Rabat – As tourism in Morocco is experiencing a pandemic-induced lull, both Moroccan and Israeli media have pointed out that the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries could be a crucial step in the post-pandemic recovery.
Morocco’s Minister of Tourism Nadia Fettah Alaoui has said approximately 200,000 Israeli visitors are projected to travel to Morocco in the first year of direct flights between the two countries
For his part Henri Abizker, a Jewish community leader and businessman in Rabat, has given a more optimistic figure. He said up e to 400,000 Israeli tourists are expected to visit Morocco in the coming months.
200,000, or even 400,000 tourists is a drop in the bucket when compared to the approximately 13 million foreign tourists that visited the country every year before the pandemic hit. The number still signifies an essential step towards recovery.
As part of promotional efforts that followed the resumption of ties between Morocco and Israel in December, Morocco’s tourism promotion office has commissioned a study on attracting Israeli tourists.
Morocco and Israel have signed an agreement to open direct flights between the two countries. While the first, historic, flight landed an Israeli-US delegation in Morocco to officialize the peace accord last year, the first passenger flights are expected to be launched by the Israeli state carrier El Al Airlines.
Read also: Direct Flight Between Israel, Algeria Questions Algiers’ ‘Anti-Normalization’
“I was quite afraid to go previously, because it’s an Arab country, even though I was told that tours there were fine. Now that there is peace, I think I can go without fear,” said a retired Israeli teacher Rivka Sheetrit, 69, speaking to Israeli media.
“When the skies reopen I plan to go,” she said, adding she hopes to see where her parents lived and her ancestors were buried.
Abizker noted that Morocco is particularly attractive for Israeli tourists due to its rich Jewish history. Even though “younger generations tend to be more liberal,” there are still many “Orthodox Jews [who] insist on kosher requirements,” and as such it could benefit specialist operators, he explained.
Israel’s Charge d’Affaires in Rabat, David Govrin, who arrived in Morocco on January 26, exemplifies the sort of appreciation that might come from Israeli tourists once flights begin.
“Visiting the historical sites of the Jewish community in Rabat was very emotional,” Govrin said. “Morocco is an example for religious coexistence, tolerance, and fraternity.”