When Britons head to Morocco, chances are they’re off to Marrakech, but it looks like British tourists will be exploring the parts of Morocco “other holidays can’t reach” soon.
Morocco’s tourist board has pledged to double the number of UK visitors by 2016 by actively encouraging British visitors to explore other parts of this captivating country, from sea to mountain to desert.
The goal is to welcome one million British visitors by 2016 and the tourist board has earmarked a number of destinations which it will be promoting over the next two years.
Bigger visitor numbers will be boosted by an increase in incoming flights into main Moroccan airports, as well as a focus on golf and spa breaks, both rapidly growing markets which Morocco is quickly becoming famous for.
Morocco is getting even more easy to get to – the number of direct flights to Morocco rose last winter from 58 to 72 services each week. New services include a new easyJet route from Bristol to Marrakech, an increase in British Airways services from daily to 10 per week, four flights from Royal Air Maroc to Marrakech and Casablanca, and a Ryanair flight to Rabat.
There is talk of a new direct flight from London to the pretty “sand, souk, seagulls and medina” destination Essaouira on Morocco’s stunning Atlantic coast although details have yet to be confirmed. Essaouira is an easy 2.5hr drive west of Marrakech airport, and the kite surf capital is a good alternative to Marrakech in the heat of summer, thanks to the sea breezes which help keep the temperatures down to comfortable levels in the high 20Cs.
Monarch also commences new twice-weekly services to the popular beach resort of Agadir, south of Marrakech, from London Gatwick and Manchester beginning May 2014, in time for summer getaways.
Morocco offers an exceptional range of holiday options, from desert to mountain to sea, and its golf and luxury hotel market have both been growing steadily.
With average temperatures in destinations such as Marrakech, Agadir and Essaouira hovering very comfortably in mid 20C’s during the deepest winter months, Morocco is an obvious destination for those in search of guaranteed winter sun within a 3-hour plus flight from the UK.
Abderrafie Zouitene, the recently-appointed chief executive of the Moroccan National Tourist Office, said: “I think the potential is huge from the British market. We are going to have half a million UK visitors this year, but our objective is to reach 1 million in the next three years.
“We have to do more to make Casablanca, Tangier and Ouarzazate well-known, because for the British market, it’s just Marrakech.”
He added that the increasing number of direct flights from the UK to Morocco would contribute to an overall rise of 60% in capacity from Britain to various Moroccan destinations over the next two years.
MNTO UK and Ireland director Amine Boughaleb added: “Our aim here is to try to raise awareness of other cities – it’s not only Agadir and Marrakech. We are trying to create new routes to these cities. For example, in Ouarzazate, there are a lot of places for trekking and rafting, so we are approaching a lot of sports and adventure operators.
“Our aim is to be within the top five destinations for golf for British tourists.”
Golf is a high priority. The number of golf courses in the country is set to increase from 35 to 50 within the next couple of years and other developments include plans for a high-speed train link opening between Casablanca and Tangier in 2016.
Shared ownership and timeshare accommodation is also growing in Morocco. Swiss specialists Hapimag have a luxury resort at the Hapimag Residence, Marrakech www.hapimag.com and a number of luxury hotels have recently opened (including the Pestana Casablanca www.pestana.com and the Sofitel Mogador Golf & Spa Resort in Essaouira, overlooking the Atlantic, just two and a half hours’ drive west of Marrakech).
A new Ritz Carlton “urban golf” resort is opening this year in Morocco’s capital, Rabat, making it the third property in development in Morocco under the Ritz Carlton brand umbrella.
Discover all the the golf, spa, surf, souks and sightseeing experiences Morocco has to offer at www.visitmorocco.com