Skift Take

As prices start to rise across Europe, some hospitality brands are taking a keen interest in the nearby North African destination. It’s also a perfect stepping stone to expand deeper into the continent.

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Digital nomads may have been touring southern Europe’s cities over the past couple of years, but their next stop could well be North Africa, according to two specialist hospitality companies.

That’s because Europe’s getting expensive, and more affordable Morocco is just a short flight from a hotspot like Lisbon, in Portugal. Digital nomad-friendly brands Selina and Outsite are now banking on the country becoming the next big thing with aggressive expansion plans.

Outsite, a membership-based hospitality brand for traveling remote workers, is set to open its first riad — a traditional Moroccan townhouse — in Marrakech on Sept. 5.

“Morocco was high on a list of member surveys,” said Emmanuel Guisset, co-founder and CEO.
“It’s become a bit of a hub for nomads, because it’s very accessible, and it’s much cheaper than any country in Europe. It’s a super interesting country, and it’s just going to get more popular.”

The affordability factor extends to properties themselves, as some hotels struggled after the pandemic cut off the flow of international tourists. “On the supply side, there’s a lot of properties there that are recovering from Covid,” he added. “We have a beautiful riad; in 2019, it would have been much more difficult to take over that.”

Further ahead Outsite, which has 45 properties, will target more locations in the country, including Essaouira. At the same time it’s developing corporate packages after seeing success with some businesses already, including WordPress owner Automattic.

“Companies can hold offsites or retreats, or offer an Outsite membership and credit to attract and retain talent. That will be a big area for us,” he added.

It’s no coincidence Brad Handler, co-founder of luxury travel and experiences outfit Inspirato, has just joined Outsite’s board of directors. He brings “deep experience in both hospitality and membership-based business models,” the company said. Inspirato is also positioning its latest subscription product, Select, as a tactic companies can use to gain an edge when hiring.

Gateway to Africa

Selina sees plenty of potential in Morocco too, and in particular in its serene deserts.

“Morocco’s been on our radar pretty much since day one,” said Ariel Levinsohn, vice president of global brands and creative. “We’re looking at a very big portfolio for Morocco. We believe it’s a top destination for our audience, and tourism is going to explode there.”

Levinsohn said it tapped into its “experience board,” made up of local cultural leaders and tastemakers, and is mapping out an ambitious pipeline for the company.

Nomad Camp Agafay, a Bedouin-style tented site just 30 minuets from Marrakech, opened at the end of May. But it’s opening new locations in Dakhla in December and Essaouira in 2023, with Taghazout and Merzouga to follow.

“It’s a fast-paced expansion, comparing it to other places in Europe,” Levinsohn added.

Morocco is also a gateway to the rest of Africa for the brands. These openings for both Selina and Outsite mark their first steps on the continent. “We’re keeping our eyes on Cape Town in South Africa, and Kenya could be interesting, as it has a bit of a startup hub,” said Guisset

The openings and planned expansions will no doubt aid the tourism board’s latest narrative. Morocco wants to move away from cliches of bustling bazaars and handicrafts, and reposition the country as a modern and creative destination. “(The campaign) targets a younger, more affluent customer who might stay longer, explore more of the country and ultimately spend more. A customer who will return,” noted Intrepid Travel’s Zina Bencheikh.

And with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week downgrading Morocco’s Covid risk rating to level 2, the doors may just be about to open to many more remote workers in the months to come.

Sidenotes

Move over Miami, Singapore and Barcelona, because it’s in fact Edinburgh in Scotland that’s the most desired city for expats seeking to move abroad.

The highly unlikely suggestion comes from holiday rental search engine Holidu. Dublin in Ireland comes a close second, with Dubai, Barcelona and even London lagging behind in the top five. Holidu said it analyzed global search data for common phrases typically used when researching moving abroad. The list also factored in Euromonitor’s Top 100 City Destinations and Resonance’s World’s Best Cities lists, as well as data from Culture Trip.

But Scotland isn’t where the big hitters are really jetting off to, according to another compilation. For a dose of realism, consulting firm Nomad Capitalist has just released its Nomad Beach Index for 2022, which “reveals the world’s top 10 beach destinations for seven-figure nomad capitalists.”

They’re a lot more exotic, with the Cayman Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, Budva in Montenegro, the Bahamas, and Antigua and Barbuda making the top five.

The consultancy, which helps clients secure second passports and citizenships, said it aggregated data from 30 unique sources, ranking them on aspects such as taxes, immigration, safety, beauty and services.

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Tags: africa, corporate travel, digital nomads, Future of Work Briefing, morocco, selina, Skift Pro Columns

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