Following the decision in May 2016 by King Mohammed VI to exempted Chinese nationals from visa to visit the Kingdom, the Chinese began to arrive. At the time some tourism operators suggested that Morocco was not well prepared for mass Chinese tourists
In the last half of 2016 more than 40,000 Chinese tourists arrived, 300% more than in 2015. In the first half of this year, nearly 50,000 Chinese nationals visited China Kingdom, traveling mainly to Casablanca, their destination city, then to Fez and (surprisingly) Ouarzazate.
The arrival of mass Chinese tourists is not without its problems and the country has to adapt to the demands of Chinese tourists who require, for example, Mandarin-speaking guides – a rarity in the Kingdom.
A number of travel agencies say that Morocco is not sufficiently ready to welcome these tourists in the best conditions. It is not just the lack of Mandarin speaking guides, says Hayat Jabrane, founder of Goal Voyages, and former general secretary of the National Confederation of Tourism (CNT). “Hotels need to offer Chinese menus, have Mandarin speaking staff. Even signage in the airport, and integrate Mandarin on the entry cards in Morocco and police cards in hotels.”
Marketing-China claims that the Chinese “they like to discover the foreign kitchen, but prefer to eat Chinese in the morning and the evening “.
Chinese travellers have a preference for rooms equipped with wifi and a system of reception for iPod or iPhone. The quality of the food and drink also counts for the Chinese travellers who, despite their worries, are often tempted by the flavours of the countries they visit.
A hotel operator in Fes, who also asked for anonymity, told Telquel recently, ” Chinese tourists are more suspicious than European tourists, they come from so far away that it is normal that they are more anxious. We are also suspicious when traveling in Asia. They do not eat at the restaurant, sometimes they bring their own sheets, most of the time their program is organised long before they arrive. However, the most important thing is that at the end of their stay, they have the confidence to talk about it and in turn attract other Chinese tourists”.
To identify the needs of the Chinese consumer, it is important for tour operators to understand the expectations of the visitors. Hayat Jabrane says that ” the Chinese tourist is looking for discovery, adventure, promoting heritage, culture, nature and shopping .” The lack of infrastructure around the tourist sites as well as the lack of diversity of Chinese restaurants are also problems that must be remedied. These are small details that are nevertheless very important” .
Morocco’s intentions are clear: to welcome the largest number of Chinese tourists in the years to come. Asked by the 2M channel at the beginning of June 2016, Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad said that ” the Chinese market is an important market, it is a market of 130 million tourists. We want, in the long term, 5 to 10 years, to capture a million “.
From June 6 to 16, 2016, a Chinese delegation of senior Chinese travel agency officials and media from Beijing, Shanghai and Guanghzou visited the cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Marrakech, Tangiers, Chefchaouen and Fez, Along with senior officials of the ONMT.
The Chinese channel CCTV, followed by more than 700 million Chinese, has made several documentaries featuring Morocco. In addition the Chinese news agency Xinhua, contributed greatly to the influence of the city of Ouarzazate by running several reports on the Chinese channel CCTV.
According to Hayat Jabrane, although the promotion of Morocco’s destination in China by the ONMT has produced good results, it ” remains insufficient compared to the number of provinces in China in which Morocco is not known at all. Moreover, ” a direct airline would be ideal, accompanied by promotions in the form of cultural events in China with significant presence of the local press.
For the city of Casablanca, there were nearly 25,000 Chinese arrivals in the first half of 2017, for nearly 35,000 overnight stays. Fez gained more than 6,500 arrivals for more than 10,000 overnight stays, while the city of Ouarzazate totalled more than 15,000 overnight stays for arrivals exceeding 10,000 over the same period.
According to the Observatory of Morocco, 28% of Chinese tourists visit Morocco on the recommendation of relatives, while 56% trust the media. Of these, 35% travel as a couple, 20% as a group, and 26% as a whole family. 74% of Chinese visitors say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their experience in Morocco.