In 2006, 100,000 U.S. travelers visited Morocco; the country hopes to double that figure in three years.
Mo rocco to seek resort guests with money to spend
D E S TIN A TIO N S
Qatari businessmen are investing
$2 billion in Tangier, where a new
port for cargo will free up existing
ports at Tangier and Casablanca
for leisure vessels.
By Kenneth Kiesnoski
With three years left in its decade-long Vision 2010 tourism
development program, Morocco is focusing on quality,
then quantity. The game plan is to grow annual international arrivals to 10 million and to open six luxury resorts
along the country’s Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.
nature, Maaninou noted.
Of the 70,000 hotel beds Morocco had in
2001, 80% were located in “cultural destinations,” or cities such as Fez, Casablanca and
The MNTO wants to shift the tourism
mix to 55% sun-and-fun vs. 45% cultural.
However, it is not interested in mass-mar-ket, packaged beach holidays of the type
found in Tunisia, Jamaica and Turkey.
“Often, the more people you have visiting, the less money you earn per person,”
said Maaninou. “To bring 100,000 Germans
in for less than $400 a week, including air
fare and food — we will not do that.”
Instead, Moroccan tourism officials are
targeting the big spenders. To date, they’ve
had some success growing both traffic and
“In 2001, the average income from each
of our tourist was 800 euros [approximately
$1,075],” Maaninou said. “Today, it is 1,100
euros [$1,485] so we have
not only more tourists
but also more money.
“Tunisia is not an up-market market,” he added. “We receive the same
number of tourists, but
we earn 2. 5 times the revenue.”
amount in the coming year.
“The funds will be spent reaching the
trade and building a trade database to be
more pragmatic and catch their customers.”
He said that agencies affiliated with Virtuoso and American Express were primary
“The people who are going to Morocco
are really sophisticated customers,” said
Maaninou. “They are high-income, univer-sity-educated and newspaper readers. We
know the type of people who are interested
in vacationing in Morocco, so we’re doing
very targeted marketing.”
In 2006, 100,000 U.S. travelers visited
Morocco; the MNTO hopes to double that
figure in three years.
“It seems a high target, but we’re talking
to people, media and the trade, and Morocco is really on the radar,” said Maaninou.
“People want to go. They want something
Visits to Morocco have
risen from 4 million in
2002 to 6. 6 million last
year. In the first quarter
of 2007, the destination
posted 12% year-over-year
‘Morocco is really on
— Rachid Maaninou, MNTO
According to Rachid Maaninou, international markets director at the Moroccan
National Tourist Office, the upscale coastal
developments will help the country attract
more affluent vacationers looking for sun
and fun with a dash of culture.
“Morocco has no oil, but we have sun
and a [strong] native culture, so we decided
to make tourism our principal industry,” he
said. “We started to build six new resorts
last January in order to triple the capacity of beds of international standards to
230,000 by 2010. We are developing these
resorts with international partners.”
Before the launch of the so-called Azur
Plan to build the six beach resorts, Morocco
had just 3. 5 miles of developed coastline.
Most tourism was urban and cultural in
Targeted marketing in the U.S.
Along those lines, this year the MNTO
again began courting U.S. travelers, typically among the biggest spenders worldwide,
for the first time in a decade. Morocco is
trying to rebuild U.S. arrivals, which plummeted by half in the wake of 9/11.
“After 9/11, the numbers from the U.S.
dropped completely, and we’re just coming
back,” said Maaninou. “We were at 120,000
per year in 2000 and early 2001 but were at
just 60,000 in 2002 and 2003.”
The tourism office is spending an initial
$850,000 or so of its $72 million marketing
budget to court wealthy U.S. travelers on
the East Coast.
“That’s just a beginning,” he said. “It’s
difficult to do anything in the U.S. for under $10 million. We’re going to increase this
This May, the MNTO ran a trade and
media junket to spread the word in the
“We were here to talk to tour operators to
give them new ideas and to bring them to
Morocco to see for themselves,” said Maaninou. “When we have enough product on
the map, we’ll go talk to travel agents with
e-training programs because if they don’t
know the destination, they won’t sell it.”
In addition to the U.S., the MNTO is expanding tourism marketing from its Western European core, which accounts for 80%
of visits, to farther-flung source markets
such as Russia and Scandinavia.
In the States, the tourism board is focusing on the Northeast because nonstop
flights to Casablanca are available out of
New York on Royal Air Maroc. The flight is
Continued on Page 55
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