By Zoubida Senoussi
Rabat – “Tourism has contributed for many years to Morocco’s wealth, both material and immaterial,” said the President of CGEM, Miriem Bensalah-Chaqroun, at the International Tourism Symposium on Wednesday, April 11.
Organized by the Council for Development and Solidarity (CDS) in Rabat, the International Tourism Symposium gathered more than forty panelists including President of CDS Mohamed Benamour, President of CGEM Miriem Bensalah, Minister of Tourism Mohamed Sajid, Former Minister of Economy and Finances Salaheddine Mezouar, among other sector experts.
The tourism industry is stagnating, and the objectives of the “Vision 2020” government strategy seem difficult to reach. Each panelist highlighted tourism as a vector of Morocco’s influence, as well as its role as a lever for strong and inclusive growth.
They also emphasized stability and security as major concerns tied to tourists expectations.
“This Symposium is a new contribution of the CDS to the debate on national issues. The CDS defends and promotes its values by organizing various events including symposia, forums, and debates with Moroccan and foreign personalities,” Mohamed Benamour said to Morocco World News.
“Tourism has been established as a national priority and is considered a strategic sector and a major component of our economy,” he added.
“Tourism is a terrific land-use tool, and our territory from Tangier to Lagouira is rich in its activities, its landscape, its heritage, its culture and its gastronomy. It is up to us public actors and economic actors to work together, collectively to improve the attractiveness, influence and cohesion of our country,” he concluded.
When it was her turn to speak, Meriem Bensalah-Chaqroun shared some quantitative data to highlight the current position of tourism in Morocco.
“We have gained more than 6 million tourists in fifteen years, which makes us the premiere tourist destination in Africa. We’re currently at 11 million tourists, though we have unfortunately stagnated since 2010,” she said.
The businesswoman expressed concerns about the development delays of the sector “which is in a situation of overall inaction because of governance complacency.” She also advises the government to “cease investing in areas that are no longer productive”.
Meanwhile, Minister of Tourism Mohammed Sajid spoke about the failures of the seaside strategy. “Even though tourism is one of the first sectors that implemented a strategy, the Azure Plan, with six huge resorts, did not work well,” he admits.
As the Symposium went on, the panelists continued to examine Moroccan tourism and what it has to offer in the face of changes in the sector. Many speakers referred to the “digital revolution” as one of these major changes, including the former Minister of National Education and Tourism, Luc Chatel.
“The real revolution during these past 10 years was the digital revolution. We experienced three types of advances in the way consumers research and secure services: First, the use of TripAdvisor, second the introduction of AirBnb, and the third the increased popularity of online reservations through sites such as Booking.com,” he said, adding that we’re currently witnessing a fourth digital advance: artificial intelligence products such as speaker and voice assistants such as Google Home. Chatel concluded that these changes have shaken up consumer behaviour patterns.
When it comes to challenges and difficulties faced by tourism, Abdelmalek Alaoui, CEO of consulting firm Guepard Group, brought up two main threats to the sector: “the trade of received ideas” and “the pre-eminence of certainties.” Alaoui also shared his colleagues’ opinions about the digital revolution.
“We continue to fight with first-generation weapons while the world has changed. We need to move towards digital,” he said supporting his remarks referencing that billions of dirhams that have been spent on traditional advertising campaigns have proven to be about as effective as “throw[ing] water in the desert.”
It has become clear that the key to successfully promoting tourism is with a digital strategy. “Build it, and it will come”, he concluded.
We can’t talk about tourism without culture. The symposium has invited Neila Tazi, Vice President of the Representatives House and President of the Gnaoua festival to cover this very important topic.
“We need to combine tourism and culture,” she strongly said, adding that “Morocco doesn’t take culture seriously,” as she continued her argument by explaining that “only 2 million tourists have visited all cultural and patrimonial sites in the country.”
The purpose of this event was to make proposals for Morocco to become “a top travel destination” and for the sector to be transformed into “a leading component of the Moroccan economy.” In order to achieve this, several roundtables were led by experts who provided operational responses to the challenges experienced in tourism development.