By Nneka Nwogwugwu
A report by the Financial Times has revealed that the Morocco tourism sector has been grossly affected by the pandemic.
A bike tour company, Marrakech Green Wheels was entering its peak season in the spring, when the heat is less harsh.
Morocco’s orders are open and vaccinated visitors are exempt from quarantine but, in the Marrakesh old town, many restaurants and shops have yet to reopen their doors because footfall remains low, the report stated.
The toll of the pandemic on tourism, which, according to the World Bank, contributes 11 per cent of the country’s GDP and accounts for 17 per cent of the workforce, was felt both locally and nationally.
While other sectors of the economy are starting to rebound, tourism will “continue to suffer”, says Yasmina Abouzzohour, research fellow at the Harvard Middle East Initiative. Back in 2020, she warned that “banking on the tourism sector to accelerate economic recovery will lead to disappointing results”.
A more than halving of tourism revenues in 2020 was an important factor in the country’s recession — its first since 1995. Overall, Morocco’s GDP declined by 6.3 per cent during 2020, according to Capital Economics and, while the IMF says growth is expected to accelerate to 4.5 per cent in 2021, the services sector is projected to lag behind.
Morocco started prioritising tourism as an economic sector in the early 2000s. Just before the pandemic in 2019, foreign tourist arrivals were at 7m people, compared with 2.2m in 2002. But, in 2020, tourist arrivals fell by 78.5 per cent. The National Federation of the Hotel Industry predicts 2021 will be worse than 2020 for the sector overall.
Despite the slow recovery, “the recently disclosed New Development Model [the country’s social and economic strategy] emphasises tourism as a strategic sector”, says Javier Díaz Cassou, an economist with the World Bank. He adds that tourism received extensive public support.
Morocco’s tourism sector still struggling despite vaccine progress – Report
By Nneka Nwogwugwu