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Uncompetitive Moroccan Travel Industry

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image Editor's Opinion

For millions of people, the months of April through June are travel planning period. In particular for the diasporas that is looking to go back home to North Africa during the summer season, but also for foreign tourists as well. This latter category is a critical target for the Moroccan tourism industry, which is apparently finding difficulties offering competitive prices in a highly budget-sensitive period.

Every indicators that I saw, from all-inclusive packages, to basic airfares, indicate that Morocco tends to price much higher than its competitors. At the very basic level, a flight from New York to Casablanca August 1 to August 8 fetches lower prices with Delta Airlines ($1,263 nonstop, $1,200 one stop), Northwest Airlines at $1,226 with one stop, and then Royal Air Maroc starting $1,271. It is clear that the Delta’s direct nonstop uses code share with RAM, so it comes to me as a surprise that RAM’s has higher than everyone else.

As we are looking to bring a reporter from Algiers to New York for the month of May, the prices we found ranged from the low of $950 with Lufthansa via Frankfurt and a massive $2,000 with Royal Air Maroc via Casablanca, the most expansive option. In tight money periods, you can conclude who won the business!

One would argue that the US destination should come at premium for the Moroccan carrier, and may be forgiven for having slightly higher prices. But Royal Air Maroc pricing discrepancy is valid across all its destinations and not just North America. August 1 to 10 round-trip from Paris to Casablanca is priced today by Royal Air Maroc at $698. Air France charges $437, a $261 difference, which is very substantial for millions of immigrants. This could be opportunities potentially lost for the Moroccan carrier at a time when the country needs every dollar it can generate.

Airfares are not the only data points that make me think Morocco remains a highly expensive destination as a whole. An October 2008 issue of Budget Travel magazine featured a “40 Best Deals” article, which listed some of the best priced vacation packages. In glancing through the list of destinations, I was excited to see that Morocco was prominently displayed. But my excitement faded away very quickly when looking the details. Deals ranged from a low Cancun, Mexico 3-nights, all-inclusive at $388, to an average priced six-night in Rio de Janeiro at $1,299, to the most expansive 15-night India tour, with flight, lodging and meals at $4,095. The stunning feature on Morocco is that the destination competed with the highest cost India, with Morocco’s 13 day tour costing $4,070, but excludes “fuel surcharge” estimated at $285. So in essence, of the 40 deals picked by Budget Travel magazine, Morocco was the most expansive at $4,355.

Morocco is not on the other side of the world and with its infrastructure, it is astonishing that it still cannot find the right price points to stimulate its tourism industry, at a time when travelers globally are looking for best deals. I expect when Marrakesh, Fes and other key Moroccan destinations release their tourism data, they will realize that Tunisia, Greece, Egypt and other destinations have won the price war.

Comments (20 posted):

Elmahdi Oummih on 19 April, 2009 08:35:29
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RAM is the worst airline I have ever dealt with in my life. Their Stewards are impolite, their airfare is always at least 25% more than any other airline and their flights are always late.

As if that were not bad enough, the last time I flew on RAM, cabin staff stole my digital camera, yes stole my camera. I was the last person off the plane and remembered I had left my camera on the plane. I notified security who claimed they searched my seat and found nothing. They then refused to take a claim for the loss.

One person sent me to another who then in turn told me the person responsible was not available. There is no accountability with RAM. The company is run so inefficiently, it offends me that our Countries name is attached to such an incompetently run Criminal organization.

They are criminal in that they allow criminals to practice nepotism in hiring and hold nobody accountable, no matter how bad a job they do.

Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of flying on RAM knows what I am talking about, the airline crew are condescending and the company does nothing about it.

It is time to privatize RAM and bring in competition.
bbmee on 20 April, 2009 04:40:15
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Totally bias article, i just dont know where this guy came with these numbers from?? comparing airfare from August to May?? Obviously he s holding a grudge against this country...
Christine on 21 April, 2009 04:55:42
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I agree -- summer travel between Morocco and the U.S. is over priced. Outside of peak summer travel, tickets are reasonable on Iberia, Lufthansa and Air France. In anticipation of summer travel from Casablanca to the US, I've been pricing various airlines for the past month. So far Air France has the cheapest, at just under $1000. Royal Air Maroc always has notoriously higher prices. They can afford to charge more, as they're the only carrier with a direct flight from Casa to the States. But...I did get last minute tickets two years ago for summer travel on Royal Air Maroc for only $400 RT. Can't afford to wait and hope this time around.
elmahdi oummih on 23 April, 2009 07:04:01
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Getting rid of RAM is the most patriotic thing any good fearing Moroccan can do. They sully our Countries good name by showing our most nepotistic, unaccountable, rudest side to the outside world.

