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Morocco’s Tough Restrictions Undermine Tourism

Voices from inside Morocco’s tourism say the sudden border closure can have far-reaching effects on the country’s tourism competitiveness.

03 Jan 2022

Rabat - Business owners in the tourism industry warn that Morocco’s tough measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 is undermining the country’s regional competitiveness as tourists flock to rival destinations in the Mediterranean region.

Beyond immediate financial loss, tourism professionals worry that the unwarranted border closure will make it hard to promote Morocco long after the country opens.

Even after the travel ban is lifted, tourists will shy away from Morocco over the possibility of last-minute flight cancellations, Emmanuelle Barat, a tour operator, told Arab News.

Tourism made up 7% of Morocco’s economy in 2019, generating $8 billion, according to data from Morocco’s central bank. The bank added, however, that tourism was only expected to generate $3.6 billion in 2021.

In an attempt to offset the external losses, Morocco launched a campaign in 2021 to encourage internal tourism. Nonetheless, tourism professionals insist that this will not be enough to make up for the losses generated by the closure of the country’s borders to foreign tourists.

The government has also proposed a stimulus package for tourism workers as another way of mitigating the fallout of the COVID crisis for Morocco’s hospitality industry. However, the MAD 2000 ($215) stimulus checks only extend to registered workers, which means that the package will do little to help indirect tourism workers.

Morocco announced its decision to close borders in late November as the world was recording the earliest cases of Omicron, the newest COVID variant.

Tourism is one of the main sources of foreign exchange reserves for Morocco, with the country a leading destination for international tourism in Africa, according to Statistica.

The industry’s share of the Moroccan economy is expected to increase to $18 billion by 2025, Statistica assessed. But this positive prospect remains clouded by the emergence of new COVID-19 variants and government response.

Morocco is Africa’s most vaccinated country. With 23 million people fully vaccinated, more than 50% of Morocco’s population is vaccinated and three million people have already received a booster shot.

For tourism professionals, this would have been a solid enough reason for the government not to resort to extremely drastic COVID measures, including a travel ban and a total closure of borders until january 31, 2022.

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