The domestic tourism market has been growing strongly since the beginning of the decade, both in absolute terms as well as in its contribution to the wider industry. Nights spent in tourism accommodation by local residents stood at 7.14m in 2018, up 2% on the previous year’s figures and accounting for 30% of total nights in the kingdom. However, this latter figure was down two percentage points, thanks to a large increase in nights spent by foreign residents. Furthermore, in the first 10 months of 2018 growth in the local market was more or less flat, rising by 1% over the same period a year earlier to 6.14m.
Combined with 12% growth in nights spent by foreign residents, the market share of local residents fell further, to 30%. However, longer-term growth has been strong, and the local market’s share of nights spent is up from 23% in 2010. In absolute terms, the market has grown by 76% over the period, compared to growth of just 21% for non-residents. Up-to-date figures on tourism revenue from locals are not available; however, a government survey conducted in 2014 put the figure at Dh38.4bn (€3.5bn). This was equivalent to 61.9% of foreign tourism receipts that year, underscoring the importance of the local market. Moroccan households spend 5.6% of their annual expenditures on tourism, according to the Ministry of Tourism, Air Transport, Handicrafts and Social Economy in early 2017.
Development Drives Demand
Growth in domestic tourism is being driven by steady growth in per capita GDP and the rise of the middle class. In fixedprice terms, per capita income has risen by two-thirds (66.9%) since the start of the millennium. While levels remain relatively low at $3007 in 2017, steady growth should further cement a middle class with significant spending power and could see the kingdom break out of the World Bank’s lower-middle-income group of countries currently defined as countries with per capita incomes between $996 and $3895 in the not too distant future, with positive implications for the sector.
One of national tourism strategy Vision 2020’s six main substrategies is devoted to developing the local market. The programme is known as Biladi, meaning “my country” in Arabic, and is a continuation of a previous initiative launched in 2007. In keeping with the segment’s strong growth, the strategy seeks to triple the number of domestic tourism trips made over the current decade (compared to a target of doubling the number of foreign arrivals). This target currently appears unlikely to be met, but the country could be on track to double domestic tourism over the period. A core element of the Biladi strategy is the development of more affordable amenities aimed largely at the local market. The plan includes the construction of six (initially eight) resorts offering apartments available for rent at between Dh200 (€17.99) and Dh500 (€44.97) a night and camping sites accessible for between Dh100 (€8.99) and Dh150 (€13.49).
Three of the planned resorts have been built so far, namely the Farah Inn in the north-eastern mountain town of Ifrane, developed by Al Ajial Holding; Lunja village near the beach resort city of Agadir, developed by the Compagnie Générale Immobilière; and the Mehdia resort in the north-eastern province of Kénitra. A fourth – the Ras el Maa resort, near the north-eastern coastal town of Saidia – is also currently under development. However the remaining two have yet to find a private backer, triggering recent criticisms in the local press regarding the implementation of the programme. The authorities are currently working on a roadmap to revise the overall Vision 2020 strategy (see overview), which has suffered from wider implementation difficulties, and Biladi is likely to be amongst the elements subject to an overhaul. Nevertheless, strong long-term growth in the domestic market, as well as rising levels of per capita wealth and the rapid expansion of hospitality infrastructure, more generally suggests that local tourism is likely to continue to develop at a vigorous pace in the years to come.
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