Tourism sector in Morocco has been developing in recent decades, relying heavily on the discourse of cultural identity and desires of Moroccans, while the country’s economic development reveals a priority in national policies as well as in international relations.
Recently, the Minister of Tourism and Handicrafts have presented a new strategic plan for the sector, Vision 2020, which aims primarily into regionalization of tourism, encouraging quality and stimulating quality. This plan had the impulse from its own sovereign, King Mohammed VI, as a factor in valuing the various regions of Morocco and responsible environmental and ecological tourism practices.
At a time when the country outlines new goals, before important political reforms, paradigm issue of tradition versus modernity seems highly relevant for it, to integrate smoothly and responsibly to their own cultural perspective of economic and social development.
Vision 2020 – regionalization, quality, sustainability
The XX century was a turning point in the evolution of cities in Morocco and its modern urban space. Was also a decisive turning point in the evolution of the historic urban structure of the country. (Chouiki, 2009) Disruption established during the colonial period did not allow the Moroccan society draw their own modernity, based on a natural evolution of its urban culture and a patrimonial logic established by their own relations.
The social and cultural dynamics that animated citizenship in medina became extinct in favor of business logic and tourist. This subversion of the relationship with these community spaces referred the culture heritage for a discussion of elites. An action plan that helps promote a reconciliation of the population with its heritage is necessary for the emergence of a participatory culture heritage, social valorisation of local communities.
In North Africa in general, and particularly in the Maghreb, cultural diversity, which is manifested by the daily use of multiple languages berberofones and arabofones, was reduced after independence by national cultural policies of uniformity. After the early 1990s,
Maghreb states have taken aware of the importance of cultural diversity, but this recognition has also come back for a strategy of economic development, especially in terms of cultural tourism with regard to Morocco. (Kessab, 2009)
The recent plan of regionalization in Morocco, as well as the institution of Amazigh as an official language, alongside Arabic, and its official teaching in primary schools, show that this posture recognition and reconciliation with multiculturalism in Morocco has had practical effects on national policy. The multicultural character of the territory extrapolates precisely the dynamics of patrimony and in recognition of the asset and tourist icons that represent their cultural identity.
If we analyze the list of objects registered as UNESCO World Heritage, we will clearly realize this trend:
- Medina of Fez, enrolled in 1981
- Medina of Marrakech, enrolled in 1985
- Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, enrolled in 1987
- Historic city of Meknes, enrolled in 1996
- Archaeological site of Volubilis, enrolled in 1997
- Medina of Tetouan, enrolled in 1997
- Medina of Essaouira (formerly Mogador), enrolled in 2001
- Cultural space of Jemaa el Fna Square, inscribed in 2001
- Portuguese City of Mazagan (El Jadida) incrita in 2004
- Tan Tan Moussem, enrolled in 2005
The World Heritage List in Morocco includes objects quite distinct, that represent the contemporary discourse of a pluralistic society. These objects include a single list of the imperial cities, the Berber culture, the classical antiquity of the Mediterranean, as well as the heritage of Portuguese origin like “Portuguese city” of El Jadida and even the nomadic culture of the Sahara.
Morocco in the present day, apparently intends to pursue its own modernity, based on the idea of a country of such diverse influences and with communities and cultural expressions that contribute to the formation of a plural identity. The challenge is the country’s management of a vast cultural heritage and its promotion and integration for national development.
On 30 November, was presented in Marrakech the new strategic plan for tourism development in the presence of King Mohammed VI, and aims to intensify tourism activity, placing Morocco among the top 20 tourism destinations worldwide. With this object, eight new destinations will also be created in the coming years, as well as 200,000 new beds in the hospitality sector. The target is to double the number of entries of foreign tourists and tripling the number of domestic tourists.
However, apart from the strong economic growth desired, the plan includes a more transversal design of the impacts of tourism in the country. The development of tourism in Morocco also considers the importance of preserving natural resources, the maintenance of socio-cultural authenticity of the regions and the development of the welfare of local populations as integrated strategies. Thus arise the “eco-regions” as are designated by the ministry of tourism, as showcases of Morocco and sustainable development.
The plan draws a new image to Morocco, where the cultural heritage claims a place in modernity, through the application of contemporary trends, such as the appreciation of the quality and environmental and ecological sustainability, not losing sight of the local particularities of each region.
Through the application of these new vectors, Morocco intends to position itself in a prominent place in the international community, offering a unique product in this sector.
The cultural activity and supply of leisure activities also aim to ensure an international character, which incidentally, has been taking place in recent years now with great quality cultural programming as the Film Festival or the Marrakech Festival of Laughter, Festival of Sacred Music of Fez, the Festival of Gnawa music in Essaouira, Tangier Jazz Festival or the Festival Mawazine in Rabat.
Six major structural projects, implemented and funded by the state, regions and the private sector will be implemented:
- program Azur 2020 (which is the continuation of the Plan Azur, project that integrated the strategic Vision 2010 and implemented six new bathing resorts);
- program Heritage and Legacy (for the dissemination of the cultural identity of Morocco);
- the Eco & Green (for the valuation of natural areas preserved exception);
- program Animation et Loisirs (for promotion and competitiveness of the tourism and hospitality);
- the strong program Niches Valeur Ajoutée (which puts Morocco in international destinations for wellness);
- program Biladi (one of the main priorities of Vision 2020 which envisages the creation of seven tourist resorts dedicated to domestic tourism in the areas most sought by Moroccan citizens).
The coordination of the strategic plan will be provided by the High Authority for Tourism to implement the plan in the country and to ensure consistency of regional strategies. Parallel is also expected to create agencies for Tourism Development for the realization and implementation of procedures for integrated management of territories.
The applicability of this strategic program Vision 2020 depends on an investment fund, the Moroccan Fund for Tourism Development funded either by the state or by the cooperation of friendly countries.
The dichotomy tradition / modernity established in the colonial period haunted the urban evolution of Moroccan cities and equity policies developed for the safeguarding of cultural property. Play the opposition between heritage and modernity is to replay the colonial ideology. (Chouiki, 2009: 4)
The development of programs for promoting tourism, as Vision 2020, should therefore reflect the ability of Morocco to assert their cultural identity, their regionalisms and its plurality, safeguard their assets and policy coordination with socio-cultural economic development and modernization sustainable environment through a commitment to quality.
Chouiki, Mustapha (2009), Faut-il du patrimoine repenser notre culture?
Government of the Kingdom of Morocco (2011), Tourism: Vison 2020 in link
Kessab, Ammar (2009), les politiques culturelles en Afrique du Nord – Maghreb – Sont-elles compatibles avec la convention de l’UNESCO sur la protection et la promotion de la diversité des expressions culturelles? Johannesburg: World Arts Summit on Arts and Culture.
Text translated by: Ana Neno, architect and doctoral student of Assets Influence Portugal (Universidade de Coimbra) and Tourism, Heritage and Land Management (University Cadi Ayyad of Marrakech).