Closing the borders is a “deadly blow” to tourism

Des Marocains sur une place à Marrakech, le 6 mai 2021
Moroccans (FADEL SENNA / AFP / Archives) on May 6, 2021 in a square in Maracach

Alarm professionals in this vital region, whose economy is already weakened by an unprecedented crisis of nearly two years, are at risk of a tourism coup in Morocco following the brutal announcement that the borders will be closed due to the omiciron variant.

Cancellation, closure of hotels and travel agencies … The suspension of regular flights, especially to France – whose citizens are the first foreign tourists – is a “fatal blow to the region,” confirms National Federation President Mohamed Semalali. Of Travel Agencies in Morocco (FNAVM).

On November 25, following the resurgence of the epidemic in France, Morocco decided to suspend direct flights to and from France “until further notice”. Before closing all air borders for two weeks.

The Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair said in a statement that it had been forced to cancel all flights to Morocco until February 1, 2022, “because the Moroccan government was not clear about their flight. Prohibition “, 230,000 passengers stranded in their travel plans”.

Tourism operators who have been betting on the resumption of year-end celebrations see the red: “All reservations will be canceled and most hotels will have to close, half of which will be in March 2020”, knowing that this is after the start of the pandemic. Lahusen Selmat, President of the National Federation of Hotel Industries (FNIH).

– Decline in income –

The number of tour operators is not so good. “About 80% of travel agencies are already at a standstill and recent decisions will only make our situation worse,” Semalali said.

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As a result of the new travel restrictions, the tourism sector is expected to lose “at least one billion dirhams” (88 million euros) between Christmas and New Year’s, said an operator quoting a financial data site. .

The Moroccan Ministry of Tourism did not respond to a AFP question.

While the tourism sector was worth about 80 billion dirhams (7.5 billion euros) to 13 million tourists in 2019, it fell 65 percent to 28 billion dirhams by the beginning of 2021.

Archive photo waiting for passenger flight at Morocco Airport on March 15, 2020
March 15, 2020 Archive photo of passengers waiting for flight at Morocco Airport (- / AFP / Archive)

Hotel nights followed the same trend, falling from 25.2 million in 2019 to 7 million in 2020, down 72%.

But after a long month of isolation, the Sheriff’s country has gradually reopened its borders since June, allowing for a return to tourism – related activities, which account for about 7% of GDP.

In the summer, it welcomed about 2 million tourists – up from 165,000 in the summer of 2020, according to the Ministry of Finance.

Thanks to the improvement in the epidemiological situation, professionals hope to see the end of the tunnel by easing control measures.

– “Very bad news” –

This was despite the new leap in Covid-19 cases in Europe, which forced the Moroccan authorities to close air borders first with Germany, the Netherlands, then the United Kingdom, and finally with the rest of the world. From midnight on Monday.

“We were very optimistic about the coming of the new year, but we were shocked by this decision. We were on the verge of bankruptcy. Now we are on the verge of bankruptcy,” warns FNAVM Secretary-General Khalid Mubarak.

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The authorities justify these drastic measures “to protect Morocco’s achievements in the fight against the Pandemic.”

“This is very bad news for the country’s economy, as bookings to Morocco have accelerated and become an alternative to many closed destinations,” says AFP Didier Arino, director of the French specialist firm Protourism.

Photo taken by passers-by on May 6, 2021, in a square in Maracce, Morocco
Photo taken by a passerby in a square in Maracak, Morocco on May 6, 2021 (FADEL SENNA / AFP / Archives)

Reminding that the French represent one-third of the population, he believes the calendar is falling short: “At the end of the year, we were expecting one million French tourists in Morocco, and they canceled.”

The social impact is also devastating: 20% to 30% of jobs in the sector have already been destroyed, estimates Mr. Selmat, head of FNIH.

Tourism Minister Fatima Sahar Amore, quoting Medias24, announced a refund of 2,000 dirhams (approximately 190 euros) a month for actors in the region, without specifying the number of beneficiaries.

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