The achievement of Morocco’s 10-year plan, Vision 2020, aiming to double the size of tourist sector and boosting revenues to $15bn annually by the end of the decade hinges on the development of air transport, Morocco’s tourism and air transport minister Mohamed Sajid said.
Bringing air transport into the tourism sector “has created a synergy”, Sajid said in an interview with the Financial Times, adding that his department is negotiating direct air routes to the Americas and China to help expand the markets.
Indeed, low-cost airlines are increasingly opening new air routes linking Moroccan cities to tourist emitting markets in Europe. In this respect, Sajid said his department focuses on increasing direct air links from Morocco’s imperial cities, such as Fez, to Andalusia in Southern Spain with the aim of “building on historic connections between the two regions to create a “cultural corridor” for visitors.”
“People who visit Seville, Cordoba and Grenada could continue their historic tour in Fez,” he said, noting that investing in airports has been a driver of growth in the tourism sector.
“A new terminal opened in Marrakesh in time for last year’s COP22 international summit on climate change, doubling the airport’s capacity to 9m passengers a year,” Sajid recalled, noting that “a new terminal was also opened in Fez last May, enabling its airport to handle 2.5m passengers a year compared with a previous design limit of 500,000.”
For its part, coastal tourism in particular will benefit from the expanded airport network, Sajid said, while highlighting the tourism potential for little known destinations such as Dakhla, in the extreme south of the country.
He added that his department aims to establish “direct flights to Dakhla from Europe (there are currently only infrequent links to Paris)” adding that there are plans to upgrade a road linking the town to the city of Agadir further north.
This year, the tourism sector is rebounding posting a growth rate of 6-7 % compared to the previous year.
Morocco is expecting to attract 11 million tourists by the end of 2017 as part of its strategy to attract 16m tourists in three years.
Tourism, which employs 2.5 million people, was worth an estimated 6.6 % of GDP in 2016.