• Algeria reconnects with tourist ambitions
  • Algeria reconnects with tourist ambitions

Algeria reconnects with tourist ambitions

Is Algeria going to reconnect with tourism? In any case, this is the authorities’ desire as they have increased, in recent months, announcements to develop the sector.

By Zahra Rahmouni from Algiers

Algeria attracted 2.7 million summer visitors last year, most of whom were members of the Diaspora. This was insignificant compared to the more than 10 million tourists welcomed each year by South Africa, first tourist destination in the continent. But the Algerian authorities have new ambitions: double the current number of visitors by 2027, 4.4 million tourists targeted more exactly. To do this, a strategy to promote the destination Algeria in international markets and for better support for domestic tourists has been developed and was presented at the International Tourism Fair (SIAHA) held in Oran on February 22 – 25.

Make Oran and its surroundings, “an essential Mediterranean metropolis”

Hassan Mermouri, Algerian Minister of Tourism, also had the opportunity to recall that 170 tourism projects have been validated for a capacity of 26,000 beds and 10,000 jobs created in the wilaya of Oran. More than half of these projects are nearing completion and are expected to be available in the next two years. This new infrastructure should make Oran and its surroundings, “an essential Mediterranean metropolis”, said the leader of the sector.

Lies Senouci, the national secretary general and communications officer of the National Union of Travel Agencies (SNAV), said that many projects have already been implemented and others are being implemented. “600 projects are registered at the Ministry of Tourism, such as resorts and seaside resorts, in the south and north, as well as urban hotels,” he said. The Algiers hotel park benefits from this policy with nearly 60 tourist projects expected for the year 2019, i.e. 12,000 additional beds and 9,000 jobs.

Aware of the interest, at least in terms of business tourism, the Algerian capital attracts many Algerian visitors and professionals from abroad for business. Moreover, many high-end hotels have been built in the capital but also in other major cities of the country to meet the demand related to this type of tourism. In January 2018, Holiday Inn, an American hotel group, settled in Algeria with the opening of a first hotel in Algiers. As for the Marriott International group, it now has seven hotels in the country, including Constantine since 2015 and Annaba with a Sheraton inaugurated just one year ago. Finally, the French hotel group Accor Hotels, established since 1992, employs 1400 people and is planning to expand investments in the capital. 

Algeria, a destination that makes the buzz

The foreigners, especially French nationals, first rediscover Algeria through their television screens. In April 2015, the Thalassa show, broadcast on the channel France 3, gave the La by devoting a special issue to the Algerian coast. In June 2015, France Télévisions confirmed with a documentary by the photographer Yann Arthus Bertrand and Yazid Tizi, entitled Algeria from the sky. The French director said: “Algeria is probably the most spectacular country I have never photographed, and it is also the one whereby I was best welcomed”.

A year later in October 2016, France 5 devoted an episode of Echappées Belles to Algeria. The discovery show goes through several cities of the country to meet artists, artisans and cattery promoters. At any time, the audience records are at the rendezvous, doped by the viewers intrigued by an Algeria they know only through the image, often negative, conveyed by traditional newspapers. The French-Algerian television viewers, who have been harmed by the country, are not left behind and praise these programs by massively relaying them on social networks. Recently, the famous French tour operator “Traveler of the World” also gave pride of place to Algiers by proposing a stay to “discover one of the Mediterranean-trend capitals”.

The snowball effect is triggered and it is no longer uncommon to see foreign tourists wander the streets in the capital or in the major cities of the north. At least, the country is becoming a popular destination for bloggers who garner thousands of views after disseminating videos on the Youtube platform. Algerian TV news is even a pleasure to invite these foreigners on their plateaus to ask them about their lives or to stay in the country. 

Two major obstacles

“Today we participate in international fairs not to leave the chair of Algeria empty and we promote to a destination that ultimately does not really exist”, said Lies Senouci. Despite repeated requests to the authorities, the difficulties in obtaining a tourist visa to Algeria and the high cost of air tickets remain two important constraints for the development of receptive tourism in Algeria, said the professionals of the sector. Algerian professionals have noticed, during their participation in international shows, a growing interest from Europeans who are attracted by winter tourism in the far south of Algeria. “Until now we are not able to make contracts with these groups of tourists because there is a problem of visa and we cannot offer a tourist production which is excessive compared to the tourists’ budgets”, said indicates the Secretary General of SNAV, nevertheless. According to him, the destination Algeria is not competitive enough compared to offers in neighboring countries.

This is also the opinion of Hanna Benmerad, Director of Jumia Travel Algeria, according to which hotels are relatively expensive in Algeria. According to a study of the group among its customers, the quality of service is better in Tunisia, a destination where more than 2.5 million Algerian tourists visited in 2017, show the latest figures of the Tunisian Office of Tourism. “We are asking for the open sky and the introduction of low-cost companies that work at night so that airline tickets are at fair prices and allow for a competitive package”, said Lies Senouci.

Yet, sucurity measures have improved: “There have been fewer terrorist attacks here in Algeria compared to London where I live and France,” said Bastien, a 33-year-old French tourist who visited Oran, Tipaza and Algiers.

But, waiting for the rush to Algeria, the tourist agencies can rely on national youth, especially students, who rediscover their own country. And it’s a new trend. “With the internet, they realized they have a special south even if the price is a bit expensive compared to youth scholarships,” says a professional of the sector.

 Photo credits: Zahra Rahmouni 
  • The Roman Ruins of Tipaza;
  • The Bay of Algiers from the Basilica of Notre Dame d’Afrique

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