Good news and a reality check - 25th April 2010

It has fallen to me to write this blog, which has been long overdue,so I will attempt to reward your patience. Shani would love to have continued with her tradition of blog-writing, but she simply has not had the time of late. As I am writing this she is winging her way to England to celebrate a landmark birthday of her mother's.

Shani has been unbelievably busy helping people equip and furnish their properties. She's been putting in 12 hour days for the last 2 months - without a day off. And to think we came here for a quiet life.

Since the last blog there has been developments and events of note.

1) AP2 have had their inaugural owner's association meeting. On Saturday 17th April, AP2 owners met to establish their owner's association and appoint a management company to undertake all the maintenance and service provision required. It was pretty much a formality as GFM had 75% of the vote. There was some lively debate, but the result was a foregone conclusion. The outcome was that a board of directors was elected and Paris-Oujda were chosen as the management company. What GFM wanted, GFM got.

2) The golf course is in the process of re-opening. The restaurant opened last weekend and the course will open properly in the next few days. I can report that the Spanish chef in the course restaurant serves some great dishes at very reasonable prices. The bar even has a 8.9% lager. The greenkeeper has done a great job of keeping the course alive over the Winter and it's looking good. If you're a golfer, then what are you waiting for?

3) Several new properties have been successfully and tastefully equipped and furnished by Saidia Holiday Rentals. If you go to and do a search for 'saidia70' you'll find videos of the properties (and other facilities on the resort) that are available for rental this Summer. Shani took advantage of sunny days to make these videos. I'll be adding these videos to the website elsewhere, but you can have a sneak peek. If you want to book one of these properties, you might want act now because we're expecting a busy Summer.

4) The Barcelo and Iberostar hotels are getting ready to open within the next month, if all goes according to plan. The new third hotel, Globalia, has been a hive of activity and it is hoping to open by July. This new hotel will either be a 4 or 5 star (European standard) and it is situated on the beachfront to the East of the Iberostar, closer to the old town.

The good news

AP6 had their inaugural owner's association meeting on Saturday 24th April. This was a very different affair. GFM had only just over 10% of the vote. The AP6 owner's were determined to choose a management company that was responsive and accountable to them. (Paris-Oujda has proven itself only responsive to GFM on the other plots.) On the Saturday morning many of the owner's met to discuss the issues facing them. Over the course of the previous day, as owners arrived, they were told about the owner's meeting.

The owner's arranged for Unique Management, one of the bidders for the role of property management on the plot, to join for a short time and to deliver their proposal. Unique presented, answered many questions and then left the meeting. Heated debate then commenced. A few hours later, a plan of action was eventually agreed - with 4 languages and cultures involved it naturally took a while. The plan called for some of the owners to volunteer to work on the board of directors for the plot. Unique Management was chosen as the candidate to vote for.

At 3 in the afternoon the GFM sales office was crowded with people wishing to have their voices heard. (It was a vibrant atmosphere in a resort that is normally very quiet this time of year - I guess once progress is initiated it can't be stopped.) GFM explained the rules and procedures for the meeting. A board of directors was agreed and most of the people who had volunteered at the morning meeting were elected to their chosen posts.

The management company bidders were asked to present details of their proposals and to answer questions from the owners. Paris-Oujda was first, followed by Polygone and lastly Unique Management. Each of the bidders was given a tough interrogation by the owners, but half of the question time was directed at Unique. He was willing and able to give a lot more detail in his proposal, which led to people wanting more detail. When he didn't know the answer to a fine point, he said he didn't know. How freshing! A Moroccan who is willing to admit that he didn't know something, instead of making something up. I liked him.

The reality is: nobody can say with any certainty what the final numbers for the maintenance of a plot will be. For example, the plot has never had an electricity bill, so nobody can know. Selecting a property management company is like any other business relationship, i.e. do you believe that this person will deliver what is agreed? Can you have a mutually productive relationship with this person?