Morocco's tourism industry is floundering because we are uncompetitive on a global scale. Morocco's name should not be attached to this airline. My experience with RAM was just the tip of the iceberg. Grab any 10 people who have had the misfortune of dealing with RAM, and I guarantee at least 5 have similar horror stories.

I am not saying that all RAM staff are criminals. There are some really great people who work for the organization, but they have no real incentive to work harder... they see all of the really posh positions being given to the son of somebody who knows somebody...

Change needs to start now.
Yassine on 25 April, 2009 05:15:47
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I grew up with RAM, as my father was one of the first Moroccan pilots in the company. Over the past 4 years, I've been traveling an average of twice a month between Marrakesh an Europe. Naturally, I was flying with RAM (got their so called "Gold" Safar Flyer cards which looks nice but does not help much ...). I can confirm the sad decline.
I'm not going to point out here the long list of my misfortunes with them, but it seems that everything is made to bring the company down. We all know that Moroccan people are able to do very well when they want to ... including killing a company. For some reason, I think that it's what is happening now. Having said that, it doesn't mean that this applies to the whole Moroccan Travel Industry. Planes are still full of passengers (even with high airfares), and anybody that has been to Marrakesh lately will confirm that tourists are still coming. Sounds like a paradox, but it's as if even with the many imperfections they encounter in Morocco, tourists are overall happy with their trip. Hope the magic will still work and give us time to improve!
Elmahdi Oummih on 29 April, 2009 06:18:56
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I am now in the process of trying to book a round trip flight or boat trip from Morocco to New York. I would rather swim than take RAM. I figured out the cheapest way to get there is to take JET4U or one of the discount airlines to Europe, hop onto the eurorail and then take a flight from somewhere in Europe to NYC. It is sad that I have to resort to a longer more inconvenient trip than putting one single centime into the hands of a company that does not hold its criminal and incompetent employees accountable.

The RAM flights are horrible and it is just a matter of time before everyone wakes up to the European option. If you need to get to Canada or the US, the cheapest way to do it is to take a flight on a discount airliner to a European city and then take a real airline to Canada or the US. If you are not a US/Canadian citizen, it is not a problem, transit visas are very easy to get and even when you add all the costs, you are still saving about 40% off RAM. The cool thing is that you get to take a plane where the hostesses are polite, the plane is ontime, and the crew will not steal your carry on items.

It is time for all Moroccans to band together to Boycott RAM.
Colin Kilkelly on 01 May, 2009 08:24:46
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In a recent interview the Minister of Tourism emphasised to me that Morocco was promoting itself as a 5 star haute de gamme tourism destination and building luxury hotels and resorts. RAM's pricing policy perhaps reflects this. He also complained about the lack of direct flights from London to Marrakech and said that since the demise of GB Airways there was no quality airline flying from the UK.
Elmahdi oummih on 04 May, 2009 06:22:07
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Being a 5 star haute de gamme tourism destination requires alot more than charging an arm and a leg. It requires providing high quality service. RAM does not, by any stretch of the imagination offer even average quality service. If it were only RAM that was deficient in the quality of their services, I could understand the Tourism ministers unsubstantiated boasts.However, this is simply not the case.

When you visit hotels in Morocco and want to make reservation for meeting halls, or multiple rooms, you can almost count on getting ripped off. Instead of getting lower prices or better service, you end up getting higher prices and worse service. As if that wasn't bad enough, finding the actual manager of a hotel is nigh impossible. If you go on a saturday or Sunday you can forget about actually even finding someone in charge who can even give you a price. Trying to get an online responce is just as unlikely, you can send an email and hope you get a response, and if you do eventually get a response, you can count on the price quote being significantly higher than what you would recieve by walking into the hotel and reserving a single room.

You might think that I have just had poor experiences with Moroccan Hotels and RAM, but I have had extensive dealings with both. I have rented out over 100 hotel rooms in Morocco in the past 3 years in Morocco for various functions and have decided I will no longer rent out hotel rooms for my functions. I will simply rent Meeting halls at Quasi/Govt. halls, have caterers provide Lunch and Dinner and in the process cut costs by over 50% and improve quality and improve something the Minister of Tourism does not seem to factor in when talking about 5 star service, ACCOUNTABILITY.

