Stephanie Ackland’s Morocco MICE tour takes us to Tangier
The North African city of Tangier is enjoying a resurgence. Situated at the northern tip of Morocco and Africa, it lies 20 miles (32.1km) from Spain and is raising its business profile and MICE offering.
Tangier is a melting pot of cultures, but with a firm focus on business. In recent years the city has received much investment. The creation of a Free Zone has brought economic activity and jobs to the region and the adjacent MedPort Tangier is now the largest container port in Africa, carrying more than 8m containers and 7m passengers per year.
The city has also has a burgeoning automotive industry, with Renault’s $US2.25bn investment leading the way. Plans are afoot for the launch of Tangier Tech City, an initiative that will create 100,000 jobs, 90% of them local, in automotive, aerospace, manufacturing and textiles.
Economic progress aside, it is important to appreciate where Tangier has been. There is a subtle difference between Tangier and other Moroccan cities. The city has a strong Spanish influence which is reflected in the architecture and cuisine. Many of the locals speak Spanish as a second language, as opposed to the French widely spoken in other areas of Morocco.
The Moroccan charm, welcome and culture are present, but it’s the international feel that sets it apart.
The Golden Years
A former International Zone, Tangier has attracted people from around the world. During its golden years, it was home to many ofthe world’s most creative thinkers, artists and billionaires, attracted by the openness and glamour of the city. Notable characters include the writers Tennessee Williams and Cecil Beaton and US publishing tycoon Malcolm Forbes. Tangier still enjoys a vibrant arts scene, with painters, film-makers and writers choosing to make it their home.
The city is very accessible by foot; the Old Medina is small compared to other cities. It is possible to walk along the coast, from the new town to the Old Medina in 20 minutes. The city has a milder climate than most Moroccan cities, making it comfortable for business throughout the year. Tangier Ibn Battouta Airport lies nine miles (14.5km) southwest of the city, serving many European destinations, with good internal connections from the country’s main international airport, Casablanca’s Mohammed V.
Tangier offers 40 hotels across the city with 3,000 beds. The city is divided into three main areas. The new properties are nestled together in the new city, or leisure and business district, which is adjacent to the train station and close to the beach. Recent additions include the Hilton Hotel and Residences with 180 guest rooms and suites. For conferences, the venue can accommodate 200 and boasts panoramic views, an atrium and roof-top pool. Its sister property, the Hilton Garden Inn, adjacent, has 320 guest rooms and three meeting spaces accommodating up to 260 delegates.
The Royal Tulip 5-star hotel has 218 luxury rooms and suites and a 1,200- capacity convention centre. The hotel stages many of the city’s large events.
A short drive down the coast is the area of Malabata, where the 240-room Mövenpick is situated. Overlooking the Bay of Tangier, the hotel boasts a grand ballroom, four boardrooms and a casino. Directly next door is the Grand Mogador, with outdoor terrace and dedicated conference centre. The area is also home to the Farah Hotel Tangier, with 140 guest rooms, eight meeting rooms and theatre capacity of 500.
Driving back into town is the Kenzi Solazur, part of the Moroccan Kenzi Hotels group. Facing the Mediterranean Sea, the hotel has 348 rooms over seven floors. The conference centre has seven meeting rooms, a sea view, and is able to accommodate 800 delegates. It also has high-speed Wi-Fi and a banquet hall.
Considered one of the most prestigious hotels in North Africa, its fountains, orange trees and old world charm will take you directly into the mysterious delights of Morocco. A favourite of celebrities over the years, the property has a good choice of restaurants, a piano bar and 140 rooms, including 17 suites. Hotel Villa de France, its sister hotel, is a colonial property on the hill. Matisse painted some of his works at the hotel which has a roof terrace ideal for events with views of the Mediterranean. For small VIP meetings, Villa Josephine is a tasteful boutique hotel with 10 rooms and panoramic views of the city and bay.
Dining for all tastes
Another feature of Tangier is the cuisine. Good Spanish food is readily available. The city’s cosmopolitan history means French and Mediterranean food is well catered for, and not forgetting Moroccan cuisine. Restaurants for business groups include Nord Pinus, El Tangerino, Restaurant O’Saveur and El Morocco Club. To experience old world Tangier, go to El Hafa along the cliffs. It is an institution where you can sip on Moroccan tea and admire the view.
The Medina or Old Town of Tangier is set on a hill and is crowned by the Kasbah. Its winding streets are filled with souks, shops, cafés and restaurants leading from the Petit Socco at the foot of the Medina to the Grande Socco. For delegates looking for a cultural element, the Forbes Museum, Museum of Moroccan Arts and American Legation Museum offer noteworthy collections.
The nearby Caves of Hercules are significant. The region is surrounded by nature reserves and forests suitable for outdoor activities and delegates can enjoy whale and dolphin watching in season.
A bright future
Tangier continues to forge its new identity and, aside from new MICE venues, further plans include a full-scale exhibition park scheduled for 2020, the new TGV line to link Tangier to Casablanca in just over two hours and Tanja Marina Bay, the new multi-use marina and port in the centre of the city, and one of Africa’s biggest projects.
“Tangier is ideal for business tourism. It is Morocco’s second economic city. The city offers a multitude of high end hotels and conference centres for all kinds of budgets and events. There are a selection of golf clubs, including the oldest in Africa, many restaurants, an animated nightlife, and nature sites, rounding up the region’s status as a destination for both business and leisure tourism,” says Ghali Kabbaj from Kenzi Hotels.
A city of contrasts, Tangier is the meeting of two continents, two cultures, two seas and now an attractive meeting destination.
Click here to read the feature in the issue 94 of CMW