Building a strong hub in Morocco
ABELHAMID ADDOU, the new Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Royal Air Maroc, has taken over the helm of the Moroccan national flag-carrier from Driss Benhima at a critical juncture for the airline. The Kingdom of Morocco’s geographical location in North Africa enables it to act as a strategic bridge between Africa and Europe, and even North America.
In the past, it has often seemed as if Morocco has enjoyed closer ties – economic, political, cultural and aviation – with Europe than with the rest of Africa. This was evidenced by the admission of Morocco into the European Common Aviation Area in 2006. The agreement with the European Union envisaged a seamless integration of the Moroccan air transport market into the single European market. Coupled with this, Morocco is the most prominent African country that is not a member of the African Union (AU).
It should be stated clearly that Morocco’s close ties to Europe are important and valuable and should not be undermined. However, one unintended consequence of the ‘Arab Spring’ has been a sharp reduction in European tourists to North Africa. This has adversely impacted North African airlines, including Royal Air Maroc. Furthermore, the benefits of membership of the European Common Aviation Area have been offset by the influx of low-cost carriers from Europe into Morocco which are now competing fiercely with Royal Air Maroc for business; hence our contention that building bridges – and air links – with the rest of Africa will enable Morocco to tap into a burgeoning market with huge potential in numerous business sectors. Royal Air Maroc could be in the vanguard of this bold African initiative.
Creditably, the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, has led by example, and has embarked on a mission to strengthen and deepen ties with other African countries. Francophone Africa has been a natural starting point. Royal Air Maroc, too, in recent years, has begun to grow its route network within Africa. But much more can be achieved. Casablanca is becoming an increasingly important airport hub in Africa and seems set to expand in the years ahead. Royal Air Maroc is the incumbent airline in Casablanca and has a unique opportunity to leverage this position. To do so, and to optimally develop its hub, membership of one of the three global airline alliances is essential. Undoubtedly, selecting the right global alliance partner will be one of the most important decisions Abdelhamid Addou will make as Chairman and CEO of Royal Air Maroc. We wish him and RAM every success.