Morocco is a beautiful country that boasts the most hospitable people on the planet; it is very unfortunate that those in charge of getting people to come experience this wonderful country have no concept of how their utter failure in these positions of responsibility so will so incredibly adversely affect an economy which is already struggling with Textile and Phosphate industries that are seeing all time drops in productivity. This is to say nothing of the dire affect the drop in Moroccan Moroccan remittances will have upon the national economy.

Increaing flights from GB to Morocco will have a negligible impact upon Morocco's tourism trade, which in the long run may be a good thing, as Morocco's tourism industry continues to collapse, Morocco may finally come to realize that the only way to have a stable economy is to morph itself into a services oriented economy that exports finished products instead of bad tourism services, sardines and oranges.
on 04 May, 2009 05:45:37
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I have just booked with Royal Air Maroc for the first time and while reading all this makes me think about cancelling that flight.
mhd on 11 May, 2009 04:55:34
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ive also just booked with them. They were the cheapest direct flight from the uk to casablanca.

Thing is, people generally seem to comment when they have problems, but never when they are happy.

Can't comment on their service cause it'll be the first time I am going there. I'm not really bothered about how polite the steward is, thats minor. I care about getting there safely and enjoying the destination!
Elmahdi oummih on 12 May, 2009 04:31:08
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You are right, people generally comment on airline when they have had problems with it. If you choose to ignore the postings on this site and a myriad of sites throughout the internet that clearly demonstrate how lousy RAM is compared to other airlines, then you are being an UNeducated consumer.

The fact that you believe that RAM is the cheapest direct flight is proof positive of this delusion. THere are much cheaper flights through other airlines than RAM. Any moron can find a cheaper flight than those offered by RAM or Air Arabia.

Since you do not care about how rude the steward will be, and only care about getting there safely.. I hope you eventually get to your destination.

However, I am convinced that you will probably be treated fine if you are white, and unless if your baggage is lost and your flight delayed by 6 hours, you will probably consider your flight a success.
Arezki Daoud on 13 May, 2009 11:14:55
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Friends,

I suspect this is symptomatic of airlines in monopolistic state, though even in competitive routes such as Southern Europe, RAM prices at premium. Similarily, I noticed Air France, for example, selecting to be a premium price carrier, and that is generally counter intuitive in a typical competitive environment. Now either they don't get, or they are total geniuses. We will invite an airline economist to provide insights, but I am curious to hear from anyone of you who may have an idea on the economic reasoning. We will also reach out to RAM, though I am not sure they will respond.

Regards,
Arezki Daoud
mhd on 14 May, 2009 01:10:16
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What a childish reply. What a lack of comprehension.

Firstly, I would be glad to hear from 'any moron' with a cheaper direct flight from London to Casablanca than RAM.

Secondly, the politeness of the steward is not a vital issue to me. That's not to say I would accept rudeness.

It begs the question, just how much interaction with the stewards do you have and want?

I think you should leave the race card in your back pocket for another time.
Madame Monet in Marrakesh on 14 May, 2009 12:15:59
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The ONLY reason for flying on RAM to and from Morocco is that you get the U.S. baggage allowance on flights directly to and from the United States. Flights through European destinations have much lower baggage allowances.

We travel to back to America with empty suitcases and the clothes on our backs, and come back completely full.
Elmahdi oummih on 15 May, 2009 07:33:27
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If anyone flys RAM this summer, they will immediately regret their choice. I am just telling you that you will have bad service. You will overpay. Even if you are able to carry more luggage back with you to the United States, you have to take into consideration the fact that you will be spending more money on the flight, probably getting there late, and very possibly having some of your carry on items stolen by the airline staff.

Race is an issue. If you are white, you get treated better than brown skinned or black people on RAM. My only reasoning for their racist attitudes is that it is something learned by their own heirarchy. Moroccans come in all shapes, colors and sizes. There are Moroccans who are as dark as African Americans, the average skin shade is what you would see in the Dominican Republic, yet all of the stewardesses are very light skinned. Coincidence or company enforced racism.

Do not take my word for it. Travel in Morocco and you will find that about 30% of the population is relatively dark skinned, yet you will never find even ONE Dark skinned flight attendant, or even a dark skinned employee for that matter.

