Moroccan tourism authorities have already created a crisis unit to manage the negative effects of the shutdown.
Rabat – British travel company Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest tourism operator, shut down all its operations Monday, September 23. The shutdown follows a failed plea for private investors to provide $250 million to save it from collapse.
We are sorry to announce that Thomas Cook has ceased trading with immediate effect.
This account will not be monitored.
— Thomas Cook (@ThomasCookUK) September 23, 2019
The 178-year-old company announced the shutdown in a statement today. “This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world,” said the statement.
“Despite considerable efforts, those discussions have not resulted in an agreement between the company’s stakeholders and proposed new money providers,” the statement continued, referencing its plea to investors.
“The company’s board has therefore concluded that it had no choice but to take steps to enter into compulsory liquidation with immediate effect.”
The collapse of the company comes due to fierce competition from competitively priced travel websites, resulting in a loss of £1.5 billion in the first half of 2019.
An estimated 22,000 people will lose their jobs, only 9,000 of whom are British.
The shutdown will disrupt flights and services for tens of thousands of tourists, leading the UK to launch its biggest repatriation effort since World War II to bring back stranded passengers.
The government has hired planes to fly home an estimated 150,000 tourists back to the UK, in an operation starting today codenamed “Operation Matterhorn.” The operation will involve planes chartered from other airlines including British Airways and EasyJet.
Thomas Cook passengers: pic.twitter.com/Bpy3TcmaHe
— ♥ Joe Tasker ♥ (@libbyxbarham) September 23, 2019
The operation will cost the UK government $746 million. Many commentators on social media have pointed out that the cost is significantly more than the $250 million it would have cost to bail the tourism group out and prevent its collapse.
How will the shutdown affect Morocco and surrounding countries?
The effects of the shutdown will spread far beyond just the UK and instantly caused a ripple of worry throughout North Africa, as Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt are among Thomas Cook’s top travel destinations.
The UK government will be repatriating the tourists currently in Morocco from September 25 to October 5 in a 4-part process.
British tourists in Morocco aside, the shutdown will also affect Morocco’s tourism industry and businesses. Moroccan tourism authorities have already created a crisis unit to manage the negative effects of the shutdown.
The shutdown also leaves dozens of hotels with unpaid bills from Thomas Cook. Experts in the industry told Le Matin an estimate 60-80 hotels will be affected, most of them in Marrakech and Agadir.
The crisis team comprises representatives from Morocco’s Ministry of Tourism, the hotel industry, travel agents, and Morocco’s National Office of Tourism. The goal is to work closely with British authorities to monitor and supervise the repatriation of Thomas Cook customers back to the UK.
The crisis unit immediately held a meeting, chaired by Abdellatif Kabbaj, president of the National Confederation of Tourism and also CEO of the Kenzi Hotels Group.
In Tunisia, where Thomas Cook was sending 150,000 tourists annually, the hotel industry is expecting a loss of €60 million. However, in comparison, Morocco was receiving only 70,000 tourists annually, and Kabbaj reassured the industry that the loss will be far less in Morocco, although he did not give an exact number.