Morocco Continues to Grow Tourism Profile – Jean AbiNader
Efforts Focus on Major East-West Markets
Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
March 10, 2015
Tourism, which is the second largest contributor to Morocco’s GDP, is thriving in a very challenging neighborhood. Long known in Europe for its beaches, cuisine, and music and cultural festivals, Morocco has its sights set on continuing to grow its tourism sector and creating more jobs for Moroccans. It doesn’t hurt that part of its positive reputation reflects the stability and progressive identity of the country.
In just the last three weeks, Morocco has been in the headlines in Ireland, the UK, and the US in stories that showcase what it has to offer beyond echoes of the film classic Casablanca. (Interestingly, while that movie was filmed entirely in Los Angeles, the latest figures released by Morocco’s cinema authority note that the production in Morocco of feature films and television series from more than a dozen countries generated more than $210 million in revenue in 2014.)
Perhaps one of the biggest coups took place last week in Marrakech, when Morocco hosted the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Destination Expo. Two agreements were incorporated into a memorandum of understanding to “broaden promotional efforts to woo more U.S. visitors to the destination.”
Last year, more than 220,000 Americans visited Morocco, a 175 percent increase in the past decade. Two additional Morocco National Tourist Offices will be added in the US to complement its code-sharing agreement with JetBlue that will provide feeder connections from select US cities. In January, Royal Air Maroc launched its first 787-8 Dreamliner for the NY-Casablanca flight, one of its most lucrative markets.
Rave Reviews Pouring In
Reviewers from Voice of America (VOA) to the Boston Globe have been singing the praises of the sights, sounds, tastes, and visual delights that make up Morocco. The VOA ran a special report on the Festival Taragalte, which celebrates the unique and rich music of southern Morocco, held at the door of the Sahara, southeast of Ouarzazate. It blends together tribal music from across the area with artisans, foods, dance, and folklore, which is drawing more international fans every year.
The Irish Independent carried a feature about something increasingly common about Morocco – experiences outside the genre of cruise ships and camels – in this case, a health and wellness package that features yoga and surfing, for beginners and accomplished devotees alike. The reporter was captivated by the quality of the program and the ease with which they accommodated her introduction to surfing, as well as the visual tapestry of the location and the impressive food.
In a more traditional vein, top British designer Matthew Williamson enthused in The Telegraph about his latest trip to Marrakech and offered travelers his insights into what to do and where to go, all while enjoying the mysteries and delicacies of the city and its surroundings. A CNN feature provided another perspective — on the impact of tourism on the Atlas Mountains, which praised how the people were maintaining the local way of life (the snow vistas are spectacular) while recognizing the downside of encouraging increased tourism, which threatens the ecology and environment of the region.
And no review of Morocco and its pleasures would be complete without a food section, courtesy of the Boston Globe, in which the author reminisces about tagines while shoveling through the cold weather and snow that has inundated the area. Gordon Hamersley, a local celebrity chef, talks about constructing his favorite tagines and their versatility and down-to-earth celebration of Moroccan spices and food textures.
Morocco in Washington, DC
For those on the East Coast looking to immerse themselves in all things Moroccan – from fossilized rocks and jewelry to leather goods and a full range of furniture – there is no better place to start than Morocco Premier Events, the handiwork of Hassan Samrhouni, long-time community leader and businessman, whose travel agency specializes in customized tours of his home country.
Over the past year, Hassan has assembled a veritable “souk” or bazaar of Moroccan handicrafts, jewelry, leather goods, glassware, pottery, and furniture made to order. In addition, the 1500 square foot showroom near Dulles International Airport hosts a very helpful library on Morocco; and there is an adjacent area for meetings, conferences, shows, and other events. Hassan has been producing cultural events for years across the US, and he felt that it was time to have a central area to exhibit and coordinate activities that highlight Moroccan culture and society. His goal is to become the premier event producer of events that reflect his heritage to audiences across the US.
Morocco is a country that is driving its future in some ways by celebrating its past. By making hundreds of years of history, culture, music, and cuisine readily accessible to travelers and fans from around the world, Morocco is investing in projects and events that showcase its assets while providing much needed resources to develop even further.