Morocco’s growth to slow in 2022 with tourism sector badly hit

Morocco

Published on Thursday, 16 December 2021 Back to articles

Marrakech’s Jemaa el Fna Square is normally full of tourists

This month the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that Morocco’s economy will grow by 6.3% in 2021. This was revealed in a 10 December press conference by the fund’s mission chief in the kingdom, Roberto Cardarelli, when he presented the preliminary findings but6 he also said that the fund expects growth to slow to around 3% in 2022. 

This year’s 6.3% is one of the highest growth rates in the MENA region and he put it down to a number of factors including the successful vaccination campaign and the ‘continued fiscal and monetary stimulus, the rebound of exports, buoyant remittances, and the exceptional harvest after two years of drought.’ Cardarelli explained that the recovery is expected to continue over the next few years, although he noted that the pandemic ‘will leave some scars.’ The current account deficit is, however, projected to return to pre-pandemic levels in 2021 and then stabilise at 3.5% of GDP over the medium term. 

While these predications are good news for the new government, they will bring little in the way of comfort for the country’s tourism sector. It has been hit badly again as the government has taken stringent measures to try to protect against the spread of the Omicron variant and preserve the achievements it has already made in containing COVID-19 through its vaccination campaign. The seven-day average number of new daily cases has fallen from over 9,000 during the August-September surge to under 200 now but it will no doubt start to rise again with the new variant. 

There is, however, considerably anxiety regarding the Omicron variant and the government is clearly determined to take steps to guard against it. On 29 November, the authorities suspended direct passenger flights to and from Morocco for two weeks and the maritime borders were also closed. This suspension was subsequently extended until at least the end of the year but returning Moroccan citizens are exempt.

Tourism operators are dismayed at the restrictions, with many fearing that they will go out of business. The Federation Nationale des agences de Voyages du Maroc (FNAVM) chairman, Mohamed Smlali, described the move as having delivered ‘a fatal blow to the sector.’  The sector currently employs more than 500,000 people and many fear for their livelihoods. Although the government has promised to pay US$220 a month to each worker until the end of the year, and may extend this scheme, these payments only apply to individuals who are part of the social security fund. According to local reports, this applies to only 10% of workers in the tourism industry which will leave the remaining 90% high and dry. 

This excerpt is taken from Morocco Focus, our monthly intelligence report on Morocco. Click here to receive a free sample copy.

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