Interview: Laila Mechbal
What can be done to attract more international airlines to the country?
LAILA MECHBAL: Important efforts are being exerted in order to modernise the Moroccan airline sector, both in terms of service delivery and infrastructure. The new terminal extension projects in Nador and Tangiers will definitely contribute to boosting economic development in the north, while the new terminal at the Mohammed V International Airport of Casablanca offers the latest functionalities. Another key asset is the fact that Morocco has been developing its air transport sector for some time now, which enables the country to benefit from a constant learning curve. Cabin crew staff are easy to hire and have high levels of expertise, and pilots are mostly trained to fly Boeing aircraft.
We are heading programmes to train pilots on Airbus aircraft, which could help to ameliorate the human resources availability specific to this type of aircraft. Additionally, the National Office of Airports is very cooperative and willing to work hand-in-hand with airlines to increase the number of visitors to the country. Lastly, it needs to be said that the main asset of Morocco is the country itself, as it offers visitors a unique set of experiences, whether cultural, spiritual, gastronomic, seaside, mountainous, arid or urban. For the average European tourist, the flight time to change of scenery ratio is quite unbeatable.
What are the most recent developments in Morocco’s aviation industry?
MECHBAL: The focus of airlines in Morocco has historically been centred on Marrakech, which is the main tourism hub. This over-representation of the imperial city resulted in many other destinations with significant potential being left behind. This situation is now changing, as airlines — mainly low-cost ones — have been opening new routes from cities such as Fez, Tangiers, Agadir and Nador.
Internal connectivity has also been greatly enhanced with more daily and weekly rotations between the main and secondary cities. New connections from Morocco to both traditional and new outbound markets are helping increase the number of visitors in the country. Markets such as France, Spain and Italy remain particularly important, with alternative routes such as those to and from Milan, Torino, Bologna, Bordeaux and Montpellier experiencing significant growth. Then, there are new markets including Germany, the UK, Scandinavian countries and Eastern Europe.
Interestingly, we are finding that such routes are performing both ways, with an increasing number of Moroccans also flying to visit these destinations. Overall, it is interesting to see how impactful opening new air routes is to territorial development. When a low-cost company connects an area such as Dakhla, in the very south of the country, it not only helps bring tourists in, but it also boosts socio-economic development. Business people from Casablanca, Marrakech and Tangiers can follow up on their investments more easily, and trade is likely to increase as a result. We are optimistic about the number of visitors to the Dakhla region, which is expected to grow by around 50% with the establishment of the new air connections.
How do you address the main challenges Morocco faces in expanding its customer base?
MECHBAL: It remains a cost-sensitive market, but it is also a country where offering additional services can make a huge difference. Offering a 24/7 call centre to help customers manage their bookings is important, as well as connecting the main airports with shuttle services. Many clients do not have any means to reach the main city from satellite towns, so airlines must have the capacity to pick them up if they want to increase their customer base.
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