A stronger offering: Partnerships to stimulate tourism projects in a number of cities

A number of projects to be jointly carried out with four Gulf countries were unveiled in early May 2014 by the Moroccan minister of tourism, Lahcen Haddad, at two major tourism events in Dubai, the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference and the Arabian Travel Market. Under its Vision 2020, Morocco aspires to become one of the top 20 tourist destinations by 2020. The strategy includes developing the sector to attract 20m visitors, boosting revenues to Dh140bn (€12.4bn) and expanding hotel bed capacity to 375,000 by the end of the decade. Plans to reach these goals include the construction of new tourism facilities and infrastructure. According to figures from the Ministry of Tourism, 9400 beds were added in 2013, bringing the total number to 207,500 by the end of the year. Significant private and public investments will therefore be needed to meet the goals and develop the necessary infrastructure.

PARTNERING WITH THE GULF: The new agreements recently concluded with the Gulf states of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, in partnership with the Moroccan government, are expected to provide up to 40% of funding to finance projects planned in Casablanca, Tangiers and Rabat. Total investment to carry out these plans is valued at €2bn and works are expected to be completed within the next five years. Allocated funds are to be split equally between the five partners, while the remainder is expected to come from private investors and bank financing.

The announced projects in the three Moroccan cities are set to receive the necessary financing through the Wessal Fund, a finance mechanism (€2.5bn) established by the Gulf Cooperation Council and Morocco to support tourism development during the Arab Spring. Transformation plans for Casablanca’s port area are expected to receive Dh6bn (€532.8m) to develop tourism infrastructure and expand the city’s cultural offerings. The Wessal-Casablanca Port will include hotels, a cruise port and a marina.

Wessal Capital will also invest Dh9bn (€779.2m) in Rabat’s tourism infrastructure. The Wessal-Bouregreg project will consist of the development of the Bouregreg valley between the capital and Salé to include hotels, residential units, a marina and cultural attractions, such as a theatre with seating for 2000 people and a national museum of archaeology and science. The project is expected to generate 12,000 jobs.

As for Tangiers, Dh730m (€63.8m) has been dedicated to the redevelopment of its port area. Given the rise in cruise tourist numbers in recent years – growing by 9% annually since 2004 – the government is looking to expand port capacity to allow more cruise ships to dock along its coastline.

RISING POPULARITY: During a ceremony hosted at the Arabian Travel Market, the kingdom signed a threeyear agreement to host the World Travel Awards (WTA) Grand Final starting 2014 in Marrakech. Established in 1993, the WTA aims at showcase the best-performing tourism markets. This event will help publicise Morocco’s rising popularity as a tourist destination. In 2013 the country welcomed a total of 10m visitors, up 7% compared to the previous year. Haddad expects to see tourist numbers rise by 8% in 2014, and overnight stays are projected to increase by 10%.

Despite the turbulence witnessed across the Middle East and North Africa region since the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, investors continue to remain confident about the prospects for the Moroccan market as is evident from the funding from Gulf countries as well as the local expansion plans of renowned hotel chains such as the Four Seasons, the Ritz-Carlton and Marriott International. Among the hotels expected to open before the end of 2014 are Mövenpick’s Casablanca and Marrakech hotels. So far, the Swiss chain’s presence has been limited to Tangiers, where it took over the management of Malabata Hotel in 2001. Construction works are still being carried out on the Marrakech hotel, which will have 374 rooms and will see its doors open by the end of 2014. In Casablanca, the group will take over the 180-room Husa Casablanca Plaza, which will be rebranded a Mövenpick hotel as of June 2014.

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The Report: Morocco 2014

Tourism chapter from The Report: Morocco 2014

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