Interview: Nadia Fettah Alaoui

What opportunities are available for foreign investors in Morocco’s tourism sector?

NADIA FETTAH ALAOUI: As a major contributor to job creation, foreign currency reserves and economic growth, tourism continues to position itself as a key sector in the kingdom’s economic and social development. Tourist arrivals increased at an average of 8% between 2016 and 2019, from 10.3m in 2016 to 13m in 2019. The number of nights spent by tourists increased from 19.4m in 2016 to nearly 25.2m in 2019, at an annual growth rate of 9%. Tourism foreign exchange income rose by 25%, from €6bn to €7.5bn over the same period.

Morocco is taking steps to create an encouraging environment for investment, and business creation and development. The kingdom ranked 66th out of 140 countries in the “Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019”, and has very positive scores compared to the rest of the MENA region. In this regard, major reform projects have been undertaken to strengthen online services and simplify procedures for setting up a new business, alongside a range of fiscal, budgetary, land and regulatory incentives.

The country’s strategic location in Africa also offers the potential to diversify investment opportunities in the sector, spanning niche markets such as seaside, cultural and nature tourism. At the same time, the government is particularly interested in developing public-private partnerships in the management and implementation of major structuring projects.

In what ways can the country develop niche tourism segments such as ecotourism?

FETTAH: Travellers are becoming ecologically aware, and this is increasingly influencing their choice of destination, encouraging the development of environmentally friendly tourism and highlighting sustainable modes of production and consumption.

Morocco places sustainability at the heart of its tourism development strategy and introduced a set of measures aimed at moving the sector towards an environmentally friendly model, with an emphasis on strengthening sustainability standards and regulation; raising awareness; and offering supervision, support and a range of projects for stakeholders.

At the same time, tourists are increasingly looking for new experiences during their travels. Morocco is full of potential to respond to this desire for a change of scenery, with its natural landscapes – whether coastal, mountainous or desert – and a unique culture.

The expansion of rural tourism will be accompanied by incentives for companies developing projects in this segment. Through the growth of green tourism, Morocco can diversify its offering and create niche markets to generate income and foreign currency. Provinces in the regions of Marrakech-Safi and SoussMassa have already been identified for pilot projects.

How can Morocco diversify its source markets?

FETTAH: Annual tourist arrivals grew by 5.2% in 2019.

In order to sustain this growth, Morocco aims to consolidate its historic source markets while also expanding into new markets with high potential, such as Asia and North America. As such, the ministry’s key priorities include developing our knowledge of markets and competition, improving air connectivity, strengthening promotion channels, diversifying our offerings, and forming strategic partnerships with tour operators.

Additionally, special attention is being paid to expanding the country’s airports. The new terminal at Mohammed V International Airport raised annual capacity to approximately 14m passengers, while Marrakech Menara Airport can handle up to 9m. Morocco is now directly connected to 130 airports in 60 countries. We intend to continue this momentum and closely follow recent developments in the aviation sector, such as the change in consumption patterns, the rise of low-cost carriers, and the growing need for adaptation in terms of international standards and regulations.