The Ministry of Tourism is working to support the tourism and craft sectors as Morocco enters another month under the state of emergency.
Rabat – Morocco is working to re-establish itself as a global destination for tourists in a post-pandemic world, Minister of Tourism Nadia Fettah El Alaoui announced Monday.
“The ministry has developed an integrated and participatory plan to combat the repercussions of the novel coronavirus, to revive the sector and promote the positioning of the Kingdom in the post-COVID-19 world,” the minister said before the House of Representatives on June 8, according to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).
The ministry’s plan considers “the changing needs and expectations of the consumer and the quality of the national offer,” she stressed.
El Alaoui explained the plan as focusing on the preservation of employment, skills, and capacities of professionals in the sector, and promoting the sector’s revival with an initial emphasis on domestic tourism.
The minister highlighted domestic tourism as a top priority of the ministry, considering it “a strategic locomotive to revitalize the sector.” Tourism must adapt to the demand of Moroccan tourists, and the ministry is preparing to do so with the launch of a vigorous promotional campaign to restore citizens’ confidence and interest in the country’s sites and services.
Tourism sector indicators have seen a sharp decline in the first four months of 2020, she continued. The number of tourists fell by 45% compared to the same period last year, while the number of overnight stays fell by approximately 43% and tourism receipts decreased by 15%. On May 5, the minister revealed that the crisis shuttered 87% of hotels in Morocco.
Lifelines for the tourism sector
Despite the negative impacts of the state of emergency and lockdown on the tourism sector, El Alaoui commended Morocco’s swift response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
She welcomed the Moroccan government’s support in the tourism ministry’s efforts to fortify the sector and the other important measures Morocco deployed to mitigate the socio-economic shocks of the crisis.
“The sector has benefited from the measures taken by the kingdom, since nearly 70% of employees in the sector registered with the National Social Security Fund (CNSS) have received monthly allowances,” she said.
Informal sector workers and businesses have benefited from other support measures, the tourism minister added.
At the legislative level, she continued, the House of Representatives adopted Bill 30.20 on May 13 to keep tourism businesses afloat and guarantee consumer rights. The bill outlines special provisions for travel contracts, tourist stays, and passenger air transport contracts.
Under Bill 30.20, tourism service providers may reimburse their customers via an “IOU,” offering a similar or equivalent service without any rate increase. The new measure serves to limit the stagnation of economic activity and its impact on jobs by reducing the pressure on the providers’ cash flow.
Bill 30.20 also aims to keep Moroccan tourism service providers from going bankrupt while protecting the interests of providers’ creditors and customers. The bill also serves to stimulate demand for tourism services and preserve the value of trade in Morocco by avoiding possible payments in foreign currency.
Tourism is the second-largest contributor to Morocco’s economy, accounting for 11% of its GDP. Having completely suspended all activity in mid-March, the tourism sector is one of the hardest-hit pillars of the national economy.
Restructuring the craft sector
Like the tourism sector, the craft sector has been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Federation of Cultural and Creative Industries (FICC) reported on May 31 that Morocco’s cultural and creative sectors have lost 100,000 jobs and approximately 1,100 companies have experienced a 70% drop in turnover since March 14.
COVID-19’s disruption has cost the sector an estimated MAD 2 billion ($204 million), the report added, stressing that the crisis presents an unprecedented opportunity to reform cultural and creative industries in Morocco.
El Alaoui concurred with this view during Monday’s session at the House of Representatives, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the need to restructure the craft sector and improve working conditions, reported MAP.
The tourism minister stressed that the adoption of Bill 50-17, relating to the exercise of artisanal activities, will allow the ministry to identify the categories of craftsmen in the sector and broaden their social security coverage.
She said the Ministry of Tourism’s initiative to restructure the craft sector revolves around three axes “relating to the health and safety program for the resumption of activities, the restructuring of the sector and the support of craftsmen in production, marketing, and finance.”
The supervisory ministry of the craft sector has mobilized its central and territorial services to support Moroccan artisans so they can benefit from the national aid measures set up by the Economic Watch Committee (CVE). El Alaoui said a “significant number of artisans” have received financial support from the government.
The Ministry of Tourism is coordinating with the Ministry of Industry to tap into the craft sector in the national effort against COVID-19 by granting artisan sewing cooperatives certification to produce protective masks, she added. The “Solidarity With Cooperatives” initiative also aims to promote the purchase of Moroccan artisans’ products during the exceptional crisis, in partnership with civil society actors and the private sector.
Supporting the sector’s future
The tourism ministry has also been looking into the demands of artisans “relating to obtaining interest-free credits or preferential conditions, marketing and e-marketing support. and the establishment of listening mechanisms,” El Alaoui continued.
“Conventions are being developed with the craft chambers, for the promotion of the sector in the different regions of [Morocco] and the establishment of listening cells in the territorial directions of the ministry,” she assured the House of Representatives.
The ministry is focusing on support, communication, marketing, gender, and legislation in its approach to the sectoral restructuring. The gender element, the minister explained, aims to “counter the negative impact of the pandemic women, particularly in rural areas.”
The outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis in Morocco put the country’s cultural and creative activities on pause, canceling scores of events and gatherings. Since March 14, the sector’s activities have ceased, including cinema, museums, print publishing, visual arts, audiovisual arts, live shows, concerts, theater, tours, galleries, festivals, and other events. To date, the government has only allowed print publishing to resume.
Cultural associations were required to suspend their activities and several thousand independent professionals, artists, and technicians remain without work. Even with professional cards, the FICC reported that artists must classify themselves as “informal workers” to receive financial aid from the Moroccan government and maintain their livelihood.
As Morocco enters another month of the state of emergency and has yet to determine a date for the reopening of its borders, the tourism and craft sectors still face an uncertain future and may endure a particularly painful recovery.