In a bid to attract 1.5m additional visitors by 2018, the Moroccan National Tourism Office (Office National Marocain du Tourisme, ONMT) rolled out a Dh400m (€36.7m) investment plan in 2015 aimed at diversifying its source markets through two main channels: improving Morocco’s air connectivity – with a projected opening of 57 new air routes – and the development of digital marketing campaigns.
The fastest-growing source market for Morocco in 2015 was Germany, with nearly 300,000 visitors, up 8% compared to 2014 as a result of new air routes linking Frankfurt, Dresden, Bremen, Stuttgart and Berlin to Marrakech. In an effort to attract more German visitors, in 2015 authorities signed a partnership with the fourth-largest German tour operator, FTI, which will open new charter flights from Munich, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Hanover to Agadir as well as develop a new large-scale resort in the Moroccan city. Objectives of the agreement include FTI providing Morocco with 40,000 clients in 2016, 80,000 in 2017 and 100,000 in 2018. In a second phase, the agreement includes the opening of new routes to Marrakech, Essaouira and Tan-Tan.
The UK market also showed positive results in 2015, with a total 620,000 British visitors, up 6% compared to 2014. Growth has been mainly driven by the development of new air routes, including Glasgow-Marrakech, Rabat-London, Birmingham-Marrakech, Essaouira-London and London-Rabat. In 2015 ONMT launched a promotional campaign entitled “Much Morocco” in partnership with Spring, a UK communications agency, to further showcase the country’s extensive heritage and culture.
Following the sharp drop in Russian visitors to Egypt and Turkey in 2015, Russia has become a priority market for Moroccan tourism authorities. ONMT has devised an ambitious strategy to increase the number of Russian tourists in Morocco – estimated at 34,000 in 2014 – to 800,000 by 2020 through increased promotional efforts focusing on Morocco’s seaside offer. In early 2016, more than 30 Russian media outlets and 400 travel agencies were invited to visit Agadir, Marrakech and Casablanca, while Royal Air Maroc (RAM) has commenced direct flights between Moscow with Casablanca and Agadir and is planning to establish other direct flights from Saint Petersburg to Agadir and Marrakech.
Morocco is looking to attract around 420,000 Italian tourists in 2016, an increase of 3% compared to 2015. ONMT is planning to reinforce digital tools, including online guides, smartphone applications and its social media presence, as well as to participate in cultural events, exhibitions and book presentations.
In 2015 the Ministry of Tourism unveiled a three-year strategic plan aimed at attracting 100,000 tourists from China – the world’s fastest-growing source market – by 2018. To do so, authorities are looking to boost Morocco’s inclusion in Mediterranean cruise ship itineraries as well as open new routes between Morocco and China. As most flight connections between the two countries stop over at a Middle Eastern airport, negotiations have been under way between RAM, China Airlines and Qatar Airways to share routes and adjust flight schedules. Similarly, ONMT is set to develop new promotional tools in Chinese as well as increase its participation in Beijing and Shanghai tourism fairs.
A study by marketing consultancy Prophet showed that Morocco boasts a potential of 86.5m visitors per year across seven main sources markets, including France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Benelux, Spain and the Gulf states. “Thus far, Morocco has only received 10m tourists, including 5m Moroccan residents abroad,” Abdellatif Kabbaj, president of the National Confederation of Tourism, told OBG. “If we want to attract more tourists, authorities have to invest four times more in promotion, that is, 2% of tourism total earnings, mainly on these seven priority markets.”