Africa > North Africa > Algeria > Algeria Tourism Profile

Algeria: Algeria Tourism Profile

2015/08/08

An unusual tourist destination

Inside the Casbah, AlgeriaAlgeria was a popular destination for European travellers in the twentieth century, but is currently visited by few foreigners.

The country’s civil conflict – see History & Politics – brought a halt to tourism and the sector has yet to recover. The government has declared its intention to develop tourism, but tourist facilities are so far limited. Some top-class hotels cater for workers in the oil industry and business travellers.

Sites worth the travel

Despite the small numbers of tourists, Algeria has a lot to offer, particularly for those interested in ancient cultures. There are many well-preserved Roman remains, such as the site at Djémila, which is described by UNESCO as 'one of the world’s most beautiful Roman ruins'.

Other places of historical interest include palaces and mosques built by the Ottoman Turks (such as those located in the Casbah – see Algiers) and the traditional early towns and dwellings of Saharan communities.

The stunning mountain scenery of the northern regions and dramatic desert landscapes to the south provide visitors with unique escapes from the towns and cities.

The Algerian Diaspora remains the key consumer group for inbound travel and tourism

Members of the Algerian Diaspora and the many Algerians living and working abroad comprised the bulk of inbound arrivals to the country in 2013. These expatriate Algerian citizens take frequent trips home, although they do not spend as much as international tourists do, as they do not require travel accommodation or travel retail services for example. The majority of these expatriates travel to Algeria from Tunisia, France and Saudi Arabia.

Air Algérie expands through the addition of more long-haul destinations

As inbound and outbound tourism have increased in recent years, and more international airlines are travelling to Algeria, Air Algérie is fighting back by purchasing more aircraft, enabling the company to fly to long-haul destinations as well. The bulk of the airline’s routes are currently focused on short-haul destinations and thus the airline is missing significant opportunities on more lucrative routes. Air Algérie remains the leading local player despite recent liberalisation which saw the entry of several new airlines, most of which have already been dissolved or forced out of the category. Now Air Algérie competes mainly with international airlines.

International hotel chains are expanding massively in Algeria

Algeria is experiencing a proliferation of international chained hotels including Rezidor Group, the Marriott Hotels, Accor and Best Western, among many others. All of these brands have identified opportunities in emerging territories such as Algeria, mainly due to the global economic downturn, although the saturation of travel accommodation in many other countries has also been influential. The poor quality standards of many of the leading independent and chained hotels operated by local companies mean that these international brands are likely to be popular among inbound tourists, notably business travellers, as they are well-equipped to cater to the needs of those travelling on business.
Instability and the constant threat of violence continue to plague Algeria

Despite the relatively strong growth recorded in travel and tourism in Algeria in 2013 and the generally positive feeling in the country, Algeria remains a dangerous place and there are travel warnings in effect, especially for some of the most dangerous areas of the country. As such, bombings, kidnappings, ambushes and various other disruptions remain frequent occurrences and many embassies have advised their citizens against all but essential travel to Algeria. Internal politics in the country remain unstable and civil unrest is also frequent and this could result in major problems for travel and tourism in Algeria in the near future.

Major developments boost land transportation in Algeria

Land transportation networks in Algeria are improving significantly, with substantial improvements being made to roads, including the construction of a new network of highways. More importantly, however, mass transit systems are being expanded in Algiers and developed in other Algerian cities, with the construction of new underground railways underway amidst plans for the developments of urban tramways and railway network connecting Tunisia to Morocco via Algeria. All of these developments have major implications for land transportation in Algeria.

Security concerns affecting tourism

Whilst the Arab Spring did not have a direct impact on Algeria, there were some significant repercussions in terms of tourism, in light of this market’s proximity to Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Additionally, internal politics, protests and occasional violence were as well reported in Algeria early in 2011, which caused concern amongst a lot of. As a result, 2011 was a bad year for tourism, with a decline in inbound and outbound tourism alike. Algerians accustomed to spending holidays in Tunisia preferred staying at home, and a lot of French visitors to Algeria as well avoided the country in 2011, inclunding Algerian expatriates.

