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Business Briefs: Tourism Takes Spotlight in Several Reports; Casablanca Shines; and Allianz Launches New Offices – Jean R. AbiNader

Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 1, 2017

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

Jean R. AbiNader, Exec. Dir., Moroccan American Trade and Investment Center

While much of the region continues to face declining tourism, Morocco holds steady due to its commitment to constantly upgrade its facilities and offerings. Speaking of which, Casablanca is profiled by Africa.com and is looking quite attractive to investors and visitors, including insurance giant Allianz, which recently opened offices there to serve the region.

Morocco Benefits from Sustainable Tourism Efforts.  A recent report on sustainable tourism development by fDi Markets included a look at how Morocco’s efforts are attracting interest, and investors. It is understandable that tourism is so important to the country, as it is the third or fourth largest component of GDP. Tourism has benefited from several national plans, including Vision 2020 and Plan Azur, which focus on the overall state of the sector, as well as specific projects for seaside resort developments.

Now with its leadership at COP22, sustainable tourism is becoming even more prominent in Morocco’s plans, as the UN has declared 2017 the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.” According to Taleb Rifai, the secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), this designation recognizes the critical role tourism plays in economic growth, social inclusion, cultural and environmental preservation, as well as in increasing “our understanding, tolerance, and empathy for our fellow man.”

For Morocco, tourism has many benefits. It enables a higher percentage of women and youth to enter the job market; supports social entrepreneurship projects such as artisanal crafts and food preparation; and diversifies economic growth geographically across many attractions in the kingdom.

Although the majority of investors are from industrialized countries, the projects are primarily in the developing world. According to fDi Markets, nearly 80% of the $352.2bn invested since 2003 has gone into such markets, including emerging European countries. However, the study cautions that investments are not enough. Without political and social stability, tourist dollars avoid risky destinations, as with Lebanon and Tunisia.

In the period 2003-2016 covered by the report, which tracks the years of Morocco’s heightened tourism promotion efforts, Morocco is second in the world (after Macau) in terms of investments in tourism facilities. Few countries in the Middle East and Africa have experienced a high correlation between the amount of investments and tourism spending. Morocco is one of the best success stories, attributed to its assets such as natural beauty, regional stability, location as a hub to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and tourist-centric infrastructure.

Morocco Strikes Ahead to Diversity Tourism Markets. The kingdom is engaged in a multifaceted campaign to draw in new tourists as visitor numbers from Europe stagnate. As an article in the Daily Star in Lebanon noted, “While political turmoil and militant attacks have battered the sector in Egypt and Tunisia, Morocco registered 10 million visitors last year, according to the Moroccan Tourism Observatory. That was a barely perceptible rise of 1.5 percent from 2015, it said. But 2016 was better than the previous year and the outlook for 2017 is very positive.”

In addition to Moroccans living abroad, who make a significant impact on the tourist numbers, and Europeans who are quite familiar with the country’s attractions, Morocco has abolished visas for Chinese to encourage their visits. The story notes that “Tourism remains a vital pillar of the Moroccan economy and the country’s second biggest employer, after agriculture. The sector accounts for 10 percent of national income and, along with exports and remittances from Moroccans overseas, are among the country’s main sources of foreign currency.” While many factors seem to be obstacles to the goal of 20 million visitors a year by 2020, Morocco is committed to doing whatever it can to achieve continued growth in the sector.

Casablanca – Great Profile.  Africa.com has published a profile of Casablanca that underscores the vitality and importance of Morocco’s commercial center. It points out that there are thousands of expats in this city of four million people, and that “Behind these realities is a city full of history with an architectural heritage, ancient and recent, a dynamic city, proud of its past and confident in its future.”

Chief among its business attractions are the Casanearshore, which provides the infrastructure needed for off-shoring back office business services, the Technopark, which serves as the center for many international ITC companies,  and the nearby OCP, the national phosphates company, the country’s largest business and its largest employer. And, of course, the Casablanca Finance City is rapidly expanding as the preferred platform for doing business in Africa.

The article goes on to list the many cultural attractions of the city, including the Hassan II Mosque, the seaside walkway or cornich, an attractive downtown area accessible by tram, red taxis (with meters), and Uber, as well as quality hotels, restaurants, and wonderful shopping areas.

Allianz Takes Its Turn. The international insurance giant, Allianz, has launched Allianz Maroc, which has set a goal of becoming the country’s market leader by 2021. It joins global firms RSA and Aon that had earlier opened regional offices based in Casablanca. The company intends to replicate its successful model of providing offerings to multiple market segments rather than be limited initially to a few products.

The press release noted that “Allianz Maroc will focus on digital channels to communicate with customers in real time and quickly handle claims. It will also develop synergies with other Allianz entities, including Euler Hermes, to better serve business customers interested in expanding or exporting to other African markets. The company is also launching a communication campaign to boost its brand reputation.” Allianz said Morocco is an important growth market in its strategy in Africa, as the country has positioned itself as a hub for the continent. It is a natural fit for Casablanca Finance City’s role as the financial services center for Africa.

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