Tourism is one of Morocco's most important economic sectors in terms of revenue for the country's coffers. And, currently, tourism activity in the Moroccan kingdom is experiencing a great moment, which is evidenced by the latest data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), which indicates that the North African nation's tourism revenues have grown by 52% in the first three months of 2023, compared to 2019 levels, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spending generated by tourists in Morocco increased by 52% in the first quarter of the year thanks to the large domestic tourism offer and promotion by the Moroccan government in this area. In this regard, four million tourists entered the country in the first four months of the year, up 19% compared to 2019.
The increase in tourism highlights the country's attractiveness and successful government efforts to attract visitors from all over the world, with examples such as the powerful tourism campaign called "Morocco, land of light". Cities such as Marrakech, Tangier, Casablanca, Rabat and other sites such as the Atlas Mountains are major attractions for tourists from all over the world, along with Morocco's remarkable cultural heritage and stunning natural landscapes.
The findings of the UNWTO report correspond with the also positive data from the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism which indicates that the country experienced an influx of four million tourists in the first four months of 2023, an increase of 13% compared to 2019.
Thus, by the end of March 2023, tourism revenues reached Dh25bn ($2.4bn), 52 per cent more than in 2019, Tourism Minister Fatima Zahra Ammor explained. Thanks to an emergency budget of Dh2bn ($200m), Morocco managed, for the first time, to reach Dh93bn ($9.2bn) in tourism revenues in 2022, 16 per cent more than in 2019, the minister explained. As for the number of nights spent in hotels, it reached 19 million dirhams, an increase of 192 per cent compared to 2021. It is also worth noting that domestic tourism accounts for 42% of overnight stays, compared to 31% in the period before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The tourism sector in Morocco is of strategic importance, as it is a major source of foreign exchange and provides around 565,000 jobs.
In recent years, the government has been working to boost Morocco's tourism sector by developing more infrastructure and expanding the tourism offer. In fact, Morocco's Investment Commission recently approved 21 projects with a budget of $7.6 billion, with the intention of generating around 5,800 direct employment opportunities and creating around 15,000 additional indirect jobs. The projects are largely concentrated in the industrial sector, worth $5.3 billion, almost 70 per cent of the total investments, although tourism and healthcare account for 8 per cent of these investments, a figure to be reckoned with.
The country's most recent plan to boost tourism is the 2023-2026 roadmap, a Dh6.1 billion ($606 million) undertaking, with the aim of attracting 17.5 million tourists and repositioning tourism as a core sector of the national economy, as reported by Moroccan media outlets such as Bladi and Morocco World News.
The plan also aims to generate 120 billion dirhams ($11.9 billion) in foreign exchange earnings and create 200,000 new direct and indirect jobs.
The Moroccan government's efforts to position the nation as a tourism hub are bearing fruit. The progress made by initiatives such as 'Morocco, Land of Light', Morocco's latest major tourism campaign, is helping to continue to attract tourism and investment, making it more than likely that the Kingdom will be able to meet its goal of becoming one of the world's top 10 destinations by 2026.