Generally seen as a safe tourist destination, will Morocco’s reputation suffer from the murders of two Scandinavian tourists in the Atlas Mountains?
Rabat – The unprecedented murder of two women tourists in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains has shocked tourists and Moroccans alike, causing some local residents to say it will negatively affect tourism in all of Morocco.
The tourists, Louisa Vesterager Jespersen from Denmark and Maren Ueland from Norway, were camping 10 kilometers from Imlil when they were found dead.
The village of Imlil is known for its stunning views and as a base camp for hikers heading to Mount Toubkal, North Africa’s highest peak.
Are Moroccans worried that tourists will cancel their trips to the region?
However, an employee at Bureau Des Guides Imlil, which offers guided tours in the mountains, told Morocco World News, “We have received no cancellation requests from tourists.” The employee did acknowledge the incident created “frustration” among locals.
People “have been scared that the unprecedented incident would affect tourism in the region negatively,” said another Moroccan working in Imlil’s tourism industry. Despite the incident, he said that up until now, no tourist has canceled a reservation, and he had received two booking confirmations just this morning.
Another person working in tourism in Marrakech, the nearest large city to Imlil, was unconcerned about his livelihood. He told MWN that “it will be hard for tourists to find an available hotel room in hotels in Marrakech and in the region, especially because many tourists have already booked places to spend their Christmas holiday.”
In contrast, a riad manager in Fez was concerned about the long-term impact of the murders. Of course, he said, during the high season of Christmas, hotels will not experience many cancellations because tourists do not have many other options with holidays already booked.
But he worried that because major international news sites, such as the BBC, the Guardian, and Al Jazeera, reported on the murder, potential future tourists may be put off.
‘There will always be good and bad’
In an informal Facebook poll created by Morocco World News, 54 percent of nearly 1,500 voters speculated the incident would negatively impact Moroccan tourism because it was “scary.”
Forty-six percent thought Moroccan tourism would not be affected, believing it is generally safe to visit Morocco.
Some of MWN’s international readers commented on the poll, saying that they feel “safer in Morocco” than in their homeland.
“I feel safer in Morocco than I do in the UK and will continue to visit! … It happens everywhere,” wrote one commenter. In her view, the murders were an unfortunate one off incident that shouldn’t prevent people from “visiting such a beautiful country with wonderful people!”
A Filipina national said she feels safe in Morocco, where she has been living for five years. “Anywhere we go there will always be good and bad. I love Morocco,” she said.
Morocco is considered a low risk country according to the 2019 Travel Risk Map from the international risk expert International SOS. The map shows Morocco as safe as most European countries, the US, and Canada.
Imlil is a popular region for local and international tourists who love outdoor activities. Hotels and riads near Imlil generally have 4 or 5 stars out of 5 on the American travel website Tripadvisor.
Official statements: A rare crime
Morocco’s embassy in Oslo has issued a statement expressing their condolences and solidarity with the families of the victims of the “terrible tragedy.” The embassy commented that all Moroccans are shocked by the “atrocity of the crime and its uniqueness in the region.”
On Tuesday morning, the Central Bureau for Judicial Investigation (BCIJ) announced the arrest of a first suspect involved in the murder. The suspect was arrested in Marrakech.
On the same day, a local told MWN that authorities arrested three suspects for the murder. The source added the suspects were camping in the same area where the women were murdered.
The Norwegian ambassador to Morocco is “on her way to Marrakech” today, according to Norwegian outlet Aftenposten. Moroccan authorities, the news outlet said, have not requested any help in the investigation. However, “a very experienced policeman working at the embassy in Rabat” is investigating the crime.
Morocco World News contacted the Norwegian embassy in Rabat to learn whether the government sent investigators to the crime scene. The embassy’s hotline was unreachable.