It is possible that the tensions in the region caused by the Israel-Gaza will put a brake on it but — in spite of September’s devastating earthquake that struck Marrakesh and the High Atlas Mountains — there were positive signs for the tourism industry which was still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marrakesh is certainly on its way to recovery. Although it was less badly hit by the quake than areas in the High Atlas Mountains, where traditional villages were either partially or completely destroyed, various tourist sites suffered damage. Only a month later, however, key historic sites in the city — including the Bahia Palace, the Badi Palace and the Saadian Tombs — were reopened.
This was just in time for the city to host this year’s International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank annual meeting, which went ahead on 9-15 October. There had been doubts as to whether this long planned gathering would take place in light of the tragedy but, after coming under immense pressure from Morocco, it was agreed that they would proceed (see Morocco Focus, September 2023). Regardless of its actual results, the event was a success as far as Morocco was concerned: it certainly served as a major boost for Marrakesh, which saw an additional 14,000 people coming into the city for the summit.
The news regarding tourist numbers is also encouraging. Minister for Tourism, Handicrafts, Social Economy and Solidarity, Fatim-Zahra Ammor, revealed that, notwithstanding the earthquake, more than 960,000 tourists had visited the Kingdom in September, which was a 7% increase compared to the same period last year. She noted that, by the second week of October, Morocco had received over 11 million tourist visitors, which was more than the whole of 2022. Ammor also said that the Kingdom aims to reach 14 million visitors by the end of the year.
She explained that the ministry is planning to double the number of tourists by 2030 when Morocco is due to host the World Cup. It should bring huge benefits to the country which will receive a major influx of tourists during and after the competition. In turn this boost will feed into other sectors including construction, hospitality, transport and aviation.
These benefits will need to be offset by the costs of hosting a global event. Morocco’s share of the organising budget is estimated to be around US$5-US$6 billion, of which around half is expected to come from the Kingdom’s general budget with much of the remainder being sourced through bank loans and donations. On balance, however, hosting the World Cup offers a huge opportunity for the Kingdom to showcase what it has to offer.This excerpt is taken from Morocco Focus, our monthly intelligence report on Morocco. Click here to receive a free sample copy.
The October 2023 issue of Morocco Focus also includes the following:
- Mass protests against Israel’s military campaign against Gaza…
- UN issues new report on Western Sahara…
- King orders revision of Family Code…
- New parliamentary session but no cabinet reshuffle…
- Tourism sector showing strong signs of recovery…
- Green energy project is of ‘national significance’ to the UK
- Afreximbank and Morocco sign US$1 billion MoU