outright by ONDA, who say that completion of Terminal 1 will be late 2016.

However, Yabiladi points out that the fact that Easyjet is to suspend its links with Casablanca at the same time as it launches a new line to Marrakech during the same period, speaks volumes about the situation in airport Mohammed V.

Casa a city with an image problem

Meanwhile in the city...

While Casablanca may be Morocco's economic capital, it is suffers from an image problem. In the latest survey by the prestigious Condé Nast Traveller website, Casablanca is not only in the top 10 least friendly cities on the planet, it is in 2nd place.
"Not what the movie suggested. Time has not served this dirty city well," opined one visitor. Morocco's largest metropolis is "chock full of overwhelming sensory experiences," "pestering street vendors and merchants," "traffic jams, screaming people," and "intense extremes." Put it this way: "The Hassan II Mosque was unbelievably beautiful, but three blocks away there was nothing but poverty."
Casablanca came in behind Caracas (Venezuela) and ahead of Guangzhou (China). According to readers of the site, Casablanca is a badly polluted city and suffers from garbage, traffic congestion, aggressive street vendors and the scammers. (See our story on Casablanca crime here).

Adding to Casablanca's woes is the competition from Agadir, Marrakech and Fez.

While Fes is basking in being 11th in the Lonely Planet Top 500 tourist destinations in the world and Marrakech getting new air services, Agadir is undergoing a surge in popularity.

The French flocking to Agadir

While overall French tourist numbers are down across the country, the French are invading Agadir. According to a statement from the Moroccan National Tourist Office, Agadir has seen a 28% growth this July compared to July 2014.

French tourists are attracted by Agadir due to the increase in airline capacity and publicity campaigns in France. Transavia has increased to 4 weekly flights Paris-Agadir, and Easyjet has two new weekly flights Toulouse-Agadir.

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