Why should Australia, Hawaii, California and Bali have all the hang-ten fun? Moroccan authorities are bullish on surf tourism significantly boosting visitor numbers, but they need to provide more financial aid to small surf camps that feel left behind to make that a reality.
Morocco, one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations, is eager to showcase one of its biggest and unlikely attractions — killer waves.
The North African country is one of dozens of destinations worldwide leveraging the sport’s booming popularity to lure travelers to its popular surfing destinations, especially Taghazout and Agadir. Morocco has hosted dozens of major surfing events in recent years, including the Rip Curl Pro Search Taghazout Bay in February.
Morocco’s push to make greater inroads in the global surfing tourism market — projected to be worth $3.1 billion in 2026 — is part of its Vision 2020 plan to boost tourism. The country is already poised to get a visitor boost this summer from 35 new routes connecting eight Moroccan cities to overseas destinations. One of them is Essaouira, another prominent Moroccan surfing location that Ireland-based budget carrier Ryanair is serving from London. Meanwhile, Agadir is in particular likely to see a surge in visitors as UK-based low-cost carrier EasyJet is connecting Glasgow to the city this summer.
And hotel giant Hilton believes it’s in prime position to take advantage of those travelers flying into Agadir to surf, having opened its Taghazout Bay Beach Resort & Spa last October. The property, located a little more than two miles from Taghazout and eight from Agadir, offers customized surfing trips to its guests.
“Taghazout is (considered) the capital of surfing …. and being here adds value for surf clients,” said Gary Steffen, Hilton’s global category head for its full-service brands, about the city considered one of the world’s most prominent surfing locations.
However, some executives at local surf camps believe the Ministry of Tourism is still not giving them enough support.
“Sadly, the Ministry of Tourism is supporting Marrakech more and not Agadir or surf camps,” said Ismail Rady, co-founder of the Tamraght-based Desert Surf Camp, adding that he believes the government provides more aid to five-star hotels. “We don’t have support from (tourism authorities) … and they want to make it harder for small businesses like surf camps to thrive.”
“The government in general tries to boost small businesses but not surfers. A lot of surfers (want) to open surf shops but find it difficult to obtain licenses. It’s very hard for young entrepreneurs.”
But Shiraz Ksaiba, co-owner of the Taghazout-based Amayour Surf and Yoga Camp, sees no issue with major hotels being involved in surf tourism. She believes that they are catering to different types of travelers and helping attract more tourists to Morocco.
“This increases the number of surfers in the region and benefits the surfing shops. It also helps the local trade,” she notes.
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Photo credit: A group of surfers in Morocco Paul Bence / Flickr