RABAT, Aug. 6 (Xinhua) -- After a slight growth last year amid security challenges, Morocco's key tourism sector sees a promising surge of tourists from around the globe.
In 2016, visitor arrivals barely raised by 1.5 percent from 2015 to stood at 10.3 million tourists, falling far short of the expected increase to reach an ambitious official target of 20 million per year by 2020.
According to data from the Moroccan Tourism Ministry, some 4.6 million tourists visited Morocco between January and June 2017, a 9 percent increase year on year.
Tourists from the United States grew by 27 percent, Germany by 12 percent, the Netherlands 8 percent, Spain 7 percent and France 5 percent, which represent growth in visitor numbers from key markets of Moroccan tourism.
The increase was also driven by the surge in Morocco's emerging tourist markets, especially China and Japan. China arrivals jumped by 565 percent, and Japanese visitors grew by 46 percent.
South Korean visitors also increased by 42 percent and Brazilian tourists by 41 percent.
The surge in Chinese visitors relates to Morocco's new visa-free travel policy for Chinese nationals, started on June 1 of 2016. The air connectivity is also improved between the two countries.
"Growth is expected to continue through 2017, with 100,000 Chinese tourists forecast to visit Morocco throughout the year, up from 42,000 in 2016," a recent report by the Oxford Business Group (OBG) said.
"A stable and secure political environment, combined with incentives and infrastructural development, has helped Morocco to create an attractive investment climate, resulting in a raft of new hotel projects," the report added.
Positive performance is also seen in various tourist destinations in the north African kingdom, many of which registered two digit growth. Visitors to Fez increased by 38 percent, Tangier by 29 percent and Marrakech by 19 percent.
Morocco expects tourist arrivals to grow by 6 percent in 2017. Official Tourism observatory director Said Mouhid said earlier the kingdom could reach a record of 11 million tourists by the end of this year.
However, the rise in the number of tourists have not translated into a parallel increase in revenues. At the end of June 2017, Morocco's tourism revenue totaled 2.77 billion U.S. dollars, a 0.7 percent decrease year on year, according to the Foreign Exchange Office's preliminary financial flow indicators for the first half of 2017.
Tourism remains a vital pillar of the Moroccan economy and the country's second biggest employer, after agriculture. The sector accounts for 10 percent of national income and, along with exports and remittances from Moroccans living abroad, it is one of the country's main sources of foreign currency.