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Morocco in $1.8 bln building deal with Arab group

By on January 31, 2009

Morocco initiated on Friday a deal with an Arab consortium to build a leisure complex at the cost of $1.8 billion, the country’s state news agency MAP said, quoting the tourism minister.

MAP named the consortium partners who signed the letter of intent to set up the project at the Atlantic city of Essaouira as Itmar Development Abu Dhabi Investment and Bahrain-based Islamic investment bank Gulf Finance House.

The initial accord was signed on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, added MAP, quoting Tourism Minister Mohamed Boussaid as saying: “The importance of this project strengthens Morocco’s investment attractiveness in the tourism business.”

The planned project would involve building a resort of healthcare and leisure facilities over 270 hectares in Essaouira, one of Morocco’s main coastal tourism sites, MAP added.

The tourism sector is Morocco’s primary foreign currency earner and main employer after labor-intensive agriculture and the textile industry.
It is also the country’s main attraction for foreign investment, with high-profile real estate and tourism projects financed by Arab Gulf investors worth some $20 billion.

Analysts and people in the tourism industry fear that a slowdown in tourism caused by economic recession in Europe and elsewhere might derail Morocco’s ambition to develop its tourism industry.

The government hopes to increase the number of tourists visiting Morocco to 10 million in 2010 from 8 million last year.

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