Morocco’s tourism fears domino effect from Sousse attack
Casablanca - Morocco’s tourism minister remained optimistic that the terrorist attack in Tunisia, in which 38 people were killed at a popular resort, would not have a domino effect and hurt tourism in the North African country.
Moroccan Minister of Tourism Lahcen Haddad told the upper house of parliament that the Tunisia incident had no direct effect on holiday bookings in Morocco.
“The efforts of the Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT) averted a major impact of the Tunisian events on the Moroccan tourism market,” he said.
However, Haddad acknowledged that bookings for autumn had not experienced much gain and bookings were down 1.5% between December 2014 and May 2015.
Prior to the June 26th attack on the Tunisian resort of Sousse, Morocco had already seen a 46% drop in the number of French tourists in the first five months of 2015, according to the National Syndicate of Travel Agencies.
Some European countries issued warnings against travelling in North Africa. Great Britain — 30 Britons were among the victims of the shootings in Tunisia — cited Morocco among countries at risk of terrorism but also highlighted security arrangements put in place by Moroccan authorities.
“There is a general threat from terrorism in Morocco. Attacks are possible, and could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners,” the UK Foreign Office said in a statement.
“The Moroccan authorities have warned of an increased threat linked to the growing number of Moroccans belonging to international terrorist organisations operating in Syria and Iraq. As a result, increased security measures, including additional security personnel may be visible in certain areas,” the statement said.
Nabil Bekkali, co-manager of Elite Travel in Rabat, said there have been some booking cancellations, mainly from the Asian market.
“Many groups from Japan and China, who come every year to Morocco, have cancelled their bookings for September,” Bekkali said, adding that some travel agencies and tour operators were reducing profit margins to attract tourists.
Bekkali called on the ONMT to double its efforts and budget to promote Morocco as a safe country for tourists.
The ONMT unveiled a programme in Paris on July 4th called “Bladi F’Bali” (“My Country in My Thought”) aimed at Moroccans residing abroad.
The programme, which lasts until 2017, promises significant discounts on hotel prices ranging from 30% in high season, to up to 50% during low season in various cities.