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Morocco anticipates more Chinese tourists

Rabat is betting on Chinese tourism market because of the size of the market, estimated at 150 million tourists annually.

RABAT – Chinese-Moroccan partnerships received a boost in the tourism sector, which is of vital strategic importance in Morocco’s development policies.

Adel El Fakir, director-general of the Moroccan National Tourist Office, signed an agreement with Liang Jianzhang, chairman of the China Digital Travel Agency (Ctrip), to promote the Moroccan market in China.

The 3-year agreement was widely welcomed because it offered opportunities to boost the flow of Chinese tourists to Morocco. China has become the largest market for tourists in the world with its expansion of middle and upper classes. The per capita income of Chinese citizens has increased considerably as the country’s economy has become the second largest in the world.

Chinese tourists on average spend 25% more money than Europeans tourists in Morocco. Estimates stated that, on average, Chinese tourists spend about $250 a day in Morocco compared to the average of $180 for other nationalities.

Ctrip is China’s largest digital travel agency. It has 30,000 employees, a turnover of more than $4 billion and 300 million customers. Under the terms of the agreement, Morocco is aiming to attract 500,000 Chinese tourists by next year.

Moroccan Tourism Minister Mohamed Sajid said the number of Chinese visiting Morocco has increased steadily since the visit to Beijing by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, which resulted in exempting Chinese visitors from entry visas to Morocco.

Observers of Moroccan-Chinese relations said Rabat is betting on Chinese tourism market because of the size of the market, estimated at 150 million tourists annually.

Liang said Morocco is an excellent tourist destination, especially after the decision to exempt Chinese from visa requirements.

The two countries are seeking to intensify joint cultural events, which would contribute to bringing the populations closer and boost tourism.

During his meeting with Prime Minister Saad Eddine El Othmani, Liang said China was moving to activate existing cooperation agreements and explore new opportunities for partnership.

Othmani said Rabat was working to consolidate relations with Beijing, especially in tourism, because of Morocco’s strategic location. “The great tourism facilities available in Morocco make the country an important tourist destination and a major gateway to the African continent thanks to its modern infrastructure,” he said.

Tourism is one key sector in Morocco’s economy and the government is seeking to make the country among the top 20 destinations in the world by 2020.

Despite the absence of direct flights between Morocco and China, the number of Chinese tourists arriving in Morocco has grown sharply in recent years. Official figures show there were 10,000 Chinese visitors in Morocco in 2015 and 132,000 in 2018.

Morocco aims to surpass that figure in the coming years based on initiatives and agreements with international airlines to facilitate the entry of Chinese tourists to the country through Europe.

Chinese statistics stated that Chinese tourists spend more than $250 billion a year abroad. China’s outbound tourism market is expected to grow an average of 5% annually in the coming years, bringing the number of outbound tourists to 157 million by next year.

The China Tourism Academy, a research institution under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, estimated that spending by Chinese tourists abroad will total about $429 billion annually by 2021.

*This article and image was originally published by the much-respected The Arab Weekly

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