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January 27, 2009

Morocco on a high

Morocco is pushing ahead with its ambitious tourism strategy, launched in 2001, called Vision 2010 which has big objectives in terms of increasing tourist arrival numbers as well increasing bed capacities. The aim is to triple room capacity and also to open new destinations and enhance Morocco’s product offering by developing beach products. The pillar of the strategy is what is called ‘Plan Azur’ or the blue plan.


“2009 will see the opening of two beach resorts – Saidia in the north on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and the second is to the south of Casablanca in a beautiful town called El Jadida,” explained Mohammed Boussaid, Morocco’s minister of tourism & handicrafts, in an exclusive interview with meetme.


“Mazagan is being developed as a MICE destination and will offer enhanced facilities for meetings and conferences because we are developing the MICE infrastructure there.


“As Morocco offers a rich, varied product and as it is an all-year round destination, we want to upgrade the facilities for meeting planners especially in three destination – in Marrakesh (which is already a success story), Casablanca where we are building large facilities on the marina and the third destination slated for development is Ouarzazate – which we aim to position as a meetings destination. Of course for smaller meetings, there is always a choice of destinations like Fez, Tangiers, Rabat,” he said.


Despite the absence of a convention bureau, Marrakesh has bagged large conventions including the 12th World Congress of Sport Psychology (8-10th January, 2009), as well as The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Association (IFALPA), which will hold its annual conference in 2010.


“In Marrakesh, the professionals from within the private sector have come together to form a bureau to promote the destination for large meetings. They work in conjunction with the local CRT to provide the services of a convention bureau. This is the way we intend to function for all our meeting destinations. There will also be some competition with each other which will prove very healthy in bringing more conventions to the country,” said Boussaid.


Commenting on Morocco’s plan to weather the storm of the economic downturn, the minister said: “This is a new situation for us and we foresee that it will be hard for everybody. It is eminent. But without meaning to be over optimistic, I think that especially for the MICE sector, that in times of difficulty it is all the more important to have meetings and incentives.


“Morocco, being not far away from Europe, can offer competitive rates and is very accessible. The government is also putting into place certain incentives in order to bring large events to the country. So I am very confident that we can resist the downturn,” he said.


But with traditional markets being affected the most, he said: “We have earmarked areas of growth and the Middle East and GCC are important areas as we have a touristic product that wholly fits the needs of this market. Other areas of growth are Eastern Europe and Russia.”

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