With firm steps towards a prosperous future, Morocco is not only recovering tourism and improving its economy, but is also aiming, through the tourism roadmap, to be one of the important world destinations that its northern neighbours can count on to cushion their tourist saturation and agree on a shared offer for the three hosts of the 2030 World Cup

Morocco repositions tourism as a leading sector for the national economy

Torre Mohammed VI en Rabat - AFP/FADEL SENNA
Mohammed VI Tower in Rabat - AFP/FADEL SENNA

Tourism in Morocco is a key domain for the Moroccan economy. It represents 7% of GDP and acts as a locomotive for other activities, increasing its contribution to 12% of GDP. The sector employs 15% of the labour force and generates 90 billion dirhams in foreign exchange earnings. 

  1. The historic milestone for Moroccan tourism in 2023 
  2. Working together for sustainability in the face of saturation and seasonality 
  3. Rethinking Morocco's tourism offer  
  4. Morocco: Tourism Roadmap 2023-2026  

However, tourism in Morocco has not yet reached its full potential and is still characterised by a threefold concentration: European markets accounting for 70%, the host destinations of Marrakech and Agadir accounting for 60%, and the seasonality of tourist arrivals making Morocco a winter destination. 

The historic milestone for Moroccan tourism in 2023 

The year 2023 represented a record season in which Morocco realised, for the first time, tourism revenues exceeding 100 billion dirhams; as well as exceeding the target set in the roadmap of 13.5 million tourists by already reaching 14.5 million visitors, 34% more than in 2022.   

This is a sign that the tourism sector is regaining, and with strength, the dynamism it experienced before Covid 19 when it managed to register, in 2019, 13 million visitors.    

The number of foreign tourists increased by 41% in one year and accounted for 49% of total arrivals, 3 percentage points in one year. Moroccans residing abroad (MRE) accounted for 51% of arrivals marking an increase of 27% in one year. 

This dynamic confirms Morocco's attractiveness as a tourist destination of choice, meeting the expectations of both the Moroccan diaspora and international travellers. Despite the complex global geopolitical context, December was marked by the arrival of 1.3 million tourists equally divided between MRE and foreign tourists.   

Morocco has become a tourism hotspot, a holiday destination. However, it continues to suffer from the seasonality of the sector and the saturation of some of the country's emblematic tourist spots.  

It is clear that tourism in Morocco is not just about Marrakech and Agadir, but that there are other attractive cities with irresistible offers that need to be more visible and that help to tackle this massive one-way concentration. Morocco therefore needs to rethink its national offer in search of a balance between its regions and the sustainability of traditional destinations. 

What Morocco is experiencing in terms of saturation in a few tourist destinations, Spain is experiencing in several cities that are experiencing a suffocating saturation that makes tourism an uncomfortable experience for both tourists and local residents. 

Turismo en Marruecos - PHOTO/PIXABAY
Tourism in Morocco - PHOTO/PIXABAY

Working together for sustainability in the face of saturation and seasonality 

The movement of tourists to destinations traditionally described as more sought-after often results in tourist overcrowding that overwhelms tourists as well as tourism workers and the inhabitants of highly touristic cities or islands. 

This overcrowding affects not only the sustainability of these tourist destinations by putting their environmental ecosystems at risk, but also damages the urban ecosystem. In addition to the opposite result of having unhappy tourists because of the overcrowded experience. 

Here we need to review the tourism marketing planned by the institutional bodies themselves, and think about collaboration between institutions, travel agencies, airlines and all actors in the sector to avoid the saturation of some cities and the seasonality of tourist activity in others.  

As two neighbouring countries that suffer in different ways, but with the same problems of saturation and seasonality, Spain and Morocco must work together to create common tourist offers that include both countries as tourist destinations to be enjoyed on the same trip.  

Mezquita Hassan II de Casablanca (PHOTO/ARCHIVO)
Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca - PHOTO/FILE

In this way, Spain will manage, on the one hand, to soften the saturation it is experiencing in several cities, and on the other, to diversify its tourist offer, distinguished by its openness to the African adventure, by including Moroccan cities to visit in its tourist package. 

