By Joshua Olomu
Mr Jalal Imani, Africa Director of the Moroccan National Tourism Office, has called for collaboration between the country and Nigeria to promote tourism within Africa.
He made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Marrakech during a familiarisation trip organised by his Office.
The trip was organised for the Nigeria travel and tourism operators to meet with their Morrocan counterparts.
The event, which was organised in partnership with the Royal Air Maroc, national carrier of Morroco, was also for the stakeholders from Nigeria to have a forehand experience of the country’s tourism and hospitality opportunities.
According to Imani, such collaboration, besides its economic benefits, will promote regional peace and unity, transfer of cultural heritage and further boost bilateral relations between the two countries.
He explained that the Moroccan Tourism Office had unique plans and strategy for each country and its collaboration with Nigeria will spring up new frontiers for tourism in the continent.
“Tourism is a tool for peace and regional unity and integration, and for Africa to develop as a global tourism destination, it has to discover itself, because Africa is first for Africans.
“Nigeria has a huge population and economic power in Africa and Morocco is a leading country in North Africa, therefore, if they work together, other African countries will benefit as well.
“African countries have a lot of tourism potentials which are not known to each other because they are not promoted and they are not attracting investors.
“Intra-Africa tourism has to be developed and Morocco with a huge experience and opportunity in tourism is willing to work with Nigeria,” he said.
He noted that many Africans visit other continents as tourists because they have little or no information about tourism destinations within the continent.
He therefore advised that authorities in charge of tourism in each country should design effective strategies to promote what they have to the rest of the world.
“Africa has the potential of becoming the world’s leading tourist continent if it works together, and we are working towards it.
“Instead of going to Europe and other continents, Africans should develop its tourism within,and that is the aspiration of Morocco.”
Imani explained that Moroccan tourism sector has evolved into a global brand that attracts tourists from across the globe and contributes eight per cent to the nation’s GDP and has 600,000 persons directly employed in the sector.
He noted that while many African tourists were seeking holiday destinations outside the sores of Africa, tourists were coming from Europe, America and other parts of the world to experience African tourism in Morocco.
He explained that the country received 11.5 million tourists in 2017 with 200,000 of this number visiting from Africa, adding that at least 10 per cent increase was being expected for the year 2018.
“We have eight different regions with their unique tourism potentials and we develop them specially to attract tourists, with Marrakech as the biggest destination.
“This is in line with our vision of making Africa a global tourism destination,”he said.
Mr Said Mouhid, the General Manager of the Regional Council of Tourism in Casablanca, noted that tourism was a veritable tool in for cultural diplomacy and peace building,and should be encouraged across Africa.
He therefore urged that travel barriers among Africa countries should be eased and intra-Africa flights created.
“Business relationships come up when people visit places, know each other and build confidence, and that is what good tourism relations will do in Africa.
“The first step is to create direct flights among countries, which morocco is committed to doing, with 34 African countries already linked to morocco,including lagos Nigeria,” he said. (NAN)