Marrakech officials say the city will be ready to receive tourists on June 11, the day after the scheduled end of Morocco’s state of emergency.
Rabat – The Municipal Council of Marrakech and tourism professionals held a meeting today to discuss the revival of the tourist sector in the ochre city after the COVID-19 pandemic, and ultimately agreed to focus on promoting domestic tourism.
The meeting aimed to highlight and discuss the current situation of the tourism sector, examine and identify key challenges, and understand the aspirations and expectations of industry professionals.
Participants included hoteliers, restaurateurs, tourist guides, and managers of travel agencies. They discussed the tools and mechanisms the city must implement in order to mitigate the socioeconomic repercussions of the health crisis on tourist activity in Marrakech, Morocco’s top destination for foreigners and locals alike.
At the end of the meeting, the President of the Communal Council of Marrakech, Mohamed Larbi Belcaid told state media Maghreb Arab Press (MAP) that the meeting served as a space for exchange and consultation with tourism professionals.
After intense debates and discussions, all the participants agreed that the best option for economic recovery is to shore up domestic tourism rather than attempt to attract foreigners to the city.
Domestic tourism is capable of allowing a sustained and secure revival of the sector in Marrakech, Belcaid relayed.
Marrakech’s municipal council suggested businesses set up special offers targeting the Moroccan middle class, expecting that domestic tourists will flock to the main tourist destinations in the country rather than setting their sights on international travel.
The council said it was ready, in collaboration with the Council of the Marrakech-Safi Region, to set up joint programs in the tourism sector and to work with local industry professionals to promote the city to Moroccans.
The council also expressed its commitment to guaranteeing the safety and well-being of visitors by restructuring usually crowded public spaces, guaranteeing cleanliness, and enforcing the disinfection of public spaces, Belcaid added.
The president of the council said tax incentives should be discussed at the central level, between tourism professionals and the ministries concerned, including the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of the Interior.
The Vice President of the Regional Tourism Council (CRT) of Marrakech-Safi, Taoufiq Madih, told MAP the city is ready to receive tourists on June 11, the day after the scheduled end of Morocco’s state of emergency.
Madih said the main expectations of tourism professionals revolve around the suspension of local taxes on the sector at least for one year, and the municipality’s support of the sector as it attempts to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He added that industry professionals are in the process of preparing and developing attractive offers capable of drawing in more domestic tourists to compete with other Moroccan cities or nearby countries that Moroccans frequent, such as Spain.
Emerging from an unprecedented slump
Morocco is working on a revival strategy for the tourism industry, one of Morocco’s leading sectors providing employment and contributing to the stability of local economies.
As the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide lockdown have barred both international and inter-city travel, tourism is one of the hardest-hit sectors. On May 5, Morocco’s Minister of Tourism, Nadia Fettah Alaoui said 87% of hotels in Morocco shut down due to the crisis.
As the sector contributes approximately 11% to the country’s GDP, its restoration is a priority of the Moroccan government. Morocco’s government council adopted on May 15 Draft Bill 30.20 setting measures to support the tourism sector. On May 22, the National Federation of Tourism Transportation (FNTT) unveiled its intention to adopt the requirement of a hygiene certificate and other health measures to ensure the protection of customers after lockdown.
The National Confederation of Tourism (CNT) predicted in April the pandemic’s impact on the sector at “MAD 33 billion (€3 billion) in losses, 500,000 jobs lost, and 8,500 companies threatened.” If Morocco does not implement an effective strategy to save the sector, the country could lose up to $13.85 billion in tourism revenue between 2020 and 2022, it added.
The CNT predicts the industry’s hardship will continue until December 2020 and tourism will start recovering gradually by April 2021.