Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Opodo touts Morocco as a top tourist destination in 2007 due to low cost flights August 7, 2006

July saw the first Moroccan low cost airline land in Marrakesh, in the form of Easyjets cheap flight from Gatwick, it marked a step up in gear for Morocco’s property market. Morocco has always enjoyed a higher tourism profile than other North African countries. In a survey released today by Opodo, a leading online travel website Morocco featured third on its Top 10 of travel destinations on the up for next year. As a rule, this is a good indicator of future property investment potential as the market establishes a holiday rental sector.

Morocco’s property potential is further highlighted by figures released by the Tourism Ministry that tourist arrivals to Morocco during the first five months of 2006 have registered a rise of 16% in comparison to the same period of last year. Some 2,090,000 tourists, including 696,000 Moroccan expatriates paid a visit to the North African kingdom in this period. The major Moroccan destinations of Meknes (centre), tourist activities increased 31%, Essaouira (west, +27%), Agadir (central west, +14%), Casablanca (+11%), Tangier (north, +9%), Rabat (+8%), and Marrakech (+6%) located on the northern edge of the Sahara. Tourism Minister Adil Douiri said he expected tourism revenue to be between 4.1bn euro (about $5.1bn) and 4.5bn euro for 2006, up from last year’s 3.7bn euro. This would make up 10 percent of expected GDP. The minister estimated that 6.5 million tourists would visit the country this year, 700,000 more than last year.

These positive increases can be attributed to an ‘Open skies agreement’ being signed by EU and Moroccan authorities to relax airspace regulations and allow any EU registered airline to operate between the EU and Morocco. The surge in increased visitors will only serve to increase ahead of new flight routes scheduled to operate from 2007. According to flight information provider, OAG, there were around 39 flights a week between London airports and Marrakesh before easyJet’s launch; once Ryanair and Thomsonfly get onboard there will be 99 flights a week between the two cities.

Jet 4 you is TUI’s brand new Morocco-based low cost airline which began flying in Feb 2006. At present it flies between Paris Orly and Morocco’s principal airports of Fez, Marrakesh and Agadir, but may expand to the UK. Morocco is the third most popular holiday destination for the French and it has inherited its legal, education and train systems modelled around those of the French.

Ryanair will commence flights to Fez and Marrakech from Frankfurt Hahn airport in Germany, as well as two new routes from London from the end of October, 2006. Europe’s largest low cost airline will also fly from its new base at Marseilles airport in France to Fez, Marrakech and Oujda airports in Morocco.

British Airways has operated flights from London Gatwick airport to three cities in Morocco: Fez, Marrakech, Agadir for sometime and its low cost web fares are popular with Brits. BA through subidiary GB Airways has introduced a twice-daily service to Marrakech from London Heathrow along with a daily service to Casablanca and a twice-weekly service to Fez. The airline will also continue to run a twice-weekly service to Agadir from London Gatwick. The substantial flight increase to Morocco from the UK start this winter, offering UK passnegers a total of 32 weekly flights to Morocco, increasing its pull as a popular short-haul winter sun destination.

North Africa’s first low cost airline, Atlas Blue (part of Royal air Maroc)operates out of six Moroccan airports - not only from the two most popular airports, Marrakech Menara and Agadir Al Massira, but also from Tanger and Al Hoceima in the north of Morocco and from Nador and Oujda in the east. The low fare subsidiary of Royal Air Maroc flies to numerous destinations in France and also to Milan in Italy, Geneva in Switzerland, Brussels in Belgium, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and to London Gatwick in the UK.

With several upgrades airport and plans for new airports in Tangier and Tetouan, other low cost airlines such as Monarch and Thompson are rumoured to have signed up to various Moroccan airports. On the back of these new flight agreements, flag carrier Royal Air Maroc has committed to increasing its fleet by 50% in 2007. Moroccan Property investment is on the up and tapping undiscovered locations and growing resorts as result of increased tourism offerings is a good bet so watch out for Part Two later on in the week on new off plan projects being launched in Morocco.

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