Morocco, Gulf to provide 40 pct of $2.8 bln tourism projects

Morocco and four Gulf states will provide 40 percent of the financing for tourism projects in the country

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Morocco and four Gulf states will provide 40 percent of the financing for 2 billion euros ($2.78 billion) of tourism projects in Casablanca, Tangier and Rabat, the North African country’s tourism minister told Reuters on Tuesday.

The government announced plans to redevelop Casablanca’s port area last month, valuing the investment from the Gulf countries - Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – at 6 billion dirhams ($741.14 million), although it now appears the Gulf states’ contribution could be lower.

These countries will also collaborate with Morocco on mixed use projects in Rabat and Tangier that will include residential housing, Minister of Tourism Lahcen Haddad told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry exhibition in Dubai.

“This should cost 2 billion euros for all (three) of them,” said Haddad, adding this would be split roughly equally between the projects.

He said Morocco and the four Gulf countries would provide 40 percent of the funding for the three projects and the remainder would come from private investors and bank financing.

“The idea is to have this vehicle where there will be sovereign money from Morocco and the four states and all of that money will be there as leverage in order to bring in money from different places,” said Haddad.

“It’s a public-private partnership. When you do residential (developments) you generate your own money.”

Haddad said the Rabat project would develop a valley between the Moroccan capital and nearby Salé, which will include residential units, hotels and cultural attractions such as a museum and a theatre.

In Tangier, the government will revamp the Mediterranean city’s port area, redeveloping land currently occupied by factories, a military barracks and some port facilities.

Haddad said project construction would start this year and would be completed in 4-5 years, adding tourist numbers would increase 8 percent this year, from 10 million in 2013, while the total number of nights stayed by tourists would rise 10 percent.

This will lead to a 4 percent rise in revenue, he said. Morocco's tourism income was 57.55 billion dirhams last year.

Morocco, where tourism accounts for around 8 to 9 percent of the gross domestic product, saw little of the turmoil of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts that ousted autocrats in North Africa such as Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

The four Gulf countries in 2012 agreed to provide aid worth a total $5 billion to Morocco between 2012 and 2017 to build up its infrastructure, strengthen its economy and foster tourism.

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