Algeria aims to rival Morocco in tourism by 2030, but institutional challenges may hold sector back

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Algeria aims to rival Morocco in tourism by 2030, but institutional challenges may hold sector back

Algeria’s pushing hard to draw in tourists, as the Government set ambitious goals aiming to quadruple visitor numbers and hit 12 million by 2030. However, as the British online newspaper Metro showcased, they’ve still got a tough road ahead if they want to compete with Morocco in the tourism game.

The Republic welcomed around 3.3 million foreign tourists in 2023, with nearly half (1.2 million) being Algerians from the diaspora visiting their families.

In contrast, the Kingdom, despite being smaller and less wealthy, in their view, pulled in a whopping 14.5 million visitors during the same year.

This stark difference, as Metro pointed out, underscores the challenges Algeria faces in attracting tourists and its ambition to rival its neighbor.

Algeria, a country boasting gorgeous landscapes and rich culture, is often described as an undiscovered gem in the world of tourism. However, safety concerns linger due to past incidents, making it a destination that many travelers are still wary of visiting.

This lack of tourism, as Reuters pointed out, is testimony to the republic’s neglect of a sector” with untapped potential in the world tourism industry.

This wariness is further amplified by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)’s stark warning against travel to certain border regions due to the high risk of terrorism and kidnapping. 

While Algeria has undoubtedly made strides in security, the lingering perception of instability continues to deter some tourists.

The primary terrorist threats come from groups like Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other regional Islamist organizations, including Al Murabitun and Daesh affiliates, as mentioned on FDCO’s website. 

These groups, along with individuals inspired by Daesh, have been active across the country, posing risks even in major cities like Algiers, the same source added.

Recent significant attacks in Algeria include:

  • The killing of a soldier by an IED in Tlemcen Province in 2021, the deaths of two soldiers by an IED in Ain Defla Province in 2021, and the killing of two soldiers in Tipasa Province in 2021. 
  • In 2020, a soldier was killed in an ambush in Ain Defla, with AQIM claiming responsibility, and another soldier was killed in a suicide attack in Timeaouine, near the Malian border, claimed by Daesh. 
  • In 2019, two alleged IS members were killed by the Algerian army in Tamanrasset, with Daesh reporting the incident as an attack that killed eight security force members.

Indiscriminate attacks are rare, added the same source, but in 2021, IED explosions injured three civilians in Tebessa and Batna, and a roadside bomb killed five citizens in Telidjane, Tebessa Province. Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the landmines but denied targeting civilians.

These past incidents of terrorism and kidnapping have only served to exacerbate safety concerns for tourists in Algeria.

This unfortunate reality casts a shadow over Algeria’s potential as an undiscovered gem, a legacy stemming in part from the civil unrest and terrorism of the 1990s.

Compounding security concerns, researchers noted a cultural resistance towards certain types of tourism within parts of the Algerian population. 

This, coupled with ongoing issues of petty crime like theft and assault, created a significant barrier to tourism development. 

The lack of a secure environment for visitors, both in terms of personal safety and property protection, understandably deterred tourists from visiting.

Despite the challenges, Algeria started recognizing the immense potential of its tourism industry. 

Saliha Nacerbay, General Director of the National Tourism Office, recently outlined ambitious plans to attract 12 million tourists by 2030 – a fourfold increase.

“To achieve this, we, as the tourism and traditional industry sector, are seeking to encourage investments, provide facilities to investors, build tourist and hotel facilities,” said Necerbay, speaking at the International Tourism and Travel Fair, hosted in Algiers from May 30 to June 2.

In addition, Algeria is ramping up its tourism infrastructure in a bid to attract more visitors. The tourism ministry has approved a significant number of projects, with around 2,000 in total and 800 hotels currently under construction. 

This includes the restoration and modernization of existing facilities. Also, the country is actively revitalizing its historical sites for tourism purposes. With 249 locations earmarked for expansion, 70 sites are already prepared and restoration plans are underway for another 50. 

These efforts aim to showcase the true potential of Algeria’s tourism sector, fostering a more welcoming image for international visitors.