Morocco’s ‘open-skies’ boosts in-bound tourism

The signing of an ‘open-skies’ agreement with the EU in December 2005 has helped make Morocco one of the fastest growing countries for air travel. The north-west African state with a population of 33 million has identified in-bound tourism as a major driver for economic growth.

Chart: Moroccan Airport Traffic 1995 - 2006
Source: ONDA
Image: Casablanca
CasablancaÕs Mohammed V airport.

This has contributed to Morocco’s airports recording 56% growth over the last three years with the first five months of 2007 showing year-on-year growth of 15%. While domestic air travel has remained relatively stable (it peaked at 1.91 million passengers in 2000) international traffic has grown by 67% in the last three years.

Casablanca’s Mohammed V airport caters for around half of all Moroccan air traffic and handled just over five million passengers in 2006 (+13.7%). Marrakech airport handles around a quarter of the country’s air passengers and recorded growth of 20.5% in 2006.

Chart: Top Moroccan Airports 2005/06
Source: ONDA

Map: MoroccoAgadir is the only other airport with significant traffic flows, handling 1.43 million passengers in 2006 (+8.3%). All other airports combined handled less than 1.5 million passengers in 2006, though several, such as Fez, Nador and Oujda have been targeted by European LCCs for seasonal flights in 2007.

Close links with France

Despite the country’s proximity to southern Spain, the number one country for international flights is France. The country’s close links with France is even reflected in the website of ONDA (Office National des Aéroports), which bears many similarities with
that of the French DGAC.

Chart: TOp Countries - Summer 2007
Source: OAG Max Online

Nearly 40% of international scheduled flights are to and from France. The top seven country links in terms of capacity are to EU member states followed by Libya, Switzerland and the UAE.

LCCs taking advantage of ‘open-skies’

An analysis of the leading airlines flying scheduled services to Morocco shows that Royal Air Maroc (RAM), the national flag carrier, is currently the dominant airline with over 55% of scheduled flights and seats.

Chart: Top Scheduled Airlines - Summer 2007
Source: OAG Max Online

Having watched the way EU airlines have coped with the rise of LCCs in liberalised markets RAM has been pro-active and started its own LCC, Atlas-Blue, which in terms of capacity already ranks as the second largest carrier in the Moroccan market. Another local LCC is which is a local joint venture with the TUI group.

French carriers also have a significant presence with Air France being the third biggest in terms of capacity and one of its subsidiaries, Regional Air Lines, offering the second highest number of flights. easyJet and Ryanair both sneak into the Top 10, but both currently have less than 2% of the market.

European LCCs v Local LCCs – who will win?

Logo: Atlas-blue.comAtlas-blue operates primarily from Marrakech to destinations in Belgium, France, Italy and Spain, though it also operates daily to London Gatwick. Its fleet consists of six B737-400s (with 168 seats) and two Airbus A321s (with 206 seats). Barcelona and Madrid are the latest cities to be linked with Marrakech this summer.

Logo: carried around 150,000 passengers in 2006 on just two aircraft. It serves Paris Orly from different Moroccan airports with Casablanca having most frequency. This summer Lyon and Marseille are also served from Casablanca. The airline hopes to be carrying 1.5 million passengers per annum by 2010 on a fleet of 10 aircraft.

easyJet started daily scheduled flights from London Gatwick to Marrakech on 4 July 2006 and added daily flights from Madrid in February this year. At the same time it began daily services to Casablanca from Madrid. The Gatwick service has helped stimulate the UK to Morocco market significantly, as has the launch of services from London Luton to Marrakech operated by Thomsonfly and two Ryanair services from London Luton.

Ryanair announced in 2006 that it had reached agreement with the Moroccan government to launch 20 routes to Morocco within five years. So far it is up to nine.

From To Start Date Weekly Frequency
Marrakech Barcelona Girona 02 Nov 07 3
Düsseldorf Weeze 11 Oct 07 3
Frankfurt Hahn 07 May 07 3
London Luton 31 Oct 06 4
Marseille MP2 30 Oct 07 3
Fez Barcelona Girona 30 Oct 07 3
Frankfurt Hahn 07 May 07 3
London Luton 31 Oct 06 3
Marseille MP2 30 Oct 07 3

The Marseille routes were due to start in November 2006, but due to French regulatory tardiness they were delayed until this October.

French, Italian and Spanish LCCs also interested

The Moroccan market is also proving of interest to other LCCs across Europe. Spanish newcomer Clickair is already flying from its Barcelona base to Casablanca, Marrakech, Nador and Tangier. Transavia’s French operation recently launched flights from Paris Orly to Agadir (daily) and Oujda (thrice weekly). MyAir has also started serving Morocco this year with routes from Milan and Venice to Casablanca and Marrakech.

German hybrid carriers Air Berlin and also serve Morocco, but primarily as charter destinations.


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