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Morocco Prepares for Reopening of Domestic Tourism.

Morocco Prepares for Reopening of Domestic Tourism.

Morocco Prepares for Reopening of Domestic Tourism.
Morocco Prepares for Reopening of Domestic Tourism.

Morocco is betting on domestic tourism to mitigate losses suffered by the country's vital sector due to an unprecedented crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, while travel within the Kingdom is still subject to severe restrictions.

Tourism workers in Morocco have started their year of optimism after reaching a record number attracting 13 million visitors in 2019, but the sector's movement abruptly stopped with the suspension of international flights in mid- March without interrupting procedures to control the spread of the new Corona virus.

The number of tourists has decreased by 45% in the first four months of this year, while the number of overnight stays has decreased by 43% compared to the same period last year, according to the Moroccan Minister of Tourism Nadia Fattah this weekend.

It will not be better during the summer season, as the border continues to be closed to foreign tourists. "I think 2020 is over for us," said director of seven guesthouses in Rabat, David Azuelos, noting that he had dismissed his employees, "because there was no more money in our balance. "

To save the summer season, the authorities launched a media campaign to "remind Moroccans of the richness and diversity of their country" with "motivating offers" and "preferential rates", according to the minister.

In this context, workers in the sector in Marrakech, jewel of Moroccan tourism, are making "efforts to present appropriate offers by proposing itineraries for thematic trips", explains Hamid Bintahar, the head of the regional tourism council.

"It is not a substitute. It is rather a strategic choice. Moroccan tourists represent between 35 and 40 percent of the sector's income in the city."

The National Tourist Office (official) seeks to "encourage citizens to travel to the country in the event of a health emergency lifted".

However, the hopes of owners of hotels, restaurants and political institutions have disappointed the authorities' decision this week to extend the state of emergency imposed from March 20, another month until July 10, with the continued imposition of strict isolation measures and restrictions in large cities.

"They are eliminating tourism in Morocco," commented the magazine Maroc Hebdo on its website, "the continued quarantine in the main destinations of foreign and national tourists removing any hope" of reviving the sector.

"It is a big blow to the morale of the two hotels, which hoped to start receiving Moroccan customers in mid-June," said one of the hotels, preferring not to be named.

Tourism represents around 10% of Morocco's GDP, and it is also an important source of hard currency alongside exports and remittances to Moroccans living abroad.

The sector has benefited in recent years from the connection of Kingdom airports with several airlines for cheap flights, but in return it has lost income from local tourists who preferred to travel abroad, spending the year last more than two billion dollars.

Many Moroccans prefer to travel abroad "because they find more freedom which allows them, for example, to have a drink outdoors, and the offers are more suited to families", according to Al-Fandaki.

Social media blogs during the domestic tourism media campaign have also highlighted the barrier that prevents many people from booking a hotel room unless they have a marriage contract, as the he establishment of an intimate relationship outside marriage can lead to imprisonment according to a law which gives rise to rejection Widely accessible to lawyers.

Many tend to cross the few kilometers that separate the shores of the northern kingdom from the Costa del Sol coast in southern Spain, which is their favorite destination, along with Istanbul and Paris.

In addition to feeling freer, Moroccan tourists generally find the tourist offer less expensive in the south of Spain.

In 2018, the number of Moroccan tourists to Spain exceeded the number of Spanish tourists to Morocco for the first time by 900,000. But tourists from both sides are currently unable to cross the Strait of Gibraltar pending the reopening of the border.

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