The owner's put their trust in Khalid from Unique and voted for him. In a surprise move, even GFM voted for Unique. The meeting closed after 6 pm, with the vast majority of the onwers happy with the outcome.

This meeting is a watershed event for the entire resort. For the first time ever, the customers are able to influence proceedings. We now have the chance to help deliver the first-class luxury that was promised all those years ago, but have not seen. Yes, it will be with our money, but management fees were always part of the picture. Now we can prioritise, supervise, audit and control how our money is spent.

The owner's present at the morning meeting were unified in their resolve to have AP6 be the best plot on the resort, for a variety of reasons. A) It is what we require and deserve, after years of neglect. B) A well-maintained, safe and pleasant plot makes financial sense, because owner's properties are more desirable on the lettings market (short and long-term), as well on the resale market. Where would you rather rent or buy? A Third World slum or a clean, safe and pretty development? C) It is good for the entire resort, because competition will raise standards and in the long-term everyone will be better off and happier for it.

The AP6 board of directors is comprised of Madame Chevrier as president. (She used to be a mayor of a town in France.) Hafid A. is the treasurer. He is a Moroccan living in France and maintains a very active mailing list that keeps the AP6 owners informed as to what is going on. Our very own Shani Vickers from Saidia Holiday Rentals is one of the two secretaries. Before moving to Morocco her last job in the UK was as a manager for a business park with 110 businesses as tenants, so she knows too much about property maintenance. The fourth member who is the second secretary is a chap whose name I can't pronounce or spell. Oops, sorry.

Some information for you about Unique Management. Khalid from Unique Management worked in America for 10 years, lastly as a manager of a Disney resort. He currently has the contract for maintaining the cleanliness and security of the medina on the resort, so we are familiar with his standards of operation. He is also the management company for two other resorts in the West of Morocco.

It is obvious to me that he was the best candidate available. We look forward to working with him.

Owner's visits and a reality check

On a personal note, it never ceases to amuse me that there are property owners who think that all they have to do to set their properties up is to come over for 3 days and place some orders. It doesn't work that way in Morocco. Things are not done here in the way that Europeans are used to. This is a Third World country. This region is the most undeveloped part of Morocco.

Getting a water and electricity account for a property can take a day - sometimes longer. The actual physical connection can take 1 to 3 months, occasionally longer. Now what about paying the monthly standing charge for electricity. Direct debit? No chance.

Things are not done here in the way that Europeans are used to. This is a Third World country. This region is the most undeveloped part of Morocco.

The resort is some distance from the shopping facilities that a prospective landlord requires. Getting to the nearest cities that have these shops to see what is on offer (which isn't as much as you're used to) is an all-day event. Delivery is not next-day. It's very rarely next week for furniture - it's usually a month or two, or longer if you've chosen something unusual. They might run out of stock for what you have ordered, but you have left the country (and pre-payment is the norm), so now what?

Things are not done here in the way that Europeans are used to. This is a Third World country. This region is the most undeveloped part of Morocco.

If you can imagine (or remember) a world before electronic commerce and the internet - let's call it the 1960's - then you might begin to understand why things take as long as they do in Morocco. For example, credit card ownership is very low and most restaurants or shops do not accept them because they can not process them. Furthermore, most Third World countries are characterised by mind-numbing bureaucracy - Morocco is no exception. 50% of adults in this region of Morocco can not read or write. All the natives speak the local version of Arabic and most speak good French. Very few speak English or Spanish. Now try and tell people you're in a hurry for your purchase.

Things are not done here in the way that Europeans are used to. This is a Third World country. This region is the most undeveloped part of Morocco.

I'm sorry to have to belabour the last point, but it appears to be necessary as some owners are enduring stress because of not understanding this. We believe an informed co-owner will be a happier co-owner.

Overall, the past few months have seen small incremental progress on the resort. Yesterday's owner's meeting is the biggest thing to have happened since the King's visit in June last year. Things don't move in a straight predictable line in Morocco - periodic bursts of progress is the style in these parts ... but progress there is.

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Saidia Holiday Rentals is: On site, on time, on budget

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