In Morocco, the contrasting impact of the earthquake on tourism

In Morocco, the contrasting impact of the earthquake on tourism

2023-09-24 19:00:04
Tourists walk near Jamaa El-Fna square, in Marrakech, September 17, 2023. AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS

If he admits to having lived “three complicated days” after the earthquake, which occurred Friday September 8 and which left nearly 3,000 dead and more than 5,600 injured, according to a latest official report, Hamid Bentahar, president of the national tourism confederation in Morocco, also director of operations of the group Accor in the kingdom wants to be reassuring: “ THE cancellations have not been as numerous as feared and the planes landing in Marrakech are full. »

A relief shared by the secretary general of the regional association of the hotel industry, Mustapha Amalik, also owner of a forty-room boutique hotel. “No cancellations, only postponements”he specifies, adding that the airport is running at full capacity with “more than four hundred flights per week”. Same observation at Club Med de la Palmeraie, a heavyweight in the sector with three hundred rooms. “Our occupancy rate fell by four points over the first four weeks of October, but two thirds of the cancellations are postponements”notes Thierry Orsoni, the group’s director of communications and institutional relations.

No closed hotels in Marrakech

Located around a hundred kilometers from the epicenter, Marrakech was only very partially affected by the earthquake. The authorities recorded eighteen deaths and the damage, limited, was confined to the old medina. “It is especially in this area, which is home to many riads, that the cancellations were the most significant”, underlines Samuel Roure. The president of the association of guest houses of Marrakech, Essaouira and Ouarzazate, which brings together 2,000 establishments, calculates the cancellation rate “between 40 and 50%” in September and plans « 25 % » for October and November, even if there are very few closures: “The damage is limited, the impact is mainly economic. Customers prefer to wait before deciding to come. »

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Visiting the old medina of Marrakech on Thursday, the Minister of Tourism, Fatim-Zahra Ammor, was confident: “We would like to reassure our partners and future tourists about the stable situation in Marrakech. » No hotel has closed in the city, but the Covid-19 crisis is still on everyone’s minds. In 2020 and 2021, Marrakech lost 80% of its visitors, while 500,000 people make a living from tourism in the prefecture. Since the earthquake, regaining trust has become the leitmotif of tourism professionals.

” Do not panic “, shade Zoubir Bouhoute. This independent consultant, former president of the provincial tourism council of Ouarzazate, has made his calculations: the month of September records “10 to 15%” of canceled reservations in Marrakech, i.e. “between 70,000 and 100,000 fewer nights”. Cancellations should fade in October and November, but it is in rural areas, he warns, that the situation is more serious: “In the short term, there will be no recovery in these territories. »

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In the province of Al Haouz, which records 60% of deaths, a large number of establishments have closed. This is the case of Terres d’Amanar, which culminates at an altitude of 1,200 meters in the High Atlas massif. Abdellatif Abouelghanaim, the accommodation and reservations manager, points out numerous damages in the rooms and the restaurant: “We don’t know when we will reopen, we are still waiting for the expert to come. » An hour’s drive away, the situation is worse. In the Imlil valley, backed by Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, ” Everything is closed “according to him.

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More than 3 million tourists in 2019

Further west, in Ouirgane, the news is the same. Apart from one or two hotels, “everyone is closed”, indicates Michel Lemaire, who owns a guest house away from the town. His reservations in September and October were all canceled. Fifteen days after the earthquake, he too is waiting for the expert’s visit, but he considers himself ” lucky “. Less than two kilometers away, on the side of the road leading to Marrakech, a two-story inn collapsed: “The owner who was on the terrace found himself in the cellar. »

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In the Agafay desert, around thirty kilometers from Marrakech, Vincent Jacquet does not hide his incomprehension: “That there were cancellations the first days after the earthquake, I understand, but here we have stays that are skipped even though they were planned in a month, or even two. » This owner of a luxury camp, spared by the earthquake, explains having lost “45% of its occupancy rate in September”while its tourist circuits were not affected.

Marrakech hoped to break its attendance record this year, but is it still possible? It would need to accommodate more than the 3.1 million tourists who visited the city in 2019. The eagerly awaited confirmation, Monday, of the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank being held in the city, which will take place from October 9 to 15, was welcomed as a breath of fresh air: 14,000 participants are expected over 7 days. “Almost all 4 and 5 star hotels are fully booked for this period”, says Mustapha Amalik. Zoubir Bouhoute did the math: “The event should generate 100,000 overnight stays, enough fill a large part of the cancellations linked to the earthquake. »

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