With its unrelenting enthusiasm to boost the tourism industry, Morocco is well on track to meet its goal – to become one of the world’s leading tourist destinations. Andrea Gutova finds out how the country is addressing its tourism agenda
A continuous growth in tourist arrivals to Morocco is providing evidence of the country’s steady eagerness to focus on sustainable development of its tourism industry.
Talking to TTG about the flow of travel to Morocco, director of communication, Barceló Hotels and Resorts, Álvaro Pacheco said: “Morocco possesses a wonderful landscape, very nice beaches, culture, good weather and gastronomy. It is a country with a lot of possibilities and therefore well positioned to become a great tourism destination.”
Meanwhile, providing an insight into the country’s strategic agenda that keeps the numbers moving upwards and thus feeds industry professionals with positive forecasts, first vice president, Regional Tourist Board (CRT), Guelmim-Essmara region, Patrick Simon told TTG: “Morocco wishes to take advantage of this period of general upgrade due to democratic advances with a new constitution and big steps in a stronger regionalisation of the country by consolidating the partnership between the Ministry of Tourism, the National Tourist Board abroad and professional association.”
Pacheco reflected upon the country’s tourism status: “In recent years, the country has made several improvements in the tourism sector, so we are sure that Morocco would be one of the future top Mediterranean destinations.”
To continue in line with the country’s tourism improvements, Simon further revealed that the government, which is constantly reviewing its tourism marketing policy to diversify and target specific markets, has decided to update the map of the Moroccan destinations to trigger new business incentives and increasingly focus on regional tourism.
To encourage the flow of new markets, the country has been working hard to meet the set goals of its 2020 Vision, which is to improve its tourism infrastructure to double the size of the tourism sector and place the country among the top 20 global destinations for tourists.
Commenting on the current developments, Simon told TTG: “To improve the country’s tourism position, our aim and ongoing plan is to improve the outline of Moroccan destinations, including those which should be enhanced by the 2020 Plan Azur – a creation of several coastal resorts on the Atlantic and on the Mediterranean coast, such as Chbika and Tan Tan, featuring a Luxury Club Med, a Marina, and more, which are well on their way.”
Echoing this news is Orascom Development, a developer of Chbika – a fully integrated resort in Morocco located along the Atlantic coast, which has recently announced that it expects to complete the first phase of construction by the end of 2012, with the second phase expected to be developed in late 2015.
Chbika is designed to include several hotels, with a total room offer of 2,500 rooms, in addition to 1,851 apartments and villas, a town centre, a marina with berths for 100 boats, a sports centre, a spa, a medical centre, and a golf course.
In order to create awareness of such developments and the Moroccan tourism landscape in general, marketing activities have never been more crucial. Simon elaborated on the current marketing tools that Morocco has been using to promote its tourism product: “Certain marketing tools have been introduced to provide travellers with a better understanding of the country’s tourism offerings,” commented Simon.
“The CRT of Guelmim-Essmara region in partnership with the Regional Council and the Moroccan National Tourist Board set up an action plan in 2009 to provide the necessary tools considering the traditional aspects of tourism, the niche products as well as the seaside and desert tourism,” Simon continued.
“We have introduced guide books and videos on regional specific themes, which have been created in several languages including English, French, Arabic, Spanish, German and Japanese. Moreover, local information desks have been set up on several access points to these regions.”
With international interest on the rise and foreign investment starting to flow into the country, it is perhaps natural that confidence in Morocco’s sector continues to swell. A myriad of international hotel companies, such as Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, has been targeting Morocco to captitalise on the values this country boasts, both culturally and geographically, while helping Morocco to appeal globally as a high-end destination.
Adding cost to the hospitality industry and enlarging the luxury infrastructure is Four Seasons Hotel Marrakech, a 141-room luxury resort which opened its doors this summer. Designed to provide the finest in indoor-outdoor living, luxury and comfort, the property is situated at the base of the majestic Atlas Mountain and is within walking distance of the ancient ramparts of the Medina and the city’s historic Menara Gardens.
