Morocco’s tourism fears domino effect from Sousse attack

Friday 07/08/2015
Foreign tourists in Rabat.

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.