Moroccans find Kounouz Biladi hotel deals elusive
By Hassan Benmehdi for Magharebia in Casablanca – 20/01/10
The Kounouz Biladi promotion, which offers discounts aimed at jump-starting Morocco's struggling domestic tourism sector, is drawing critical reviews from many hoteliers, their guests, and even industry officials.
According to Tourism Ministry data, the number of overnight stays in hotels dropped by 5.1% in 2009, in comparison with numbers from 2008. Occupancy rates in hotels dropped from 46% to 42% during the same period.
Meanwhile, many Moroccans are disappointed by what they claim is the Kounouz Biladi campaign's false advertising of hotel rates.
"For a five-star hotel in Fes, the rate shown on the website is 988 dirhams for a double room," Fatima Attouzani, a bank clerk in Casablanca, told Magharebia on January 15th. "But when I called to book a weekend for the family, they told me that the rate is 1,380 dirhams a night, plus 40 dirhams for the tourist tax, making it a total of 1,420 dirhams."
Other Moroccan families reported similar experiences. One father who tried to obtain discount prices at a five-star hotel in Ouarzazate called the Kounouz Biladi deal "expensive" and no different from normal hotel rates.
"The switchboard operator at the hotel offered me a rate of 2,300 dirhams for a double room, and then there would have to be a further charge of 150 dirhams for breakfast and 80 dirhams for the tourist tax, and finally 1,600 dirhams for the New Year's gala dinner," he told Magharebia. "And yet the rate shown on the Kounouz Biladi site is around 980 dirhams for this same five-star hotel in Ouarzazate."
Casablanca car salesman Mahmoud Ibrahim said he thought that Kounouz Biladi did not exist, citing his own experience with wildly different rates advertised in the package and actual rates offered by the hotel.
Unable to find affordable rates in their home country, many Moroccans are lured by the promise of cheaper holiday packages abroad.
"For example, a five-day stay in Turkey, Spain, Egypt or even Portugal, including the flight and hotel, costs between 7,000 dirhams and 10,000 dirhams," said one employee of a Casablanca travel agency.
Even the head of the National Federation of Tourism, Othman Cherif Alami, acknowledged that discounts offered by the Kounouz Biladi promotion were not being faithfully applied by hotels.
"Few hotels have played by the rules," Alami told Magharebia on January 14th in Marrakech, where he was attending the federation's annual congress. He said that only 23% of Morocco's 240 hotels had applied the discount.
A manager at a five-star Marrakech hotel, who did not give his name, said it did not pay for hotels to apply the discount because they view it as a "gamble".
"It's true that many in the profession seem not to have been won over by Kounouz Biladi, for the simple reason that there's no profit in it," the manager told Magharebia on January 14th on the sidelines of the federation event.
But the federation's vice-president, Ali Ghennam, said the Kounouz Biladi promotion still had value.
"First of all, Kounouz Biladi has helped to make Moroccans aware of the educational and cultural value of travel and leisure," Ghennam told Magharebia.
"Secondly, the Kounouz Biladi offer has enabled domestic tourists to move into second place after French tourists. In my opinion, it's a positive sign for Kounouz Biladi, which is expected to overcome the various obstacles encountered up until now," he added.
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