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More advice on Algerian touristic policy More advice on Algerian touristic policy
by Joseph Gatt
2020-07-21 08:13:28
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Notes on boosting tourism in Algeria, in no particular order.

-Right now, the way I see it, this seems to be the mentality: you have the Algerian Tourism Office saying something like “we want one million tourists a year, so we will need 80,000 hotels rooms, and that's it.”

-Problem is, you have the Tourism Office building hotel rooms by the numbers. Hotels are often located in isolated areas. It's often one single hotel in a completely isolated area. Keep in mind that in a lot of horror movies the murder scenes take place at single hotels in isolated areas.

alger01_400_03-The hotels tend to have clean rooms and nice reception areas (but they are isolated and insular). For an isolated hotel to welcome guests, you would perhaps need the hotel to be more of a resort. That is to succeed, you would need spas and gyms and massage parlors and perhaps jet skiing and canoeing and biking and nice swimming pools and monitors for groups of children and what not. The hotels don't seem to have any of that. 

-Hotels in isolated areas. Roads that access them are bumpy, there are no stores or shopping malls or markets in sight. It's not clear whether the hotels want to welcome foreign families or Algerian descent families, or single, unmarried guests or young couples. Do you want Moroccans and Tunisians, perhaps Libyans, or do you want Spanish and French and German guests? All this needs to be defined.

-Training hotel staff. The big mistake most (all) hotels in Algeria make is they hire young trainees with zero experience. I would rather hire someone who worked at a bank or at a restaurant or at a store for several years, than hire staff with zero experience. Managing and working at a hotel can be “hell.” People come and book their rooms at all times (day and night), accidents and misunderstandings happen all the time, and you're often dealing with jetlagged, angry, exhausted customers who just rode the bus for 12 hours or the plane for 12 hours.

-No centralized planning, no centralized oversight. Economically speaking, there are two ways to go about tourism. Either you plan centrally, that is you take a map of Algeria, zoom in, draw the territories where all the tourism will take place, and develop those areas. Or you allow the free market to get to work that is you allow entrepreneurs to freely decide where to build their hotels and resorts and what to do with them, and the free market will do the trick.

-Right now, the way tourism is planned goes like this: you have independent entrepreneurs, cut off from the realities of tourism, who are told to build hotels to “meet the hotel room quota” without taking qualitative factors into account. Main qualitative factor: if a guest comes to my hotel and stays at my hotel, what the hell is he/she/they going to do all day?

-Tourists usually do three (four) things: they eat, they shop, they have fun (and they sleep). Those tourists who want expensive food usually want to quality that goes with it. Same goes for expensive shopping and expensive hotel rooms. Those who want the cheap stuff still want quality.

-The mentality in Algeria tends to be “if my hotel rooms are clean, I'll charge expensive prices, regardless of location.” That's not how it works. If your hotel rooms are clean and well-located, you can charge the full price. If they are luxurious but in the middle of nowhere, you're going to have to moderate the price. 

-I've watched a few YouTube videos of young tourists roaming around Algeria. There is a lot of history and sentimentality in their air. Algeria really is a touching country. BUT, I don't see them praise the food. I don't see them praise the shopping venues. I don't see them buy anything. I don't see them having fun. AND I see them going round in circles, and I see them kind of lost. And I see no local Algerians guiding them around properly, helping them describe what goes on, what's in the food etc.

-So if I were in charge (my Algerian students used to tell me “if I were the minister of tourism”) I'd do something about local markets (clean them up and offer a wider range of choice and products). I'd do something about the food scene (more variety of food, I'd promote several “food shows” and “food innovation contests.” And I'd do something about recreation (more activities at the beach, at the sea, more activities in the city, could be fishing, could be football/soccer, could be any sport or activity that does not need initiation).

-Finally, those guys who are building hotels, I get the feeling that they are aiming for their customers to be businessmen rather than tourists (because they are businessmen themselves). That is, if I look at the hotel rooms (or bungalows) I see a lot of space, I see “dark” conservative colors, I see meeting rooms and conference rooms. But I don't see parasols, I don't see fun activities, I don't see cheap food.

-I hope the mentality is not one where “if things work out for my hotel, there will be tourists. If things don't work out, we'll turn it into a brothel.” Because if I'm reading between the lines, that's the feeling I get from all those hotels being built in the middle of nowhere on cul-de-sacs. 


    
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