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Business Brief: Morocco Continues to Shine in the Tourism and Hospitality Sectors; Sound Energy Provides More Details on Gas Projects; BMW Brings Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program to Morocco; and Moroccans Win Four Gold Medals in Engineering and Technology Competition in India

Jean R. AbiNaderMATIC
September 19, 2017

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

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

Morocco expands its tourism and hospitality sector. Hospitality.net began a recent article with the astounding fact that “there are currently 47 projects in the hotel pipeline in the tiny coastal country of Morocco.” While noting obstacles in other African countries, such as lack of infrastructure, qualified staff, and stability, the article points out that Morocco does not suffer from these issues. As it says, “One area where the hotel construction pipeline is becoming healthier is North Africa, specifically in the long-time tourism destination that is Morocco.”

Referring to the TOPHOTELPROJECTS database, the article lists Casablanca and Marrakech as two top destinations, “Both of which have roots that date back to empires in medieval times. In addition to this history, Morocco also features a French colonial legacy that gives it a fascinating mix of architecture, one that blends Moorish styles with European art deco. The coast is also part of the reason that Morocco has been a famous landing spot for tourists over the years, with Casablanca featuring buildings that extend out over the water.”

Of specific mention was the Marina Resort Chbika, a mega-tourism development to be completed in 2Q 2020 with 2,500 new rooms for guests, three or more hotels, 1800+ villas and apartments, a town center, sports facilities, medical center, world-class golf course, and a marina with berths for 100 boats. Chbika is on the AtlanticCoast, near Tan-Tan, which annually hosts one of the most storied cultural and music festivals.

JW Marriott has its crown jewel set to open in 1Q 2020 in Casablanca on the New Marina. Using a very modern design, similar to facades in Dubai, it will mark Marriott’s entry into the high-end tourism sector in Morocco.

When discussing special tourist destinations, one near Marrakech is drawing increased international attention because it is home to the annual Oasis Festival of contemporary music. The founder of the festival, Marjana Jaidi, “Wanted to create a destination festival that utilized the best aspects of events she’d covered in New York and across the United States.” Hosted at the Source Hotel in the Atlas Mountains, seven miles outside of downtown Marrakech, it features some of Europe’s top DJs and artists. Attendees can enjoy the music poolside or partake of morning yoga and henna tattoos while local vendors “provide Moroccan cuisine including traditional street food, fresh produce and sfinge, a unique regional donut.”

Jaidi says that her idea to create a destination music festival grew out of her roots in New York. “I’m half Moroccan, and I’ve spent every summer of my life there, so the original idea was always to do a festival in Morocco…Oasis’s tagline is ’dance somewhere different.’ Part of our mission is to attract people to Morocco that may not have otherwise considered traveling there.”

She chose Marrakech because it’s a fresh, exotic destination that makes for an exciting change from what’s already out there, in terms of festival destinations. There’s a lot of history and culture there, so for people coming from abroad, it gives them something worthwhile to explore, outside the festival. An important aspect of our concept is to represent the culture of Morocco in our programming. Morocco isn’t just a location for us, it’s the heart and soul of the festival, and we’re lucky to have such a rich and exciting culture to draw from. This is reflected in everything from the food and decor to programming like henna body art…”

Sound Energy is bullish on Morocco. Despite its recent setback in its gas exploration in Italy, the CEO of Sound Energy, James Parsons, insisted that its efforts in Morocco would continue as an “absolute priority. It is important to put this into context; having long shifted the axis of our activities to play-opening work in Eastern Morocco, Sound continues to rapidly build a Moroccan exploration-focused onshore gas business hinged on strong European gas fundamentals, a strategic partnership with Schlumberger and our multi Tcf opportunity set. We are clear in our goals strategically, strong financially, and on the path to firming up the very significant upside on our acreage.”

He said the company’s optimism is based on strong fundamentals, and that “Here the exploration potential is being de-risked by a combination of aerial gradiometry, reprocessed seismic, and 2,644 Km of new 2D seismic which are all underway…We continue steadfast in our belief that the Eastern Morocco TAGI and Paleozoic is a completely new play for our industry and one which will over the next year or two prove both the making of our company and the making of the Moroccan Oil and Gas sector.”

Becoming professional grade. The BMW Foundation recently brought together 45 professionals and leaders of start-ups from the Maghreb, Egypt, Lebanon, Europe, Brazil, and Chile in Morocco for a networking session and workshops on building their leadership capabilities.

The program included guided sessions and discussions on creativity, innovation, new models of leadership, and developing personal growth strategies. Two key themes were knowledge and the IT society in the service of inclusive social and political development. Participants explored the linkage between their own individual development and the importance of building teams.

One of the Moroccan participants, University of Casablanca President Amine Bensaid said that, “being a leader will always consist in ‘asking one’s intentions, why I do what I do,’ while remaining sincere and genuine on his own initiative.” He added, “Is the education system preparing our children for this?”  “Responsible leaders,” said Mr. Bensaid, “are those who will be able to unleash the potential of future leaders.” “Does this apply to the Arab world?” asked the Tunisians, Egyptians, and Moroccans present in the room.

Among the Moroccans invited to this event were former Minister of Tourism Lahcen Haddad, Tarik Nesh Nash and Zineb Mahrez of the startup Code for Morocco, and co-organizers of the BMW event. The practical objective of the forum, beyond intellectual exchanges and the design of appropriate management solutions, remains to promote regional and international networking.

Good news for Moroccan companies. Morocco and the Universal Postal Union (UPU) reached an agreement in Rabat to implement the “Easy Export” pilot project, including simplifying export procedures for very small, small, and medium-sized Moroccan enterprises (TMEE). “The ‘Easy Export’ program was launched by the UPU to provide assistance to member countries for the promotion and development of TMEE in the wider context of socio-economic development through postal networks.” Morocco will also join “Ecom@Africa”, a UPU project on the creation of a regional e-commerce platform, under the management of Barid Al-Maghrib Group.

A very successful year for Moroccan engineers. In the most recent iteration of the International Innovation Fair, held in Bangalore, India, Moroccans from the Moroccan School of Engineering Sciences (EMSI) won 12 international awards including four gold medals. Through its SMARTiLab, EMSI received its awards for Senstenna, a 5th generation communications system; Sensorless, which uses radio frequency waves to detect different types of physical quantities without the need for a specific sensor; EMFA, a new electromagnetic absorbent that protects human skin from the harmful effects of ionization and the thermal effect; and the Multiview Screen that allows for simultaneous viewing of multiple videos at different angles, as well as a photovoltaic plate protection system that protects against particles that can decrease the effectiveness of the plates.

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