Rabat – A recent report shows that in 2018, Moroccans spent more in Spain than Spaniards spent in Morocco. This is partly due to more Moroccans visiting Spain than Spanish tourists in Morocco.
Morocco is the second most popular tourist destination for Spanish tourists, after France. The geographical proximity of the two countries, which are only separated by 13 kilometers, makes it accessible. However, because of this same proximity, more Moroccans travel to their Iberian neighbor, especially in summer. The balance of travel between the two countries, which had been favorable to Morocco, has now reversed.
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Uneven number of travelers
EFE news agency announced that in 2018, the number of Moroccan tourists who visited Spain was 900,000. Meanwhile, only 814,069 Spaniards came to Morocco. That is a difference of 10%.
According to Medias 24, the Spanish tourist office confirmed that the number of Moroccan tourists has increased since 2016 (when it was at 630,000), growing 13% in 2017 (711,000) and then 26% in 2018 (900,000).
The growth rate of Moroccan arrivals now far exceeds that of Iberian arrivals in Morocco, which grew by only 14.5% between 2017 and 2018.
This vacation pattern has caused a negative difference between the two countries in travel revenue, estimated at more than one billion dirhams.
Moroccans spending on vacation
The greater number of Moroccan tourists (a reminder of the 10% difference) explains the difference of 1.1 billion dirhams, but also the average Moroccan budget is greater than that of Spaniards who spend on average 115 euros per day for a stay of four nights including about 45 euros for their hotel per night.
The total Moroccan tourist expenditure in Spain in 2018 is therefore estimated at 5.2 billion dirhams, more than the MAD 4.1 billion spent by the 814,069 Spanish tourists during their stay in Morocco in 2018.
The average length of stay of a Moroccan household in Spain is 6 nights and that their daily budget is 150 euros (approximately MAD 1,600).
About 60% of the 900,000 visitors from Morocco (totaling 540,000 people) spent money during the holidays in 2018, the rest most likely being children or dependents.
Instead of flying, most Moroccans tend to take the ferry to Algeciras and Tarifa before visiting popular areas like the Costa Del Sol (which includes Malaga, Fuengirola, Benalmadena, Torremolinos, etc.) or the Costa Brava in winter.
With the significant increase in Moroccan tourist visits to Spain, and especially their significant expenses, there are plans that Spain will open a national tourist office in Morocco to boost “a market emerging still underused.”
The Spanish tourist office targets 1 million Moroccan tourists in 2020.
Due to this new travel trend, Spain, which already has profitable trade with Morocco (as its 1st supplier), also has very profitable revenue from tourism.
The situation may motivate the Spanish government to improve the procedures of granting travel visas to Moroccan tourists as the numbers for Moroccans vacationing in Spain are high, despite an increase in obstacles for getting there.
Moroccans applying for a visa have been facing up to six months of wait times for their visa appointments at Spanish consular services. Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell said that Spain has been “overwhelmed” due to the high number of visa applications.
Additionally, the EU announced that the Schengen visa fees would increase from €60 to €80 (33.3%). The EU justified the decision, saying that the visa fee will be increased to “ensure member state can better cover the costs of visa processing without constituting a deterrent for visa applicants.”
Spain is now asking for visa appointment fees in advance as an effort to control the number of visas it issues since it is a border country for the EU, where irregular immigration has long been a problem.
The Spanish Foreign Minister recently apologized for the slow pace of the proceedings and promised improvements. But if these are followed up with more visas awarded, there is no doubt that the rush of Moroccan tourists in Spain will continue, which could further aggravate the deficit of the Morocco-Spain travel revenue balance.
Other tourism to Morocco
The Moroccan Tourism Observatory stated that more than 3.6 million tourists visited Morocco in the first four months of 2019, which indicates an increase in comparison to 2018.
The 2019 increase was mostly tourists from the traditional European markets, as statistics showed an increase of 13% in Italian tourist visits, 9% in French and Spanish tourists, 8% in German tourists as well as 14 %t in U.S. tourist arrivals.
In 2018, the number of tourists visited Morocco saw an increase by 8.3 % in comparison to 2017. Morocco attracted 200,000 Chinese tourists that year.