Morocco for the masses

Low-cost airline, easyJet, has launched flights from Gatwick to Marrakesh, offering great value travel to this Moroccan hotspot. And they are not alone – Atlas Blue, the low-cost arm of Royal Air Maroc, has already begun services; Thomsonfly and Jet4You are scheduled to do so later this year; and Ryanair has promised 20 routes between European and Moroccan airports by 2010.

In order to cope with this flurry of airline activity, the Moroccan government has started work on several new terminals of the Mohammed V airport. Work is also under way at airports in Ouarzazate, Dakhla, Rabat, Essaouira and Tangier.

The decision to open up Morocco’s skies is just one part of King Mohammed VI’s “Vision 2010”, aimed at making Morocco a tourism destination to compete with Spain, Greece and Turkey. Its centre-piece is the Plan Azur – six huge tourist resorts being built along the coastline – five on the Atlantic and one on the Mediterranean, that will feature golf courses, lakes, marinas, villas, restaurants, bars and boutiques, as well as up to 50 luxury hotels and hundreds more riads, offering at least 130,000 new beds. The new beachside resorts will run all the way from Saidia, on the Mediterranean, down to Plage Blanche, south of Essaouira on the Atlantic.

There are also plans for the interior with expanded regional airports, roads and railways and new tourist attractions and hotels built in and around the cities of Marrakesh, Fes and Casablanca. There is even talk of a tunnel to Spain.

The King hopes that, by 2010, these initiatives will be bringing 10 million tourists a year to Morocco, a destination that attracted fewer than three million last year.