Given the joint organisation of the World Cup 2030 between Morocco, Spain and Portugal, this sustainable and supportive practice can be shared between the trio, giving the tourist an attractive three-in-one offer. In other words, in a single trip, tourists visit three totally different tourist destinations.  

It is one of the methods that can serve firstly to protect the sustainability of the tourist destination in economic and social terms. Second, it is an option that allows diversifying the offer by introducing new tourism products and helping to alleviate the most crowded areas towards other areas with a different culture.  

Third, by implementing this strategy, not only does it achieve the deseasonalisation of demand by attracting tourists outside the high season, but it also helps to consolidate economic and trade relations between the three host countries of the 2030 World Cup and encourages them to work together in a win-win partnership to sustainably develop the tourism sector in the Mediterranean. 

In this sense, tourism planning, in addition to aiming to contribute efficiently to GDP and generate stable jobs, must also focus on the human and environmental side of the tourism offer.  

This is where the destination's quality and social sustainability indicators become relevant. Of course, economic performance is essential, but it is conditioned by maintaining the attractiveness of the destination and benefiting local stakeholders.  This cannot be achieved by limiting access or increasing prices, but rather by diversifying the offer by opening up to new destinations inside or outside the country.  

Essaouira Riad Mimouna
Essaouira, Morocco - PHOTO/FILE

Rethinking Morocco's tourism offer  

Morocco aims to double the number of tourist arrivals and become one of the world's leading destinations. It has therefore moved from a pure destination logic to a tourism sector logic that advocates offering a cross-cutting and diversified tourism experience.  

The new Moroccan tourism offer includes the international tourism sectors: surfing the ocean waves, beach and sun, nature, trekking and hiking, city and historical city breaks, business, cultural and spiritual tourism, as well as inland tourism: seaside, nature and exploration.  

Consolidating the hotel offer by updating and renovating the existing hotel stock, by creating new capacities, improving the quality of service and increasing the rate of return of tourists is a considerable step in the development of the tourism sector on a national and international scale. 

In parallel, thinking about common offers with the northern neighbours Spain and Portugal is able to increase the dynamics of the sector as a lever of the national economy of Morocco, as well as help to overcome the European concentration of clientele by opening up to another range of visitors from America and Asia being conventional tourists from Europe.  

PHOTO/PIXABAY -Turismo en Marruecos
Tourism in Morocco - PHOTO/PIXABAY

Morocco: Tourism Roadmap 2023-2026  

The new roadmap aims to put the tourism sector back at the centre of national priorities, with the objective of attracting 17.5 million tourists and realising 120 billion foreign exchange earnings; as well as creating 200,000 direct and indirect job opportunities; representing a growth of 10% per year. 

The success of this roadmap is based on three essential conditions. The first is the recasting of the sector's governance with a national inter-ministerial tourism commission (CNIT) chaired by the head of government. 

The second condition is the creation of a central management structure and other regional structures that will be responsible for coordination, management and monitoring. The last condition is the mobilisation of the necessary funding.   

With a budget of 6.1 billion dirhams, the roadmap works on the promotion of the potential of each region of the national territory, and seeks suitable solutions to meet the challenges of the sector in these regions.   

In the tourism sector, the quality of service and the dedication of the staff make for unforgettable experiences. Therefore, vocational training is very important. 

Harmonise the training offer with the requirements of the sector.

Qualified human capital is necessary for the realisation of the sector's new ambitions. The challenge is to strengthen the training system to meet the growing needs of the sector and to improve the attractiveness of the tourism trades.  

Given that the tourism sector is an important driver of economic growth, business development and job creation, particularly for women, young people and local communities, vocational training is an imperative that is being consolidated with the creation of 12 new specialised institutes. 

The increase in the number of visitors is a vote of confidence that will help to think about the common offer between Morocco, Spain and Portugal in order to unblock saturation in some destinations and fight against seasonality in others in the Mediterranean basin.