By Hassan Benmehdi
By Hassan Benmehdi
Casablanca, March 18, 2012
Despite the global economic crisis, Moroccan tourism operators are working hard to keep on course.
For more than a year, Morocco’s main tourist customers, particularly Europeans, have been opting for other travel destinations. But the sector has withstood the difficulties by re-orienting toward domestic travelers.
The number of tourists arriving in the kingdom from abroad stagnated last year, according to the tourism ministry.
“This year, national tourism has seen growth of just 1% against the backdrop of the Arab Spring and the Argana attack,” Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad said in his first media appearance on February 21st.
This year is likely to be just as difficult because of the economic crisis affecting Morocco’s main tourist markets. “2012 will be a challenging year, and we shall need to step up our efforts even more,” the minister said.
Despite the global economic challenges, professionals in the trade stress the need to show more imagination and innovation to lure foreign tourists.
Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT) chief Abdelhamid Addou commented that significant action was needed now to guarantee a major presence for Morocco on the main tourist markets.
“That’s our role. But we also need Moroccan hoteliers to prove what they can do in terms of the rates they charge, the quality of service they offer, the events they put on, etc.,” he said.
Every hotel has a sales policy which has been adapted to the problems in the market and to satisfy the law of supply and demand, said Catherine, a sales manager at a five-star hotel in Marrakech.
“As far as we’re concerned, we’ve revised our room rates and also diversified our offer to Moroccan families,” she explained. “We’ve also improved our internet communications, with a new platform providing information and online booking facilities.”
Another manager, who preferred not to be identified, said that hotels have been focusing on domestic tourists for more than a year, offering services that match the expectations of Moroccan families.
“Of course, we’ve dropped our prices by 40% and sometimes by 50%, particularly last year which coincided with the month of Ramadan, with special meals and activities for children and their mothers,” the manager said, adding that the strategy had been a success. More than 90% of the hotel’s clients over that period were Moroccan.
Journalist Rajae El Oufairi said that focusing on national tourists, with attractive offers, would be a solution for the sector under current market conditions. “In Morocco today there is a real emergent middle class, and one practical example of this is the opening of the Morocco Mall in Casablanca, which has seen record numbers of visitors.”
The problem, she said, is the absence of tourist offers to match the expectations of the Moroccan middle class.