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Earthquake in Morocco: repercussions “will be minimal” on high tourist season, experts say

In Morocco, a real race against time began this Friday evening.

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Earthquake in Morocco: repercussions “will be minimal” on high tourist season, experts say

In Morocco, a real race against time began this Friday evening. Since the earthquake, some rescue workers have been clearing the rubble while others are using their “sound listening” equipment to find survivors. Time is running out: so far, the Ministry of the Interior has mourned the death of more than 2,800 people and around 2,500 injured. Beyond the humanitarian aspect, there is also the question of the economic consequences of this disaster, Morocco depending, in particular, on the fallout from tourism.

This activity cannot stop, under penalty of endangering the country's economy: "In the Moroccan GDP, tourism represents a share of 7%, it is five times more than Tunisia", notes Danièle Küss, former head of the international tourism development department at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "It is even the country's first source of export earnings, before agrifood, automotive, chemicals and oil," adds Armelle Solelhac, creator of the SWiTCH forward-looking agency, specializing in tourism. If it is vital for the economy of the country, tourism also supports “5% of the population”, or “50,000 Moroccans”, specifies the expert.

Also read: Morocco: ruins and desolation at the epicenter of the earthquake

For now, fortunately, the disaster has not pushed tourists to turn back, professionals note. For Selectour, therefore, of the 600 departures planned between Saturday, Sunday and this Monday, “only 19 cancellations were recorded”. An observation shared by Jean-Pierre Mas, president of Entreprises du voyage: “It’s very surprising, the cancellations remain minimal and there were a lot of departures this weekend.” Part of the explanation lies in the fact that the areas affected by the earthquake were far from the territories most popular with tourists, which were more preserved.

For these tourism players, there is therefore no reason to cancel their trip, provided they take a few precautions. “If a stay in Marrakech remains possible, tours to the south of the city are not recommended,” specifies Jean-Pierre Mas, “it would be indecent for tourists to clog the roads.” Some companies have adapted, such as TUI, which “decided to cancel all excursions to Marrakech and Agadir on September 9, 10 and 11”. Until the end of the week, some groups are also offering to modify or postpone their trip, like Air France.

The objective is thus to ensure the arrival of tourists, while the “high season” opens until the month of May. Professionals are betting big on this period, and want to perpetuate the exceptional results recorded over the first six months of the year. “Morocco has regained its pre-Covid attendance,” underlines Jean-Pierre Mas. “Around 6.5 million tourists” thus crossed “border posts during the first half of 2023”, an increase of 92% in one year, notes the Moroccan Tourism Observatory. Tourist receipts from non-residents in Morocco also soared, to 47.9 billion dirhams (4.38 billion euros), at the end of June 2023, "against 28.3 billion dirhams (2.59 billion euros). euros) in 2022 (69%)".

French visitors are particularly popular. Over one year, 75% more people have visited the country, or 415,000 additional people. Next comes Spain with a surge of 180% of Iberian tourists (407,000 more) and the United Kingdom, at 100% and 167,000 additional tourists. "Morocco is a great destination, widely recognized internationally," confirms Danièle Krüss, who cites, by way of illustration, the arrival of the World Tourism Organization in Marrakech for its executive council, last November. An event which “shows the mobilization of the country” to promote its tourist activity, according to the expert.

The earthquake will force Rabat to reconsider its way of regulating tourism, adds Danièle Krüss. For example, many buildings can be rebuilt with seismic standards, which was not the case for three-quarters of them. A change that recalls the case of Indonesia after the tsunami of December 2004. "Everything was destroyed but international tourism took off very quickly," recalls the former head of the international tourism development division.

Likewise, the disaster, by putting the country in the spotlight, could cause "the arrival of new tourists": "There are those who have never thought of going to these destinations and others who want to see disasters with their own eyes,” quotes the connoisseur. These new arrivals contribute to the recovery of tourism and the economy of these countries. For tourism in Morocco, this earthquake should therefore have limited effects, estimates Jean-Pierre Mas. Encouraging news both for travelers, but also for an entire territory in the reconstruction phase. “The country needs the return of tourists, people must go to Morocco, everything is green,” concludes, for his part, Laurent Abitbol, ​​president of Havas Voyage and Selectour.

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