Tourism in Morocco: Fes Major Tourism Destination in Morocco

Regional Tourism Centre of Fes-Boulemane Region, Former President, Driss Faceh
Although it is internationally known, Fes doesn’t attract as many tourists as it should. The Vision 2020 Plan is based on a RPTD (Regional Plan for Tourism Development).

Interview with Driss Faceh, Former President of Regional Tourism Centre

Driss Faceh, Former President of Regional Tourism Centre

In your opinion, what is the impact of the new Plan 2020 on the region of Fes in the field of tourism?

The Vision 2020 Plan divides Morocco into 8 touristic regions rather than administrative regions. Fes belongs to the Fes-Meknes-Ifrane region. The cultural dimension of this region is important, with 2 imperial cities. It also has 3 spa resorts. One of the goals for the region is to develop the hydrotherapy industry.

In addition to their cultural potential, Fes and Meknes would become cities for hydrotherapy and spa, with the thermal baths of Moulay Yacoub, Sidi Harazim and Ain Allah. These 3 hot springs sites haven’t been used to their full potential so far. There are also a lot of hammams in the old medina that need to be restored. This would have a very important impact on the region of Fes. Fes Tourism

Although it is internationally known, Fes doesn’t attract as many tourists as it should. The Vision 2020 Plan is based on a RPTD (Regional Plan for Tourism Development). The RPTD was launched in the region in 2005. Its goal is to make Fes a major destination for tourists, rather than a simple stop on the way to the imperial cities; it is now becoming an actual destination, whether for a short city break or a proper stay.

An important variable we are working on is the average length of stay. In November 2005, it was 1.7 overnight stays per tourist. It is now 2.2 overnight stays/tourist, and we aim for it to reach 2.8 by 2015 – the average length of stay in cities like Athens or Barcelona. In the process, several obstacles have been overcome. The region’s air space has been opened. There used to be 18 round trips a week at the Fes-Sais airport; this figure has gone up to 130 round trips a week. Fes used to be completely cut off from the rest of the world. Now, all major pools of tourists are connected directly to the Fes-Sais airport.Moulay Tomb

Work has been done in order to bring the city of Fes – both the ancient medina and the new town – up to scratch. Guided tours across the city have been set up; ancient monuments have been restored. The historic dimension of the city has been exploited, with the University of Al-Qarawiyyin – one of the most ancient universities in the world; the tomb of Ahmad al-Tijani – a saint that has more than 300 millions followers world-wide; the tomb of Moulay Idris; the ancient walls and ramparts, etc. In the new town, we used water for decorative purposes.

The big avenues are decorated with flowers, plays of light and water, which makes them very pleasant to wander in. The Spirit of Fes Foundation is in charge of 12 events, one of the most important of which being the Festival of Sacred Music. There is also the Festival of Culinary Art, the Jazz Festival, etc. Riads, restaurants and piano bars have been created in order for the city to be more lively. In terms of human resources, professionals’ skills in the field of tourism have been improved thanks to various training programmes. And of course, promotion and advertising has been carried out.Fes Medina

The 300 millions followers of Ahmad al-Tijani live mostly in Subsaharan Africa: Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Niger, Nigeria… We’ve created “Ziyarat Tijaniyyah” [the “Tijani Tour”], in collaboration with the wilaya [province], the Social Development Agency and the CRT (Regional Center for Tourism), as well as local community centers. We’ve set up about 50 houses near Ahmad al-Tijani’s tomb to welcome members of the Tijaniyyah order. A course was launched at the university to train professionals to welcome this specific range of tourists, and a website was launched for better advertisement.

Although it is internationally known, Fes doesn’t attract as many tourists as it should. The Vision 2020 Plan is based on a RPTD (Regional Plan for Tourism Development).

As a tourism professional, you are involved in a large range of professions: you mentioned tour operating and travel agencies, and the relatively new sector of boutique hotels. How significant do you think this sector will become by 2015-2020?

I started my career as a travel agent at “Fes Voyage”, which became “Objectif Maroc” after going into partnership with Accor. We have offices in Fes, Agadir, Casablanca and Marrakech.

Tourists are sent to us by international tour operators, and taken care of by us from their arrival to the airport to their departure from the airport. Circuits are available to them from all four cities. We also have an outgoing department, for Moroccans to go on city breaks to cities like Istanbul or Cairo, which they are very fond of.

I’ve recently decided to launch into the hotel business. I wanted to create something original. I have created a 9 hectares tourist area called Quariyati [my little village] in Marrakech, based on the concept of “slow food”, the exact opposite of fast food. Houses form 2 kasbahs, about 20 km away from the city.

There is a vegetable garden where people can pick their own salad; and a hen house for them to get chicken or eggs. It is a successful concept, because people like to know where their food comes from. Hammams and spas add up to the healthy side of the project. It was launched just 6 months ago, and it is already very popular amongst tour operators, and particularly Swiss and Belgian tourists.

In the city of Fes itself, we prefer leading hotels. For example the Palace within the medina: 26 suites, a 500m2 spa, and a big patio garden. Fes City

How do you promote all these projects?

We promote them through the National Tourist Office, that targets mostly Europe: Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. And also the United States. The city of Fes attracts more Anglo-Saxons than any other Moroccan city, because most Anglo-Saxons that come to North Africa or the Middle East are seeking cultural immersion rather than fancy lifestyle, and Fes is known for its cultural heritage.

We also organise “weeks of culture” in collaboration with the National Council for Tourism. They consist in setting up “mini-medinas” in countries targeted by our advertising campaign, with craftsmen, musicians, traditional cooking, fashion shows, etc. for a whole week. We did it in France, in Aix-les-Bains, Paris, London, Belgium; and also a lot in Africa, where the campaign is quite successful.

What is your vision for Fes and Objectif Maroc in 2020?Fes Medina

We are working within two frameworks: the Regional Plan for Tourism Development (aiming for Fes to become a main destination by 2015), and the Vision 2020 Plan, working on the region of Volubilis-Moulay Idris-Fes-Meknes-Ifrane. This newly official region is the richest and most diverse of the Moroccan Kingdom. We are putting particular emphasis on two aspects: cultural heritage (2 imperial cities, Volubilis) and hydrotherapy & wellness. We aim for Fes to become a city for quality tourism rather than cheap mass tourism. We aren’t focusing on the number of tourists, but on the average length of stay. We are hoping for it to go up to 3 by 2020.

In addition to the cultural aspect and the hydrotherapy industry, Fes will become important for its backcountry. It has one of the most beautiful cedar groves in the world, lakes and two gulfs. We are planning on setting up ecolodges, and develop green and developmentally sustainable tourism, in order to attract tourists likely to go hiking or pony-trekking. Fes will also host conferences and seminars at the newly built Convention Center. So Fes will be a destination for business tourism, culture tourism, green tourism, and even ski tourism soon in Ifrane. Fes benefits from a very diverse potential, and we are aware that a lot of work needs to be done.

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