Rabat - For Minister of Tourism Lahcen Haddad, tourism is not only a harbinger of economic opportunity for Morocco, but a chance to unite an increasingly divided world.
Rabat – For Minister of Tourism Lahcen Haddad, tourism is not only a harbinger of economic opportunity for Morocco, but a chance to unite an increasingly divided world.
Over the past decades, tourism has become the second-largest sector in the Moroccan economy after agriculture. Eight percent of the national GDP comes from tourism alone. Tourism increased five-fold since 1995, reaching over 10 million visitors in 2014. Currently, total annual revenue from tourism is approximately 10 billion dollars.
Most tourists to the Kingdom come from France, Spain, the United Kingdom, and other European countries. The Ministry is attempting to expand the tourism market in China and North America by increasing the number of English-speaking workers and English-language websites. In addition, Morocco is working to increase the number of flights between cities in target countries and the Kingdom.
According to Minister Haddad, tourism became a priority for the Kingdom almost twenty years ago because of the King’s vision for Morocco and Morocco’s economy. “The king sponsored a grand vision in 2001 called ‘2010,’ which aimed to attract 10 million tourists,” Haddad explained. “This goal was reached because of his clairvoyance and vision.” The king now hopes to make Morocco one of the world’s top twenty tourist destinations and a leading site for sustainable development by 2020.
As the government increasingly allocates resources to the hospitality industry, the sector’s importance is growing. Minister Haddad explained: “Tourism is harbinger of wealth, a source of employment, a way for Morocco to open itself to the outside world, and a means for Morocco to attract investment.” Additionally, he noted that the focus on tourism helps the Kingdom to diversity its economy. “Agriculture is important, industry is important, and tourism is important. The more diversified you are, the less susceptible you are to shocks in global markets. For example, if you rely only on oil, and oil prices go down, then you are in trouble. Therefore, adding tourism to diversifying the economy is very important.”
In times of financial uncertainty, the Minister also noted that tourism in Morocco is one of the most dynamic sectors in terms of job creation. Even during the recent financial crises, the tourism industry created jobs.
According to the Minister, the sector’s importance also has an underlying cultural aspect. “It is in our DNA to receive others, to be welcoming, and to share what we have,” he explained. “It’s very important for our culture and our identity to receive others.”
Minister Haddad dismissed the idea that tourism in Morocco might decrease due to terrorism concerns in the MENA region, urging potential tourists to look at Morocco’s safety record. “Morocco has been a safe country for a long time,” he asserted. “If you judge safety by how many acts take place in each country, you will find that Morocco is a safe country… We are going to have more tourists.”
However, he emphasized that terrorism is a world-wide phenomenon that requires a unified response. “I don’t think that we need to do any marketing focusing on other countries being unsafe and that Morocco being safe. We need to all work together to make the world safer. That’s the best thing to do to give hope to the next generation and make tourism an industry that brings people together.”
As Morocco continues to expand its tourist industry, Minister Haddad hopes that their efforts will bring peace alongside economic gain. “Tourism and the hospitality industry are the hope for the future of the world economy, since they create jobs and wealth, but also for world unity,” he said. “For people to meet and understand each other better, we need to promote tourism. Let’s invest in tourism and the hospitality industry.”