Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

The irrepressible drive of tourism in the Southern Mediterranean

Written by Frédéric Dubessy with the correspondents on Monday, November 26th 2012 à 22:02 | Read 1921 times

Morroco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey…all these Southern Mediterranean countries are renewing their tourism strategies. Aside from mass tourism, their long time trademark, they are now turning towards more diversified tourism to tempt foreign as well as local visitors.

 MEDITERRANEAN   Whilst recognising that the renewal dates from before the Arab Spring - especially in Tunisia where their move upmarket is thanks to thalassotherapy and golf - upheaval in the southern Mediterranean countries has produced new tourism strategies. The sector represents a very significant share of GDP: 14.3% in Egypt, 8% in Morocco, 7% in Tunisia… These countries remain fragile and are particularly vulnerable to geopolitical uncertainty, hence the Southern Mediterranean idea to resiliently attempt to strengthen this vital sector.

Faced with the political situation in the Sahel, Algeria (with only 3 million tourists in 2011 but representing 4.2% of the 5% non-hydrocarbon GDP) has concentrated its efforts on business tourism and also mass tourism from the Algerian community living abroad. It has strengthened its capacity to receive visitors by generating 75 000 extra beds. The state’s participation council has now dedicated 70 billion dinars (700 million euros) to renovate hotels. Forecasts suggest an eventual visitor capacity of close to 120 000 beds by 2020.

The country has not forgotten the Sahara either, with 80% reductions in land prices for tourism projects and the bonus of 4% interest rates on bank loans destined to finance tourism projects.
Algeria has also successfully allied itself with its neighbour Tunisia. The Algerian tourist community, benefitting from customs facilities on Tunisian territory, now occupies first place in Tunisia with 700,000 visits between 1st January and 30th September 2012. Tunisians are returning the favour to Algeria by extending trips proposed to European tourists to Algeria, thus greatly benefitting Algerian Tour operators.
While the north shore continues to lose global market share, banks south, east and Balkans stabilize. (source META)
While the north shore continues to lose global market share, banks south, east and Balkans stabilize. (source META)

Turkey is undisputed leader

Morocco wants to be amongst the top 20 tourist destinations in the world (photo by F.Dubessy)
Morocco wants to be amongst the top 20 tourist destinations in the world (photo by F.Dubessy)
Tunisia (with 7 million tourists in 2010) is planning to implement an airport tax by 2013. The tax will strengthen the financial capacity of promotional campaigns, and a ‘management by objective’ unit will be created that supports the implementation of sector promoting programmes. There are three priorities: competitiveness of the destination, quality and product diversification. Tunisian Minister of Tourism, Elyes Fakhfakh, aims to regain the level of visitors attained in 2010 by the year 2013.

Morocco (with 9.3 million tourists in 2011) has been working since 2001 to ensure balanced regional development throughout the kingdom, with over the past two years Vision 2020 also focussing on sustainable development. In 2012, Moroccan Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad, reaffirmed the goal of “lifting Morocco into the top 20 tourist destinations in the world” by doubling the number of international visitors and tripling domestic travellers.

Turkey, undisputed leader of tourism in the region with 31.4 million tourists in 2011, is attracting more and more tourists from the Middle East, even if Europeans, Americans and Japanese are still the largest contingent. Seen as a low cost destination, using its 2023 strategy, the country is attempting to move upmarket through spa tourism, winter tourism, eco-tourism, conference tourism and sports tourism. On its agenda are new tourist and cultural sites, ten tourist cities, and nine marinas and eleven ports specially designed to receive cruise ships.

Qatar invests in the Maghreb

Turkey is attracting more and more tourists (photo by F.Dubessy)
Turkey is attracting more and more tourists (photo by F.Dubessy)
Egypt hopes to attract 12 million tourists in 2012 (it had a record 14.7 million in 2010) and 30 million visitors by 2020. Tunisia is aiming for 10 million tourists by 2016. Morocco is looking for 20 million visitors in 2020 (11.5 million visitors are expected in 2014). Turkey wants to reach 40 million visitors by 2023.

This is all the more possible when a country like Qatar is flooding the North African tourism industry with money. For example the Qatari Diar fund aims to invest 10 billion dollars into a giant resort on the Mediterranean coast, and it also foresees projects in Cairo, Sharm El Sheick, in Morocco with Qatar National Hotels Morocco, and in Tunisia. This summer it has just laid the first stone at the Tozeur tourism complex.

As the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) notes, the remarkable development of tourism in the Mediterranean will ipso facto fuel "competition between countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey, who will seek to maximise their share in a booming tourism market”; very healthy rivalry !

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