Morocco unveiled on Tuesday a tourism development plan for the next 10 years to more than double its tourism receipts to $17 billion per year and turn tourism into its second largest sector after farming.
"This ambitious plan will turn Morocco into the 20th highest ranked tourism destination in the world," Tourism Minister Yassir Znagui told King Mohammed, government officials and business leaders gathered to launch the 2011-2020 tourism plan.
Morocco will invest more than $5 billion to expand tourism in eight regions on the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts and Sahara desert, including Dakhla in the disputed Western Sahara territory, according to the plan.
The country's main banks including Attijariwafabank and BMCE signed a deal with the government to fund tourism projects worth about 3$ billion dirhams over the 10 years.
The government also created a tourism fund of 15 billion and expects more foreign investment to flow into tourism, mainly from wealth sovereign funds in rich Arab countries like United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
It aims to build more hotels and tourism facilities to double accommodation capacity to 470,000 beds and create one million jobs.
"The plan will give hope and opportunities of a better life for the country's youth," said Znagui.
Mass unemployment, especially among youth, is the government's main concern.
Next month, Morocco will complete a 10-year tourism expansion plan that was aimed at doubling tourist arrivals to 10 million.
The government said it expects 9.3 million tourist arrivals this year, with tourism receipts expected to be around 60 billion dirhams, double their 2001 level.
Morocco seeks to diversify more of its economy away from agriculture by creating new sources of growth like tourism, financial services and the car industry.
Agriculture accounts for up to 17 percent of the country's gross domestic product. Output varies because of cyclical drought.