Guests can also enjoy a 32,000ft2 spa and fitness centre with 15 special treatment rooms and two VIP spa rooms for massage, facials and body wraps, in addition to three restaurants serving local and international cuisine, while the poolside grill offers casual dining and drinks.
Moreover, the hotel is set to accommodate indoor and outdoor private gatherings, weddings and meetings for large and small groups with its extensive, ultra-modern conference facilities and meeting rooms.
Elsewhere in Marrakech, situated next to the Menara Gardens are the Four Seasons Private Residences Marrakech, comprised of 20- two and three-bedroom Ryads (townhouses) and 23 detached three and four bedroom villas offering a variety of amenities and signature services, including housekeeping, valet, in-room dining, and spa and fitness facilities.
Another supply of luxury opportunities is expected from Qatar Nationals Hotels Company (QNHC), which has recently signed and investment agreement for the rehabilitation of Tazi Palace in Tangier.
QNH is expected to invest $55 million for converting the former palace into a high-end five-star hotel consisting of 120 luxurious hotel rooms, two VIP villas and one Royal villa, a spa, a fitness centre and a business centre, in addition to state-of-the-art conference and banqueting facilities.
Explaining to TTG the reasoning behind entering Morocco, group director of marketing, QNH, Tamara Khalil said: “Morocco aims to position itself among the top 20 tourist destinations worldwide and the city of Tangier has a rich hospitality tradition dating to the beginning of the 20th century. With a wealth of cultural heritage, numerous touristic attractions and a strategic position on a bay on the Straits of Gibraltar, Tangier has recorded a significant increase in tourist arrivals during the past years.”
Slated to open in the first quarter of 2015, Tazi Palace is designed to become one of the iconic properties of the city, expected to set new standards for the hospitality services in the region.
Khalil also commented on future plans that can be expected from QNHC in Morocco, she said: “The bilateral ties between Qatar and Morocco have strengthened during the past year. QNHC’s expansion plans align with the country’s strategic partnerships and we will definitely look into future investment opportunities in the tourism industry in Morocco.”
Considering the significant potential of Morocco is also Rotana, which has announced its new property in Morocco, namely, Bab Al Bahr Rotana.
Director of marketing and communications, Rotana Hotel Management Corporation, Amin Dakkak told TTG: “Rotana’s strategic aim is to have a property located in every key city of the Middle East and Africa. In line with this strategy, we have announced the opening of the one property in Morocco which is Bab Al Bahr Rabat-Salé which will open in 2014 featuring 305 rooms and suites.”
The hospitality market is also expected to see the opening of the Rocco Forte brand in the form of a 90-suite golf and spa resort in Marrakech, scheduled to open in 2014.
Furthermore, Hilton Worldwide is also looking to capitalise on the strategic location, plans to open more hotels in major cities in Morocco in the future, according to vice president, Hilton Worldwide – Middle East and Africa, Rudi Jagersbacher.
Joining the plethora of hotel investors is also Monte Carlo SBM, which is to launch an international hotel development in Marrakech, expected to open in 2013.
“This is the place for Monte Carlo SBM to be,” explained executive vice president real estate sales and marketing Aerium Atlas Management — the company responsible for the acquisition, development and asset management of the land, Sherri Motazed.
“The hotel will be Monte Carlo meets Morocco, and it will be a very exciting development for Marrakech — the area we are building in is the new Marrakech,” she added.
And with the ongoing enthusiasm and a variety of developments in the pipeline, the future expectations remain bright and the road to accomplish its tourism goals seems to be well-established.
Simon also agreed: “The country’s current stability and commitment to democracy with the professional decisions in tourism matters make Morocco one of the best choices to travel to.
“Naturally, the legendary hospitality, the various niches, the seaside, desert and oasis, cultural, sports, MICE markets with professional level of tourism help Morocco remain the destination of growth markets of today and tomorrow!”