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Casablanca: A tourist metropolis of excellence south of the Mediterranean

Released at: 11:11, 05/07/2018

Casablanca: A tourist metropolis of excellence south of the Mediterranean

Mr. Said Mouhid, General Director of the Regional Council of Tourism of Casablanca (Photo: Hai Van)

Mr. Said Mouhid, General Director of the Regional Council of Tourism of Casablanca, tells VET's Hai Van about the potential of local tourism and tourism to and from Vietnam.

by My Van

How do you view the potential of Vietnam’s tourism development?

Vietnam is a friend of Morocco and is experiencing booming economic growth, and with its population of nearly 100 million has potential in the region. Wealth and per capita spending have quadrupled over the last 15 years.

Vietnam is already a tourist destination in demand by connoisseurs because it knew how to safeguard its authenticity and its heritage. Trips and tours in Vietnam are available in Morocco and demand is growing continuously. Vietnam’s outbound tourism is also developing and is beginning to focus on destinations outside of Asia.

What tourism cooperation has there been between Vietnam and Morocco recently?

Morocco, with its history, culture, and rich landscapes, offers a quality tourism experience to Vietnamese travelers.

With air travel available from Vietnam to Morocco via the Gulf or main European hubs we hope that tourism exchanges will develop. I believe that we have all the assets needed to succeed.

We are ready to do our part, to welcome Vietnamese professionals in the travel sector and to set up partnerships to develop tourist flows between our two destinations.

Why is Casablanca an attractive destination in Morocco and in Africa?

Casablanca is an important metropolis both in the Mediterranean and on the African continent. It benefits from a strategic geographical location, at the crossroads of Europe and Africa.

It is the economic capital of Morocco and accounts for nearly 40 per cent of GDP.

It is the country’s main commercial port and has its largest airport, which connects to four continents through joint ventures with international operators. Casablanca is a showcase of modern Morocco and its economic dynamism and demographics. Different nationalities live together in a spirit of serenity and sharing.

Casablanca and surrounding areas are the third most-popular tourist destination in Morocco for foreign visitors. More than 1.5 million visitors every year discover an exceptional environment that mixes tradition and modernity, and they generate nearly 3 million nights. The tourism and particularly the hotel and leisure industries are thriving and attracting tourists and investors.

With beaches stretching over 40 km and more than 250 km if you count the region, it is also a seaside destination for more than six months of the year. All along the coastline are beaches, beach clubs, and pools.

A new customer segment has also emerged as a result of the advent of low-cost airlines, many of which serve Casablanca, first of all because of its proximity to main European cities. Madrid and Lisbon, for example, are a less than two hours away by air while Paris, Brussels, Rome, Geneva and London are just three hours away. This trend is expressed by visits on weekends of two to three nights for cultural, gastronomic and festive discoveries. We see that visitors are traveling more often but for less time and decide at the last minute. Casablanca, because of its air access, perfectly meets this need, especially as hotel offerings are available on weekends and are attractive because business travelers tend to be in the city on weekdays.

Another segment is tourists coming to Casablanca for leisure and discovery. Casablanca attracts many visitors wishing to discover the soul of the white city and its history, influenced by periods of Roman, Portuguese, Spanish or French rule and the dynasties that followed, leaving an authentic heritage and fabulous architecture, such as art deco, giving the city an open-air museum character.

What is Casablanca’s role as the economic capital of Morocco?

Thanks to its port infrastructure, which can accommodate the largest of cruise ships, and its location in central Morocco and at the center of its motorway network, day trips are easily made to several other cities, including Rabat la Capital, Mazagan, and Marrakech. Casablanca is the main destination for cruises of the largest European and American operators, with more than 250,000 cruise visitors each year.

It is the major destination for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) travel in Morocco, because of its role in the economy, finance, trade and services and also because of the development of excellent ecosystems, such as aeronautics, new technology, off-shoring, and research and development, especially in the automotive sector, and is an international financial center with the new Casablanca Finance City, which attracts new international companies every day, establishing headquarters in the country or in Africa. All of this favors business tourism, a segment that is very important and also very demanding.

What strategies are in place to develop Casablanca’s tourism in the time to come? Should Vietnam learn about these strategies?

Casablanca has a strategy to become a tourist metropolis of excellence south of the Mediterranean. It has developed two tourism development programs to meet the needs of targeted tourist segments. The tourism positioning of Casablanca and the region revolves around business tourism, leisure travel, and city breaks.

Culture and heritage are the common thread of these three segments. Without culture and heritage, it is impossible to develop quality urban tourism.

Thus, the first phase of the development program settled on by the Regional Council of Tourism with local authorities and the private sector in 2006 focuses on the rehabilitation and enhancement of historical and architectural heritages. Many projects concern the rehabilitation of the old medina of Casablanca, the restoration of emblematic heritage buildings, the rehabilitation of architectural heritage, and the rehabilitation of archaeological parks, etc.

The other cultural axis of this strategy is to increase offerings and enhance the customer experience. This is why a cultural infrastructure development program was developed. The largely finalized program saw the creation of the largest theater in Africa, with 1,800 seats in the main hall, a museum of traditional arts, a media library, a heritage interpretation center, a museum of resistance, and galleries of exhibitions, etc.

Several thematic museums, like a sea museum, an aeronautics museum, and a museum of fashion are also being built.

A cultural animation program has also been given focus and involves the promotion of an annual cultural agenda, including festivals, concerts, and theatrical animation, etc.

In order to support the development of business travelers and increase their length of stay, the strategy focused on an ambitious program to increase hotel capacity by the private sector. This has tripled in the 2006-2017 phase, to reach 26,000 beds in the city, 65 per cent of which are four- or five-stars.

Other programs related to the development of the port area will enable the construction of a new marina, a new cruise terminal, a science museum, and a food and recreation zone by the seaside.

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