Interview: Mohamed Benmeradi

What initiatives are taking place to align training with the demands of the job market?

MOHAMED BENMERADI: In 2011 we established a national educational map based on the specific needs of each region, taking into account location, climate and infrastructure, among others. We are identifying our training needs according to what lessons we can learn from the initiatives being pursued by neighbouring countries in the Mediterranean region.

The World Tourism Organisation is one of the most important institutions that will be assisting us in our action plan, to which a memorandum of understanding was signed in 2010. We will also collaborate with the EU, with the objective of developing a strong communication and marketing framework.

The country’s three training institutions, which are located in Boussaada, Tizi-Ouzou and Algiers, were first opened in the 1970s. Approximately 6000 technicians and senior technicians have received training through the Boussaada and Tizi-Ouzou institutes, whereas 1250 managers have been trained at the institute in Algiers. A further training facility has been planned for Ain-Temouchent, in the west of the country, in addition to a college of tourism in Tipaza with space for 1200 students. And, for the first time a school will based in Adrar in the extreme south to train young people in a wide range of professions in the hospitality sector, including guides and trackers, among others. These three additional training institutions will benefit from modern educational programmes and represent important tools for creating a more dynamic tourism workforce.

How are investors being encouraged, and what framework is in operation to support future growth?

BENMERADI: The tourism policy established in 2008 through the National Tourism Development Plan, outlines the important commitment required at the inter-sectoral level. Besides the fiscal advantages granted under the legislation, specifically through the national development agency of investment, investors will be able to benefit in several areas. Indeed, conditions have been eased on government-owned land concessions and significant reductions are available on rental fees for tourist-related properties. Another benefit is the waiver of the registration fee for the establishment of tourism-specific companies. On top of this, capital increases (Article 43 of the complementary finance law 2009) are being complemented by interest rate reductions of 3% and 4.5% for tourism investments in northern and southern wilaya (province), respectively. Additional benefits are expected to materialise in the medium to long term future.

One other development has been the framework agreement signed in May 2012 between the Ministry of Tourism and the banking sector, to which new facilities will be allocated to investors and operators in Algerian tourism. Reduced interest rates are available on loans for tourism-related projects as well as greater flexibility on the duration of payment of credits.

What role is the state playing in relation to promoting investment in the tourism sector, and how do you expect this to evolve in the future?

BENMERADI: Despite investing significantly in major resorts in the 1970s, the state stepped aside in 1982 to make room for private sector participation. Public authorities have nevertheless continued to invest in the construction of luxury hotels in Algiers, Oran, Constantine and Annaba, in part due to the large deficit accrued.

Over the coming years, we expect the state to increasingly reduce its involvement in the sector. It is expected that private domestic and foreign investors will come to dominate large tourism-related projects.

It will be the responsibility of the public authorities to promote and regulate the sector, in particular the hotel industry. However, the focus will be on promoting domestic tourist destinations only, and to strengthen the policies, strategies and laws that encourage growth in Algerian tourism. This is essentially in line with that of other neighbouring Mediterranean countries.