Ambitious national tourism strategy

The government of Algeria nonetheless remains committed to its national strategy for the development of tourism, in a bid to diversify its economy away from oil and gas revenues. The SDTA (Strategie de Development du Tourism en Algerie) maps out short, mid- and long-term objectives up until the year 2025, with ambitions to double the supply of hotel rooms and develop new touristic centres inclunding improve the quality of services. PQTA (Plan Qualite Tourisme Algerie) aims to boost the quality of hotel and other tourism outlets’ services, and although this is moving forward slowly, the government intends to boost efforts to speed up adherence to the programme.

International hotel chains targeting Algeria

Algeria is being earmarked by a lot of international brands for next increase and development. As the country offers a wealth of tourism attractions and is often perceived as a safe haven by investors, some key players like the InterContinental, Mariott and Accor are investing there for the long term. The lack of upscale and quality midscale hotels is as well a major driver as there is a significant gap to fill and the current request does not meet expectations.

Developing a rail network

Amongst the government’s plans for improving travel and tourism in the country are some significant transport infrastructure plans. Some of the majority significant plans are for the development of new rail networks, inclunding development of the existing one, connecting different Algerian regions to each other, and benefiting international linkages with neighbouring Morocco and Tunisia. As driving is often perceived to be hazardous in this country and in and out of the country, rail networks would bring about a much needed and likely lucrative mode of transport.

Attractive niche segments

Algeria is home to a rich culture that is underdeveloped; with seven UNESCO world heritage sites and a very ancient culture and civilisation in Constantine, there are opportunities to market the destination a lot additional aggressively. An extra significant niche category for Algeria is health and wellness tourism, as the country boasts some 270 hot springs that can be leveraged for development of destination spas and hotel and resort spas. These have by presently started to be rehabilitated and may become usable in the near next, attracting tourists from the region and beyond.

Business tourism receives a boost

Algerian business tourism has been developing as a result of improved infrastructure, which has seen the building of a convention centre in Oran. Although business tourism is still a niche, it has great potential and several large-scale projects are underway, inclunding the construction of 24 Ibis and Novotel hotels targeting business clients and developed by Sieha, a joint venture between France’s Accor (50%) and Algeria’s Mehri Group (50%) at an estimated cost of EUR220 million. In addition, the EUR17 million Ibis Algiers Airport located in the new business district of Bab Ezzouar was opened in 2009.

Saharan tourism

Saharan tourism has been listed as a priority under the SDAT (Schéma Directeur d’Aménagement Touristique). The south of the country is divided into four regional tourism centres – Tamanrasset, Djanet, Gharda?a and Timimoun. The SDAT plans to build six tourism villages, starting with the Ksar Massine project in Timimoun. To strengthen investment , the Algerian Ministry of Environment has promised to facilitate access to land, while the tourism and hotel management company GESTOUR is organising the revamping and modernisation of nine national-owned Saharan hotels in March 2009. Both projects will be publicly financed. Other projects scheduled for the region include the rehabilitation of the Oasis loop (a circuit tour) and a hot air balloon tour offered by Club d’Aventure Africaines.

Algeria attracts additional investors through new tourism industry legislation

The tourism industry in Algeria had been neglected for some time due to the country depending on only one revenue source - oil and gas. This left the tourism industry in Algeria undeveloped, particularly compared to its neighbours. However, in 2008, the SDAT was launched with the aim of focusing on creating public-private partnerships and incentivising foreign direct investment , and in August 2009 the National Finance Act was reformed, lowering interest rates on loans for improving tourism establishments. The new legislation will create a platform to develop and strengthen the tourism industry over the medium to long term.

Transport network

The Ministry of Transport in Algeria has allocated a budget of US$9.6 billion for large transport infrastructure projects such as the modernisation of airports, ports and the railway, and a further US$8.2 billion for larger projects such as the east-west expressway. These investments form part of the government’s strategy to support Algerian economic increase.