Interview: Mohammed Sajid
How is the government boosting tourism?
MOHAMMED SAJID: In an effort to stimulate Morocco’s tourism sector, the Department of Tourism and its partners have launched a new approach focused on several primary strategic projects. First, there is a push to revive dynamic investment by putting in place an incentivised framework that encourages the promotion and acceleration of tourism investments. Additionally, in coordination with efforts to strengthen air travel connectivity and improve price competitiveness to Moroccan destinations, we are promoting Morocco as a top-tier tourist destination through several advertising and communication channels. Lastly, we are working on the development and blossoming of our human capital in order to assure that we reach the highest standards of quality.
How do you assess the important market trends of tourists visiting the kingdom?
SAJID: We’re conscious of the emergence of China as the most important source of tourists globally. To that effect, King Mohammed VI made a strategic decision to eliminate visa requirements for Chinese citizens in 2016. This led to a 13-fold expansion in the number of Chinese tourists in the country, up to 132,000 after just 10,000 three years before. Further, there has been significant growth from the North American and Middle Eastern markets with respective increases of 89% and 52% since the beginning of the decade, and respective totals of 365,925 and 203,499 visitors in 2017. Morocco has also consolidated its position in the traditional European markets, as tourism from Germany, the UK and Italy increased by 51%, 38% and 17%, respectively.
What is being done to promote air travel?
SAJID: Air travel is crucial to the development of tourism, as 54% of tourists worldwide use it to reach their destination. Continued growth in the sector is often defined by the persistent need to open up with targeted deregulation of access to the territory, market and capital. Over the last two decades significant steps by the government to encourage the development of Moroccan air travel both internally and externally has led to improvements in quality, connectivity and pricing. The total number of flyers tripled, reaching 22.5m in 2018 with 20m going to or coming from international destinations. Furthermore, the Moroccan sky is serviced by an unprecedented 45 airlines which connect the kingdom to 62 countries and 139 international airports.
What new developments in the field need to be taken into account by tourism operators?
SAJID: The digital revolution has redefined market configurations and changed business practices, especially in tourism where it has become the primary channel for advertising. We are also witnessing the development of digital platforms that offer tourism service providers new and increased opportunities to offer housing, transport, food and other services. These platforms have fostered the emergence of the sharing economy, which today lies at the heart of the tourism sector, but also represents a challenge for operators and regulators. Clearly this new model is a significant business opportunity, but it’s important that both parties not lose sight of the standard requirements for quality of service, as they are the guardians of their own competitiveness in this right. Local operators have to follow the international trends in tourism to better understand them, and adapt to the new way of doing things through innovative strategies that place them in a position to compete in the new landscape. Essentially, it is important for them to adapt to this new era and elaborate approaches that reflect the changing habits of consumers. Among these habits has been the rise of eco-conscious and socially responsible tourism.
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