The Chinese market, which has become the world's largest source of tourists, is proving to be a great benefit to Morocco. The Moroccan Ministry of Tourism, as part of the Vision 2020 strategy, hopes to attract 100,000 Chinese tourists by 2018. To achieve this, Morocco has entered into partnerships with new airlines linking Morocco with the six largest Chinese cities, via Doha or Abu Dhabi.
According to the Moroccan Tourist Office (ONMT), by 2020, the number of Chinese tourists likely to be interested in visiting Morocco could be between 2.5 and 3.1 million. The number of Chinese visitors to Morocco has increased from 12,000 in 2015 to 42,000 in 2016 and 80% of them visited Marrakech
The announcement by the King of Morocco of his decision to abolish visas for Chinese nationals as from 1 June 2016 has also facilitated the travel of Chinese businessmen and investors in Morocco as well as the development Of tourism between the two countries.
"Before the measure came into effect, we received 800 to 1,000 Chinese tourists a month. Today we are at 6,000 or even 7,000 Chinese per month. So that next year we should be approaching the 100,000 tourists from China, "said Abderrafie Zouiten, Director General of the ONMT. According to him, tourism receipts in foreign currencies recorded a historic peak in 2016, with a rise of 4.1% to reach 59.4 billion dirhams (600 million euros) at the end of November 2016.
The ONMT received the "Best Potential Destination 2016" award at the 6th Global Times Forum held in January 2017 in Beijing. The prize, awarded each year to the most popular destination in China, is awarded according to three criteria: the visa procedure, the rate of increase in tourist flows and the satisfaction rate of Chinese tourists. The Kingdom thus outstripped global destinations such as France, Germany and Thailand.
LeMag media outlet reports that Morocco's tourism co-operation relationship with China is governed by the tourism cooperation agreement signed between the two countries on 6 February 2002 on the occasion of King Mohammed VI's first official visit to Beijing. A Memorandum of Understanding on the inclusion of the Kingdom on the official list of tourist destinations that can be visited by Chinese tourists was also concluded between the two countries on 26 April 2006, on the sidelines of the State visit to Morocco of the President of China.
The two memoranda of understanding signed in November 2014 by the ONMT and the partnership agreement established by the Moroccan Tourism Engineering Company (SMIT) with Chinese partners, were aimed at increasing the flow of tourists from China and Chinese investments in Morocco, as well as implementing tourism projects in Morocco and a program of cooperation and partnership in the development of tourism products.
According to China's Xinhua News Agency, for China, Morocco is "a natural bridge and an appropriate platform for intensifying investment and trade relations between China and Africa." As the main trading partner of nine Arab countries, China is developing with these countries cooperation in emerging sectors such as finance, aerospace and new energies.
A rapprochement with Morocco also opens markets in Francophone Africa to China, where it is not yet well introduced, unlike the kingdom which controls a significant part of the banks, insurance and telecommunications of West and Central Africa.
The Central Bank of China recently concluded a dirham-yuan exchange agreement of 15 billion dirhams ($ 1.5 billion), with the Chinese group Haite, Morocco-China International and the Moroccan group BMCE. Bank of Africa have launched a Sino-Moroccan investment fund with a target size of one billion dollars.