Morocco recorded a bumper year for tourist arrivals in 2017, breaking through the 11-million barrier for the first time, the tourism ministry announced Monday.
Visitor arrivals numbered some 11.4 million, a 10-percent increase over 2016, with tourists from “emerging markets” such as China and Brazil joining those from France, Spain and Germany.
Revenues from the sector jumped to 69.7 billion dirhams ($7.55 billion, 6.16 billion euros) in 2017, up from 64.2 billion dirhams the previous year.
Fez, Tangiers and Marrakesh, along with Ouarzazate on the edge of the Sahara desert, recorded the strongest growth in tourist numbers, the ministry said.
After several years of stagnation, the tourism industry has turned around, partly thanks to new budget air links with Europe and increased flights by national carrier Royal Air Maroc.
Tourism is Morocco’s second largest employer after agriculture, and it ranks alongside exports and remittances from Moroccans working abroad as one of its top foreign currency earners.
We went to Tangiers, Morocco back in 2004, while we were spending a week in Puerto Banus, a small coastal town next door to Marbella, Spain. Mike and I golfed in Spain and Portugal not long after 9-11. So, in 2004, Sheri, our friend Ingrid, and I rented an apartment in Puerto Banus for a week.
The first photo is our apartment in Puerto Banus, If you go to the Costa del Sol, I highly recommend staying in Banus rather than Marbella. The beaches are better, the restaurants are directly on the water, and the town is CLEAN and safe! The second photo is our walk through Tangiers’ medina.
Little did we realize Morocco would become a tourist destination. We decided to go “on a lark” so to speak. None of us had been to Africa until then. We purchased a visa in Tarifa, in the province of Cadiz, and took the two hour ferry ride over to Tangiers. “It was an angry sea, my friends”, to quote the famous marine biologist, George Costanza. People were getting sick, and here I was, the most seasick prone person on earth, managing to stay well!
Sheri and Ingrid managed to keep it together, while the toilets were lined up with seasick passengers. It was not a good start to an unknown adventure. But we felt secure in knowing we purchased a “package” tour with a local Berber. Sheri says she felt intimidated by the aggressive sales people. Little did we know!
But that is a story for another time and place. What I wanted to tell you is that if you want some adventure, into a culture quite different from our own, head to Morocco. It will open your eyes and ears, sharpen your senses, and put you on edge. Though we never felt in danger, we did see and experience the unexpected. Would I go again? YES, to see and experience more, get off the tourist trail, and learn more about this strange and different culture.