Morocco tourism suffers after Paris attacks

Friday 04/12/2015
Losing customers. A waiter carries a tray of food in one of the restaurants in the Jemaa el-Fna square in Marrakesh.

Casablanca - It did not take the Islamic State (ISIS) long to threaten Morocco after Rabat reportedly gave intelligence information to the French government about the whereabouts of Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the ringleader of the deadly Paris attacks.
ISIS attackers killed 130 people in Paris on November 13th, the dead­liest attack in Europe since the Ma­drid train bombings in March 2004 in which 191 people were killed.
French authorities had thought Abaaoud was still among ISIS jihad­ists fighting in Syria, but Moroccan officials informed them that he was in France.
Terror attacks in Tunisia, in which 60 tourists were killed, and the Russian plane crash caused by a bomb in Egypt prompted Europe­an holidaymakers to shun popular Arab destinations.
Morocco is not immune from the fear that is driving many tourists to opt for what they perceive as safer destinations or to stay home, Mo­roccan Tourism Minister Lahcen Haddad acknowledged. He said the number of tourists in the country has been declining due to the grow­ing ISIS threat.
Other officials and tourism opera­tors concur, saying growth in the sector has been affected by a per­ception of threat.
“Since mid-2014 with the ap­pearance of ISIS and then with the two attacks in Tunisia and with the Charlie Hebdo attack in France, we have seen a dwindling of the num­ber of tourists,” Haddad told the Fi­nancial Times prior to the Novem­ber 13th assault on Paris.
“It is not highly significant in the overall picture but very important for the French market, where we had a drop starting in mid-2014 — and it is still happening.”
France is the most significant market for Morocco. French holi­daymakers represent 34% of the tourists who visit the North African kingdom each year.
Some cities in Morocco are al­ready feeling the pinch. Agadir, which is one of Morocco’s sunny destinations throughout the year, is relying on local tourists to help offset the dwindling number of for­eign holidaymakers.
According to figures released by Agadir’s Regional Council of Tour­ism, the number of nights spent at accommodations catering to tourists was down in the first six months of the year compared to the same period in 2014.
The southern coastal city re­corded 2,262,788 bed nights over the period compared to 2,521,563 recorded in 2014.
This decrease is mainly due to the French market, which showed a decline in terms of tourist arrivals (down 21%) and bed nights (down 28%). However, the flow of local tourists rose as Agadir received 159,545 tourists from Moroccan cities from January through July, a 14.3% increase compared to the same period in 2014.
Tourism accounted for about 8% of the Morocco’s gross domes­tic product in 2014 and employs 500,000 people. The government hopes to see the number of visitors rise to 20 million by 2022.
One the other side of the tourism picture, some Moroccans who were planning to go to major European capitals such as London and Paris for Christmas and New Year’s fes­tivities have cancelled their plans due to fears of potential terror at­tacks in Europe.
Leila Bourzik, a government em­ployee, said that she dropped her plan to visit London for safety rea­sons.
“I cancelled my plan to go to the United Kingdom because I fear that terror attacks might happen any­time, anywhere,” Bourzik said.