Morocco: Investing in tourism
Morocco saw steady progress last year under its ambitious plan to help it gain entry to the top 20 tourism destinations worldwide, although it has had to struggle with the fallout from regional instability and the ongoing eurozone crisis.
The Moroccan tourism sector managed to attract Dh14bn (€1.25bn) in investments for a number of developments in 2012. This represents around 93% of the country’s target under its Vision 2020 to attract an average of Dh15bn (€1.33bn) each year.
First launched in 2010, Vision 2020 aims to make Morocco one of the top-20 tourist destinations in the world and bring the number of arrivals to 20m by 2020. While Europeans, particularly French citizens, account for the largest number of visitors, Morocco is committed to attracting greater numbers from other countries across Europe. For example, the government is hoping to double the number of British tourists from 500,000 to 1m per year between 2013 and 2020.
The investment seen in 2012 is expected to create 5500 jobs and add around 12,500 beds by 2015, particularly in Bouznika, Casablanca and Marrakech.
Among the new 2012 investments was a Dh4bn (€356.8m) project in the luxury and high-end segment by the state-owned Caisse de Dépôt et de Gestion (CDG), which signed an agreement in December 2012 with France-based Pierre & Vacances-Center Parcs Group, a holiday apartment rental firm, to develop resorts and residences in Marrakech, Saïdia and Taghazout. The projects are expected to generate up to 900 jobs and add 7200 extra beds to the high-end segment by 2016.
The planned high-end residence in Marrakech, Oasis Noria, is expected to be delivered in 2015 and add 2400 beds to the sector. Meanwhile, the Mediterrania-Saïdia project, currently being developed in the coastal town of Saïdia near the Algerian border, will be home to three five-star hotels, upscale residences, three golf courses, a marina and several retail facilities.
Finally, Taghazout, just north of Agadir, will receive 250 houses and apartments, adding 2700 beds by 2016. In 2012 Agadir registered its highest record in visitor numbers, with more than 810,000 arrivals and more than 4m nights spent at the city’s hotels, a year-on-year (y-o-y) increase of 4.05% in arrivals and 0.24% in nights spent. And the country is looking to attract even more investment this year. According to Lahcen Haddad, the minister of tourism, Morocco is forecast to attract between Dh20bn (€1.78bn) and Dh30bn (€2.68bn) in investment in 2013.
The Moroccan Tourist Engineering Society (Société Marocaine d’Ingénierie Touristique, SMIT), however, is even more optimistic. The SMIT has initiated a number of feasibility studies, aiming to attract up to Dh38bn (€3.39bn) in investment in 2013, thus adding some 36,000 beds and creating more than 10,000 jobs over the long term. “Up to 2020, the aim is to attract some Dh150bn (€13.4m) in investments in the tourism sector,” Imad Barrakad, the chairman of SMIT, told OBG. “In particular, investments are sought from Gulf countries.”
Part of the focus for new capital projects in the sector over 2013 will be on niche segments, such as medical tourism. Announced in late 2012, Marrakech Healthcare City (MHC), which is being developed by UAE-based Tasweek Real Estate Development and Marketing, will be home to a 160-bed hospital, 56 high-end apartments and a luxury hotel with 40 rooms. The $40m project will spread over 21,000 sq metres and is expected to be complete in the next two years. The MHC hopes to attract up to 5000 patients annually.
Despite the increasing number of developments and positive growth figures in some parts of the country, Marrakech saw its overall arrival numbers drop by 2% between January and September 2012, compared to the same period in 2011, while passenger traffic at Moroccan airports was down 4.73% y-o-y in the same period. Many in the industry have pointed to the crisis in Europe and instability throughout the region as key to these declining figures. To this end, the government recently announced that the Moroccan National Office of Tourism (Office National Marocain du Tourisme) will receive a 15% y-o-y increase in funding in 2013 to improve its global promotional campaigns.
A further boost to the sector came at the beginning of January when Ryanair announced plans to establish its 56th and 57th base in Marrakech and Fes beginning in April. The $210m investment, which is expected to secure some 2500 jobs locally, is the company’s first attempt to establish itself outside Europe. New routes between Morocco and Europe are expected to match rising demand and allow the transportation of up to 2.5m passengers per year.
The open-sky agreement signed with the EU in 2006 has allowed a number of low-cost airlines to enter the Moroccan market. Introducing further routes should contribute towards boosting arrival numbers, and with further investments planned for 2013 and the expected increase in visitors, tourism in Morocco looks to be on track to meet its objectives.