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Wednesday, 21 May 2014 12:00 AM

How Popular Is Morocco For A Holiday?

Only a few decades ago the number of holiday makers in Morocco were counted in the tens or perhaps few hundreds of thousands, but that has changed dramatically in recent times with the advent of cheap flights and, in particular, budget airlines.

Today the tourism sector is vital for the Moroccan economy, and the Moroccan Government has plans in place to fully exploit its potential. The last plan was to receive 10 million tourists a year by 2010 (a target narrowly missed, but reached in 2013) and the latest plan (Vision 2020) is to double the number of tourists by 2020. The Government has designated certain areas for high tourist numbers (beach resorts) to try to manage the effects of tourism on its historic cities and towns.

We just take a moment to reflect on the numbers that Morocco is achieving.

Number of Holiday Makers to Morocco

According to numbers provided by  Moroccan Tourist Board and the World Tourism Organization (Yearbook of Tourism Statistics - Compendium of Tourism) the number of International inbound tourists (overnight visitors) in Morocco has grown steadily from 2,602,000 in 1995 to 10.05 million in 2013 (ranking it around 27th highest in the world).  

Revenue from Holiday Makers to Morocco

Although latest figures have yet to be officially released, according to the World Tourism Organization the value of receipts from International tourism was $9,101 million in  2011 (up from $1,469 million in 1995).

This revenue equates to around 28% of total national exports for Morocco in 2011, hence is a very important business sector providing a significant number of relatively well paid jobs for Moroccans. However, Morocco has taken significant steps to balance it economy in recent years so, despite the large rise in revenue from tourism, the 28% share noted is actually a decrease from its peak 35% in 2006.

Unemployment is a critical issue for many countries at the moment, particularly amongst the youth of Middle Eastern and North African countries, and the growth in tourism is a key part of the plan to tackle that issue.

Countries of Origin

The latest figures released show that in 2013 the arrivals from France continued to dominate the holiday sector, with around 38% (1.8 million) of the total (excluding Moroccan nationals returning home). France has had strong ties with Morocco over the recent past and large parts of Moroco were under a French Protectorate in the last century.

Following the French there is a significant drop to the next highest, Spain at 14%, then to UK with 9% (around 400 thousand per annum), and Germany/ Italy/ Belgium all at 6%. Visitors from the USA have increased in numbers significantly in recent years but in 2013 still only accounted for 3% of the total (despite it probably being the most accessible and stable Muslim country).

Recent factors Affecting Visitor Numbers

Although tourism numbers have increased year on year for almost 20 years now, between 2011 and 2012 the rise was very modest (around 1%) reflecting the effects of the Eurozone crisis, the Arab Spring and the 20th February Movement; however, from 2012 to 2013 the sector “recovered” and numbers showed a significant increase again. Read more on Morocco's “Arab Spring” – Latest Update, 2013.