Long famed as a tourist destination for its historical sites, sunny beaches and exotic cuisine, Morocco has witnessed a significant increase in number of tourists visiting the country.
The total number of tourists who visited Morocco in March 2017 was 762,562, an increase of 3.7 per cent compared to the same period last year, according to the Ministry of Tourism, Air Transport, Handicraft and Social Economy. This increase was underpinned by the surge of the GCC tourists visiting Morocco during the same period.
Mazagan Beach and Golf Resort’s Khadija El Idrissi says that an increase in GCC tourist was mainly due to the higher spending power of GCC families as well as the number of persons in each family.
She noted: “Morocco is fast witnessing an increase in travellers from the Gulf. The increased number of air links between the two regions, the cost-effective prices offered by the country and the high disposal incomes of the people have encouraged more GCC tourists to visit this part of the world.”
Tourism makes 10% of national income
Tourism remains a vital pillar of the Moroccan economy and the country’s second biggest employer, after agriculture. The sector accounts for ten per cent of national income and, along with exports and remittances from Moroccans overseas; it is one of the country’s main sources of foreign currency.
A record number of 10.4 million tourists visited the kingdom in 2016 and the government is confident that the positive momentum will continue in years to come.
In addition, it has been noted that the growing trend by Muslims to travel during the fasting period will see destinations in the Middle East region become the most attractive by 2023 according to data and analysis from the inaugural MasterCard-Crescent Rating Ramadan Travel Report 2016.
A total of 50 destinations across the globe were analysed in the study and benchmarked across three criteria – average daytime temperature, fasting duration and Global Muslim Travel Index 2016 scores – over the next 15 years until 2030.
With Ramadan set to take place in cooler months from 2023, destinations as Morocco would lead the tourism industry.
Turkey emerging as a favourite destination for ME tourists
Turkey says it has strengthened its position as a top holiday destination for GCC nationals and residents and as a result it has seen increased interest from tourists from the region over the past few years.
According to new figures released by the Turkish Consulate General Cultural and Information Office in Dubai shows that there was 27 per cent increase in the number of tourists travelling to Turkey from the region over the 2014-2016 time period.
In 2016, a total of 822,849 holiday makers from the GCC visited Turkey’s many destinations.
Moreover, a whopping 300,000 tourists from the UAE, both nationals and residents, made trips to Turkey during the year.
“This growth shows the Turkey is culturally and economically interesting for GCC travellers,” said Salih Ozer, Attaché of Culture and Information, Turkey to the UAE.
“Over the past year, we have conducted many workshops and seminars for our GCC travel agents to get them better acquainted with what Turkey has to offer the GCC traveller.”
“We attach a great level of importance to these deepening relations between Turkey and the Gulf countries,“ continued Ozer.
“The UAE, in particular, continues to contribute heavily to Turkey’s tourist numbers, and we have taken many steps to simplify GCC tourist access to Turkey by facilitating visas for them in a quicker fashion.”
“Turkey is one of the top tourism destinations in the world based on the number of tourists and revenues. Whether its nature and the outdoors, history and archeology or beaches and relaxation, travelers from everywhere in the GCC can find their unique experience in Turkey.
“From Istanbul to Pamukkale, Cappadocia and Bursa in the west, Trabzon and Ayder on the shores of the Black Sea, to Antalya, Bodrum and Maramis to the south the country, Turkey’s unique offerings are unparalleled in the region,” Ozer added.
Local tourism on the rise
The GCC remains the number one volume generator for tourism to Dubai, delivering the highest share of visitor volumes for 2016 with a total of 3.4 million, up five per cent over 2015.
The Annual Visitor Report 2016 released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) revealed that Saudi Arabia contributed with the highest number of travellers among the GCC countries. It was followed by Oman, with Kuwait in third place and Qatar in fourth, both retaining their top 20 status.
Oman’s sizeable contribution to the 14.9m overnight visitors to Dubai last year places it in fourth spot among the emirate’s top ten source markets, with India (1.8m), Saudi Arabia (1.6m) and the UK (1.2m) leading the list.
Tourism can be a key driver of the growth and economic diversification for the Middle East and North Africa region, concluded the 2017 Ministerial Forum organised by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in April.
Yet, maximising the power of the sector requires increased regional cooperation, prioritisation of tourism in the national agendas and building resilience and sustainability.