I am only giving friendly warnings of advice about steering clear of RAM. You are an adult, hopefully... Take RAM and find out how bad they are for yourself.
kalid moussaoui on 31 May, 2009 09:46:58
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I have been traveling back and forth from the US to Morocco for the past 25 years.
They are obnoxious, overpriced, inconsiderate. In one word, they take our business for granted. Last year I sent my daughter back home to visit her grand parents. I paid their partner Delta Airlines for child accompaniment both ways. On the way there, the Delta staff took charge of her in Orlando and delivered her to RAM at JFK.
Upon the return, the RAM staff at Mohammed V Airport decided not to honor the child accompaniment,because, the child was 12 and Delta Airlines standard was different from theirs. Only there were few issues at hand:
- The service was prepaid and it was a legal contract binding all parties involved.
- The child had to return home on that date.
Without any sense of decency or regards for the prepaid service, they refused to escort her through customs and deliver to Delta for her connecting flight. They were simply unloading her at JFK without any care of what could happen to her upon her arrival in NY.
Lucky enough, my folks found a Moroccan family that was flying to Orlando and were gracious enough to take the child under their wing during the transit.
The flight was late arriving to JFK, the good Muslim family took her to a hotel with them overnight.
RAM were heartless, in breach of contract,had no consideration whatsoever for the safety of the child, the worry of her family.We spent over 24 hours on pins and needles on the phone with clerks that could not care less.
We alerted the local media and had the news and camera crews of ABC and NBC affiliates waiting at Orlando airport. That gave a bad press to RAM even with audiences that never heard of it, confirming a third world reputation.
Delta Airlines was very apologetic, but rightfully blamed RAM for the gross mishandling.
Yes Sir, they are despicable people, I have been transiting by so many European cities just to avoid RAM.
Moroccan patriot on 11 July, 2009 09:02:35
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People ask why Morocco is losing revenue from its tourism sector? RAM.

RAM is helping Morocco hemorage tourism dollars. How is it that Air France is actually cheaper than RAM to get to destinations all over the world, departing from MOROCCO!!!!

Don't take my word for it, go and check right now. When you factor in the rudeness of the stewardesses and the unprofessionalism of the Pilots and the pathetic leadership skills of the RAM corporate office... flying with anyone but RAM becomes a no brainer.
Yes we can do better on 30 July, 2009 07:17:01
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I unfortunately have to agree with the article. I prefer not to fly with RAM too, and I haven't for a while for the obvious reasons already cited. But I don't think RAM is the only problem. In fact, being a government sponsored company I don't really expect it to be competitive. I am more puzzled by the rest of the industry that seems to be living in La La Land. Besides the discounts, where is the advertising. I've lived in the US for 18 years and I have yet to hear or see one advertisement promoting tourism in Morocco. I want to give the government in Morocco some credit for the work done on the infrastructure, i.e the highway; I really liked driving all the way from Spain to Agadir in one day. I know it can be done; come on Morocco. The government definitely has to lay some rules down if the market forces are not good enough.

Here is a funny thing my brother, a Chef in one of the hotels in Agadir, told me. He said that Tunisian hotels buy bottled/mineral water from Morocco and they provide it for free for their customers. Good luck getting the same bottled water for free in the hotels in Morocco.
VW on 29 January, 2010 01:34:35
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I have given up on flying RAM, 1)they are thieves 2)The service is horrible. I would rather fly Air France for more money and know my things will not be rifled through in Morocco. They make you stay 9 hours while they look in your luggage on a connecting to other parts of Africa. I had many items stolen from my luggage and RAM did nothing about this. They are criminals. I wish more people knew this and would boycott them.
Samir on 30 September, 2010 09:44:27
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All commments posted about RAM are not all false. There is a lot of truth in what was said in all the previous comments. I have been in the US for more than 14 years. When I travel to Morocco I used to fly RAM all the time. But now, I question myself and finally fly to Europe first to end up in morocco. Reasons: Well first of all, thjey still used on of those old Boing 767 ( I am an airplane expert) or sometime an old 747-400...almost obscolete. Time to renew long haul planes beside their 737-800. THe staff is OK anc can do much much much better. So now I fly Air France and sometime pay 200 dol extra. And guess what?! I dont care paying extra for better confort and travelling in dignity. Shame for RAM and so sad for a company that used to be a role model. time to privatize the cie 100%. Hope they wake up. time to clean up Mr. the CEO. (who might be so corrupted himself anyway:)

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