Phil Blizzard here speaks with His Excellency Dr Lahcen Haddad, minister of tourism, Morocco, about the decision to host the World Travel Awards Grand Final for the next three years.
He also talked about their key developments plans for the tourism sector.
Lahcen Haddad: Well, our tourism development plan focuses on building our capacity for the sea because we want to become a real mature seaside destination.
The second thing that I would like to do is actually move out and branch off Marrakech and then build other cultural destinations around Fez and Meknes, around Tangier and Tetouan, around the middle Casablanca and Rabat.
The other thing also is to build and then bring into force our capacity in terms of nature and ecology in the south, in the Western Sahara and equally in the Atlas mountains.
So these are the big pillars of our strategy.
Breaking Travel News: You have a very diverse geography to work with, to have as a canvass I suppose for tourism, but going back to what you said about the sea–a coastal destination. You have two seas, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic coastline, a huge amount of kilometres.
LH: Well, 3,500 kilometres from the Algerian border all the way to the Mauritanian border.
So it’s a huge capacity in terms of building the tourism around the sea. We are building resorts.
We are focusing on some resorts on the Mediterranean, other resorts on the ocean, other resorts south in the Sahara - in the Dakhla region.
All of that is in order to bring our capacity to light but at the same time build it in such a way that we don’t actually have a negative impact on the coast.
We would like to keep our coastline. We’d like to preserve it.
We’d like to do it in a sustainable manner and we’d like to bring resorts that bring forth the capacity and also have good impact on the community and on the ecosystem.
BTN: And moving away from the coast, moving inland going off in some majestic Atlas Mountains, how will those plans evolve?
LH: Well, I mean like the Atlas Mountains are within a territory that we are building, that we are calling Atlas and Valleys and what it means is there is so much in terms of potential there for tourism, for sports, for agriculture, for local initiatives, for cooperatives that we would like to bring green industry around those.
So that people can come and then spend time with the local villagers, spend time in those local communities and enjoy that but at the same time we’ll have a positive impact on the community.
So it’s going to be sustainable. It’s going to be green. It’s going to be ecology based. It’s going to be something that really protects the local environment and protects the local heritage.
BTN: On to your source markets for visitors coming to Morocco, how are these changing in terms of inbound tourists to the destination?
LH: Well, we see movement towards the east and movement towards the south.
The movement towards the east is Eastern Europe - the coming into force of Russia and Poland. It’s very important.
We are focusing on those markets by building our understanding of those markets.
We are also very much interested in the Arabian market because it’s a huge market. It’s high added value.
Emirates is very important for us and Saudi Arabia.
They have always been very important but now they are bigger and so we are building. Our capacity is there.
We are also building different kinds of links so that more Emirate’s, more people from Dubai, more people from Saudi Arabia or from Qatar come to Morocco.
But I think there is another movement which is very important, it is South America.
That’s why we are very much now investing in Brazil and been building our capacity to marketing Brazil and we are attending - Brazilian market is good but also all of Latin America, with the huge middle class that is appearing and emerging there.
It is very important for us. There are two niche markets that we are interested in too as well. Western Africa.
We have a very good presence. We have historical ties with Western Africa.
There are a lot of Western Africans that travel through Morocco.
We want to capture that. They come for a pilgrimage. They come for shopping.
They come to transit. We’d like to capture those. And we have a good eye on China. China is very important for us.
BTN: Very important of course, yes.
LH: Very important and we would like to do that in a combined manner with our friends in the Emirates, with our friends in Qatar, with our friends also in Spain and France.
And then, on the long term, we would like to build like direct routes from China to Morocco.
BTN: Now, you mentioned marketing - getting the name out, getting the word out - Morocco and to assist in that you’ve signed up with the World Travel Awards, so what’s that mean to you and your country?
LH: World Travel Awards is a very good event.
It’s an event that really gives visibility to what is happening in the hospitality industry. They award the best practices.
They award also the great investments and qualities.
So it’s a very important event. We are very much happy that it’s going to happen in Morocco - the WTA Grand Finals.
I think the hospitality industry is the way to go for the future of the world economy.
It’s a sure thing. It’s a resilient kind of sector. I think events like the awards ceremony is one way of giving that kind of visibility.
It is one way of really showing what is being done in this industry.
BTN: So you’re obviously very happy to be hosting the World Travel Awards and we look forward to joining and exploring your country. Thank you for joining us.
LH: Thank you.