The official asserted that the tourism sector now relies on the domestic market, pending global tourism recovery and the reopening of borders.
Rabat – The secretary-general of the National Tourism Confederation (CNT), Wissal El Gharbaoui, declared that ensuring the survival of 11,000 tourism businesses and preserving employment for their personnel is at the center of the confederation’s priorities.
The CNT has developed a scenario based on three axes for the recovery of the severely-impacted tourist activity, namely saving businesses, preserving jobs, and a strong and effective recovery strategy, El Gharbaoui told state-owned Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).
She said that the recovery plan aims to maintain the liquidity of tourism companies to enable them to meet the charges despite the months-long shutdown of touristic activities under COVID-19 preventive measures.
The COVID-19 outbreak prompted the shutdown of 87% of hotels in Morocco and could cost the industry $13.85 billion in losses between 2020 and 2022. According to CNT, the sector may experience a 39% drop in the number of tourists during the same period.
To support the sector’s enterprises, the CNT is considering suspending or canceling contributions to the National Fund Security Fund (CNSS) and the Moroccan Professional Pension Fund, as well as approving tax exemptions on income tax, corporate tax, and value-added tax throughout the period of this crisis.
Measures also include the postponement of bank maturities for a period of 12 months, maintaining borrowing lines, and opening credit lines for 12 months at a reduced rate of 2%.
The CNT’s secretary-general is confident that knowing the exact date and conditions for the reopening of borders will allow Morocco to reposition itself as a preferred global tourist destination “in a context of heightened competitiveness of destinations.”
El Gharbaoui believes Morocco cannot effectively carry out the tourism recovery without “sufficient resources to implement renewed communication on the main international markets, adapted marketing plans with partners, and an acceleration of the digital plan which would contribute to enhancing the visibility and competitiveness of the Moroccan tourist offers.”
Given the suspension of international flights that prompts the need to promote domestic tourism, the CNT official pointed out that the confederation strives to bring the contribution of the national tourist market from 34% to 50% in terms of overnight stays in classified accommodation establishments.
Encouraging domestic tourism
With tourism accounting for approximately 11% of the country’s GDP and many international borders still closed, developing and promoting domestic tourism is now a priority for reviving the hard-hit Moroccan economy.
Morocco has already begun implementing measures to promote domestic tourism, most notably in the tourist cities of Marrakech and Essaouira.
In Essaouira, professionals and officials have turned to digital marketing to promote the city’s historical and cultural heritage. A new mobile application features elements of the city that attract tourists.
Tourism professionals in the ochre city of Marrakech suggested setting up affordable offers and adjusting prices to target Morocco’s middle-class population as an attempt to attract a higher volume of domestic tourists.
The CNT also proposed the establishment of special offers to promote domestic tourism. They suggested a program providing “holiday vouchers,” with tax exemption, a type of program which El Gharbaoui said proved successful in France and Spain.
As Moroccan cities work to develop their own initiatives to attract Moroccan tourists, El Gharbaoui said that the CNT is working on developing a collaborative platform for the national market.
The measure would facilitate the connection between customers and service providers for an “optimal” travel experience. It would also ensure a good price-performance ratio, accounting for the pressure on household budgets due to the pandemic.
The promise of eco-tourism
As eco-tourism grows as a global trend, Morocco has been developing its offers in the increasingly popular sector. In December 2010, Morocco launched its “2020 Vision” for developing the tourism industry in line with principles of sustainable development.
The plan aimed to capitalize on the growing international demand for eco-tourism options and Morocco’s potential in this sector due to its biodiversity and diverse landscapes. To this aim, Morocco implemented a ranking system for green hotels, among several other initiatives.
With two coastlines totaling 1,200 miles running along the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, Morocco boasts diverse landscapes and natural sites comprising dunes, oases, and cascades, meaning it is able to meet a diverse range of explorers’ desires.
El Gharbaoui remarked that “many projects have been developed in the hinterland of different regions of the Kingdom, which also allows populations to benefit from income-generating activities (IGA), and to develop eco-responsible offers.”
In the age of social distancing, international travel website “Travel Daily News” suggested on June 3 Morocco as a prime post-pandemic travel destination, highlighting opportunities to explore Morocco’s “wonderful” coastline, mountains, and desert, as the “country is blessed by nature.” The CNT official echoed this sentiment, commenting that Morocco would benefit from strengthening the sector in line with a “popular global trend.”