Like Morocco’s government, the tourism expert acknowledged how the sector experienced the greatest impact from the COVID-19 crisis.
Rabat – Moroccan tourism expert Zouhir Bouhout believes that Morocco risks losing 10.5 million tourists and over 19.8 million overnight stays in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Bouhout, who is the director of the Local Tourism Office (CRT) in Ouarzazate, shared with Morocco World News the results of a study he carried out on COVID-19’s repercussions on the sector. The study shows 2020 as a “year of recession for Morocco’s economy.”
The study outlines the impacts of COVID-19 on the tourism sector and other businesses.
The Moroccan government has acknowledged a slowdown in Morocco’s economy caused by both the pandemic and lack of rainfall.
Statistics on the challenge
Bouhout’s study cited statistics from a recent High Commission for Planning (HCP) survey, indicating that approximately 57% of all economic business activities partially or temporarily shut down at the beginning of April.
The HCP data shows how 89% of companies operating in the accommodation and catering sectors are at a standstill, in addition to 76% of textile and leather companies.
The commission’s statistics referenced in the study also show stagnation among 73% of companies active in metal and mechanical industries, as well as 60% of companies specializing in construction.
The suspension of activities resulted in “negative repercussions on employment.” On Tuesday, the Ministry of Labor forecast Morocco could lose 712,000 jobs in 2020.
Bouhout’s overview included regret on how the pandemic “destroyed” all the efforts that Morocco has been investing in the tourism sector.
Sharing positive statistics from pre–COVID-19 era, the study shows the evolution of the tourism sector in the 2012-2019 period.
The number of arrivals of tourists in Morocco jumped from 9,375,155 in 2012 to 12,932,260 in 2019.
The study shows that overnight stays went from 17,562,229 to 25,243,989 between 2012 and 2019.
Tourism is one of the main pillars of Morocco’s economy, contributing to the GDP by 11%.
Tourism sector’s backwards steps
The study shows how the tourism performance between 2012 and 2019 reflected a positive impact on Morocco’s foreign exchange receipts, which jumped from MAD 59.8 billion ($6.3 billion) in 2012 to 78.7 billion ($8.3 billion) in 2019.
Bouhout expects around 10.5 million fewer tourists in 2020, which would bring Morocco’s performance in the sector similar to that of the early 1980s.
“The tourism sector is undoubtedly the sector most affected by the coronavirus crisis,” he said.
The study shows how the country is now promoting domestic tourism and encouraging residents to travel within the country amid Morocco’s border closure.
The closed borders are also a challenge for Moroccans living abroad seeking to return for a summer holiday at home.
More than two million Moroccans living abroad arrive in Morocco annually, especially in the summer, to spend time with their families.
With the COVID-19 crisis, the return is not an easy option as only a handful of special flights are operating. Special flights prioritize the return of Moroccans stranded abroad and those who have emergent reasons to come back home.
Morocco reopened borders for citizens and foreign residents living abroad on July 15. Only the state carrier Royal Air Maroc and Air Arabia Maroc can serve Moroccans wishing to come back to the country.
Some citizens, however, are not satisfied with the plan due to expensive flight tickets.
Bouhout’s study argues that “it is very likely that the achievements of 2020 would be similar with the figures recorded at the beginning of the 1980s.”
The expert believes that the number of arrivals would be around 2,377,182, representing a loss of more than 10.5 million tourists compared to 2019. Meanwhile, overnight stays would be estimated at 5.8 million, with a loss of nearly 19.5 million overnight stays compared to 2019.