Marrakech, Morocco, lived in 2018 an exceptional year in terms of tourist flows. The city recorded over the period January-November 2018 more than 2.4 million arrivals. And more than 2.6 million arrivals at the end of 2018. I was in Marrakech for Christmas. Bulgaria could find inspiration in Morocco and I will explain why.
I just spent a week in Marrakech, Morocco, for the Christmas break 2018. First of all, many French people visit Morocco every year for linguistic and historical reasons. However, as a Frenchman I never went to Morocco before.
Also, there are a lot of French people who live in Marrakech. The city became for the last 25 years a meeting point of the French Jetset. As a result, it contributed to golden the image of the city. It was the second home of the famous French tailor Yves Saint-Laurent, for instance.
Above all, I have to say that I have mixed feelings about what I discovered during that week.
Obviously, the weather was P.E.R.F.E.C.T (sunny and 25°C every day while it was around -2°C in Sofia). As well, I never went to a North African country before. Therefore, the scenery was also there because it is totally different from any European country I visited so far.
However, Marrakech is not a really a « clean » city (a lot of dust), very noisy and polluted mainly because of all the little motorcycles going around. In addition, there are a lot of very poor people.
If we speak about the GDP, Morocco has a GDP of roughly 110 billion USD for 36 million people. Bulgaria has a GDP of nearly 56 billion USD for a population of only 7 million people. So, we can say that Bulgaria is almost 2,5 times « richer » than Morocco even if in my opinion the GDP is not the best metric to measure the real wealth of a country.
Having been several times to the Philippines before, I found a few similitudes in the smell, street atmospheres etc.
So far, no real similitudes with Bulgaria except maybe the mountains near Marrakech. Gorgeous. In addition, the road we took from Marrakech to Essaouira made me think of the road we can take between Kazanlak and Burgas during winter.
In this article, my point is that except for the great weather in Marrakech during Winter, Bulgaria does not have anything to envy to Morocco in term of potential of development for the tourism.
Bulgaria and Morocco both have natural great sea coasts, mountains, deep history and culture etc. In short, the only competitive advantage of Morocco is that it can attract winter tourists who don’t like cold.
Apart of tourism, I think Bulgaria is doing much better than Morocco. But in term of tourism, I do believe that Bulgaria is way behind Morocco.
For instance, we have been highly impressed by the sellers in the souks. Therefore, Bulgarians could learn a lot from the sense of commerce of Moroccans. I don’t remember a shop in Bulgaria where the owner has been able to create such a contact with me. Last time I experienced such a situation, it was in Istanbul.
Welcoming the tourist is primary in order to give him/her the wish to buy, stay, and come back.
Consequently, Bulgarians should definitely improve their soft skills when it comes to address the tourists. Develop a real wish to create a relationship with the client is important.
Most importantly, Bulgaria should also invest in a GREAT communication. Here, I’m not speaking about the restaurants or shops owners but about the government. There is still A LOT to do.
Let’s be honest, communication and PR are not the strength of Bulgaria in general. As a result, a bit of organization, a real marketing budget and good communication tools could dramatically improve the image foreign tourists have about Bulgaria. If Marrakech is attracting so many tourists, especially French ones, it is because the government invested in a great communication.
Can you believe that when a shop owner was asking me where I was from and I was telling Bulgaria, everyone knew about the country. They were even asking if I was living in Sofia. In France, 90% of the people even don’t know that Bulgaria is in the E.U!
Boyko Borisov went for a visit in Morocco a month ago. The king of Morocco and he decided to strengthen the relationship between both countries. This is a very good news. Both people could learn from each others. I do believe that from a tourism know how, Bulgarians could learn a lot from Moroccans. On the contrary the Moroccans could learn a lot from Bulgarians in many other areas like IT, BPO, medicine etc.
But, first of all, Mr. Prime Minister, if you want to strenghten the relationships between both countries, it would be great to have at least one direct flight per week between Sofia and Casablanca, Tangier, Rabat, and Marrakech. With Royal Air Maroc and/or Bulgaria Air. Because as of today, it is a bit of a nightmare to travel from Bulgaria to Morocco.