Morocco may not see travel receipts close to 2019’s figures for several years to come as the world reels from the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rabat – Morocco garnered a new high of MAD 78.8 billion ($8.12) in travel receipts in 2019, up from 73 billion ($7.5 billion) in 2018, according to the Exchange Office’s annual report on the balance of payments and Morocco’s international investment position.
France issued the majority of Morocco’s travel receipts, accounting for MAD 25.7 billion ($2.6 billion).
Spain issued MAD 6.68 billion ($688.7 million) in travel receipts, followed by the UK with 6.31 billion ($650.5 million) and Saudi Arabia with $2.78 billion ($286.6 million).
Foreign spending in Morocco in 2019 was primarily concentrated in tourism (55%), tuition (25.4%), and religious travel (9%).
Service receipts represented 42% of expenses, while transport receipts comprised 19%.
Expenditures increased significantly from MAD 18.6 billion ($1.9 billion) to MAD 20.9 billion ($2.15 billion). Expenditures have jumped over the last decade, up 145.88% from MAD 8.5 billion ($876.3 million) in 2008.
Last year’s record, however, will not be matched in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on international travel. Morocco may not see travel receipts near 2019’s figures for several years to come.
Tourism sector indicators have seen a sharp decline in the first four months of 2020, said Minister of Tourism Nadia Fettah El Alaoui on June 8.
The number of tourists fell by 45% compared to the same period last year, overnight stays dropped by approximately 43%, and tourism receipts decreased by 15%. On May 5, the minister said the crisis had shuttered 87% of hotels in Morocco.
Between January and April alone, travel receipts fell from MAD 23 billion ($2.307 billion) to MAD 20 billion ($2 billion), a 13% drop. Morocco is not on track to make a full tourism recovery, especially as there is still no set date to reopen Morocco’s borders to international travelers as of July.
In the month of April, tourism revenues halved to stand at MAD 3.1 billion ($317 million). The sector continued to generate revenue despite the closure of land, maritime, and air borders, but this is largely due to a delay in counting travel receipts.
Fortunately, domestic tourism in Morocco has seen a revival since lockdown restrictions were eased on June 25, with national flag carrier Royal Air Maroc celebrating a “historic relaunch” of domestic flights.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have also pledged to support the recovery of the tourism sector in Morocco, and the Moroccan government has issued several decrees for the benefit of the sector and industry professionals, such as Law 30.20.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Bourita said on June 9 that there are no immediate plans to reopen Morocco’s borders to foreign visitors. However, local media predict the borders will open this month after July 10, the set end date of the current state of emergency extension.