updated 11/10/2006 12:34:50 PM ET 2006-11-10T17:34:50

Hotel rooms are not being built fast enough for Morocco to meet its tourism growth targets, and the kingdom is introducing penalties for foreign developers who fall behind schedule, Morocco’s tourism minister said on Friday.

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Morocco’s government, under pressure to double job creation to 400,000 per year to prevent mass unemployment by 2025, aims to create 1.2 million direct and indirect jobs in tourism, the country’s biggest source of foreign currency.

Tourism Minister Adil Douiri said the number of tourists visiting the country was growing in line with expectations but hotel rooms were not being built fast enough to accommodate the 10 million tourists a year it aims to host by 2010.

“We are late in terms of opening of beds and capacity if we want to reach our objective of a global installed capacity of 230,000 beds in 2010,” Douiri, who was on a visit to Paris before travelling to the Middle East and India, told Reuters.

Roughly 10,000 extra beds were being put in place this year but that growth rate had to increase to 15,000-17,000 beds a year, he said.

“I am making a colossal effort, as is the government, to encourage private companies to accelerate the rate of construction of units,” he said.

The number of tourists visiting Morocco was on track to reach a target of 6.4 million in 2006, up from 5.8 million last year, Douiri said.

Penalties
The country of around 30 million is revamping infrastructure such as motorways and budget airlines easyJet and Ryanair have secured routes to Morocco, which Douiri said should bring 1.2 million people a year in four years’ time.

Several high-profile resorts are springing up across the country, including a golf and ski resort in the High Atlas mountains and a marina, leisure and hotel development in the economic capital, Casablanca.

But Douiri said projects “always take longer than we initially estimate,” which called for tougher measures.

“What we are trying to do is, first, to put delay penalties on investors,” he said, adding that it would be the government’s policy in future to introduce such clauses.

“The last seaside resort we signed at Taghazout, near Agadir, was granted to the American firm Colony Capital. It has very heavy penalties if it changes its mind or its planning. I cannot do more than that,” he said.

Colony Capital said in March it was planning to invest up to $1.1 billion over 10 years in the resort on the Atlantic coast.

The other measure aimed at boosting capacity was the creation of investment funds. The government and leading Moroccan banks said in June they would launch two investment funds worth around 5 billion dirhams ($577 million).

To increase the annual hotel room construction rate by 50 percent to 15,000 an extra 250 million euros ($322 million) a year of investments were needed, he said.  REUTERS

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