The cooler weather is not the only thing to arrive in Fez in the last few weeks. Along with superb weather has come an influx of thousands of Chinese tourists. Not only are there many large tour groups, there are also couples and individual travellers
And, it is not only Fez, but the entire Kingdom that is benefiting, with the number of Chinese Tourists to Morocco tripling since May. While South Korea, Thailand and Japan continue to be the most popular travel destinations for Chinese tourists, there was a 3500% year-on-year increase in visa applications to Morocco processed by Ctrip, a Nasdaq-listed travel agency based in Shanghai, China.
The major factor behind this boom is the Memorandum of Understanding signed last May which aimed to strengthen bilateral cooperation between Morocco and China, particularly in tourism.
Lahcen Haddad, Minister of Tourism, and Li Jing, the Chinese Director General of the National Tourism Administration, signed the Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen bilateral cooperation in tourism, investment and promotion and to promote the development of tourist flows, including knowledge exchange in the fields of management and training.
Among many things, the MoU has canceled the visa for Chinese tourists to visit Morocco. This resulted in the increased the interest of the Chinese tourist market in the kingdom by 300 percent, as reported by China Tourism Academy.
This rise in interest is the highest in the world in comparison with other touristic destinations that stand at 60 percent increase at best. This is mainly due to the competitiveness of Morocco in regards to travel cost.
According to Moroccan newspaper Hespress, Morocco has become one of the ‘warm’ destinations for Chinese tourists, as the temperature drops in other destinations.
A map posted by the same Academy shows that Chinese tourists are more drawn to Morocco than any other African country, while South Africa is the second most attractive African country.
Earlier this year, during a seminar was co-organised by the Ministry of Tourism, the Moroccan National Tourism Office (ONMT), the National Tourism Confederation, and the Tourism Observatory, where Morocco’s Minister of Tourism reported on Morocco’s plan to attract 100,000 Chinese tourists by 2020.
“The Ministry of Tourism offers an important position to the Chinese market in its vision for the future, which expects to attract 100,000 Chinese tourists by 2020,” said Haddad.
One obstacle that needs to be addressed is that there are no direct flights between China and Morocco, so popular routes with third countries in between are chosen. The packages this year for Chinese tourists include a stop-over in Dubai.
Trips to Morocco are fully booked for this month and September, According to Zheng Lijuan, assistant president, China International Travel Service Co, rips to Morocco in August and September were are fully booked.
China has significant potential as an emerging market for tourists. The country had 98.2 million tourists in 2013 and generated $102 billion in tourism spending in 2012, making it the top country for tourism spending.
Along with the Chinese arrivals Tourism activity rebounded in Agadir during the month of August with a 9.44% increase in arrivals with many coming from the growing Russian market.
According to statistics of the Regional Council of Tourism (CRT), a total of 140,901 tourists visited Agadir, against 128,744 in the same period of 2015. Moroccans account for more than half of the arrivals - 76,724 against 68,889 a year earlier - representing an increase of 11.37%. The French came second with 14,549 tourists, a figure down 10.31% compared to the same period of 2015, followed by the English who totalled 7,285 visitors (+ 0.97%).
The Russian market recorded a net increase from 1,188 in August last year o 4089, an increase of 344.19%. This growth confirms the recovery of the Russian market which has already recorded in July an increase of 468%, or 5,180 arrivals against 1,105 in the same period of 2015.
In terms of classification of tourist accommodation unit, classified 4 star hotels come in first with 44,578 tourists, followed by 5-star hotels with 32,386 and tourist villages with 21,248 visitors. The occupancy rate in the various tourist establishments recorded an increase of 4%, or 77.89% against 75.08% in August 2015.