Main findings from the Morocco study
  • Four beaches will dwindle up to total disappearing in the region of Tetouan within 20 years if the trend of sand extraction and urbanization along the shores is to be continued at the same pace.
  • Three beaches might disappear within 40 to 60 years if the no action is taken
  • The lost in revenue for tourism related activities stemming from beaches dwingling will outreach the revenue generated by sand extraction on the period 2015-2050

Summary of the study

Tourism, one of the largest global economic sectors is highly promoted as an important means of future development and poverty reduction in Morocco. The total contribution of Travel & Tourism, including its wider economic impacts to total GDP of Morocco was 18.7% in 2013 (WTTC, 2014). Thus the coastal tourism sector plays a critical role in the Moroccan economy, and current and future development policy targets coastal tourism as one of the country’s top priorities for further economic growth.

This has resulted in a boom in the investments in the tourism sector and a surge in the pace of construction, requiring more and more building materials, especially sand. This creates a trade-off in the development model since dunes and beaches are one of the most appealing assets of the coastal tourism and one of the most important natural capitals of the coastal ecosystems. These coastal developments have led to severe coastal erosion. As a result, 70% of beaches, the most popular and most visited by tourists, undergo accelerated erosion. The potential economic risks to the tourism industry are enormous. It is therefore urgent to raise the awareness of managers and investors on the fact that tourism can only be sustainable if the natural assets on which it is based are protected from degradation. One of the most persuasive tools is the economic valuation of lost benefits, if the beaches were to disappear.

This study attempted to combine physical oceanography and coastal modeling with the economic evaluation of natural resources represented by the sandy beaches of the coast of Tetouan. Based on data availability, two ecosystem services were assessed: the supply service (cost of sand) and the tourism service (overnight stays). Assuming a ‘Business as Usual’ scenario, the comparison between the gains that could be registered by the 'sand mining' service by 2048, with the cost of degradation of the beaches based on tourism revenues for the same period, it can be concluded that the losses in the tourism sector exceed the gains of the supply service. This without considering the additional costs that could be imposed by the expected and unavoidable impacts of sea level rise and storm surges due to climate change.

The prospects of a decline in tourism and loss of tourism related-jobs, and of higher exposure to coastal flooding, challenge policy makers to the urgent need to take into account the value of the beaches as natural capital in planning and implementation of economic policies and coastal development.


The team met with policy makers in Morocco to present their results:

  • Ministry of Urbanism and Land Planning: The results were presented in front of a Committee in charge of elaborating a Strategy for an integrated management of the coastal areas in Morocco. The results of the study were considered of great relevance and it should inform the work of the Ministry to create a set of indicators for systematic monitoring of the Moroccan shores.
  • Ministry of Environment: The Ministry was interested in the combination of the two different approaches: geophysics and socio economics, especially to promote a sustainable development of the coastal areas in Morocco.

The paper was also accepted in these conferences:

The team was also invited to speak in these international events to present its work:

Eventually, the results of the studies were presented to Master and PhD students of the University Mohammed V. This event aims at explaining the concepts of ecosystem services and natural capital accounting to geologist students who are not used to deal with these notions. They find it a good complement to their natural sciences approach in order to convince policy-makers since the socio-economic element can give them tools to make their analysis more understandable and more influent.

Download the full study.

Supported by


  • French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development
  • French Agency for Development (AFD)




Natural Resource Issues come to Light in Three Countries with GDN support | Read Article