Internal tourism as a lever for recovery?

In 2019, just before the health crisis, around 2 million Moroccans opted for destinations abroad to spend their holidays. Each Moroccan tourist spends an average of 1579 dollars abroad. A potential that national operators should recover. The health crisis and its unprecedented impact on national tourism has revealed the role of domestic tourism as a shock absorber for maintaining the tourist production system in times of crisis. This is a reality that has been confirmed by a recent study by the Department of Studies and Financial Forecasts (DEPF), under the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Thus, “despite the uncertainties and the restrictive sanitary measures differentiated at the territorial level, internal tourism played a role of shock absorber during the crisis”, indicated the DEPF in a Policy brief devoted to the “Potential of internal tourism as a lever post-Covid recovery”. Indeed, the saving role of domestic tourism, according to conventional and unconventional data, has been dependent on travel restrictions and the differentiated specialization of tourist territories, specifies the DEPF. Thus, the arrivals of internal tourists in classified tourist accommodation establishments (EHTC) contracted by 59.5% in 2020, against -80.7% for inbound tourism, rising to 1.4 million tourists. This made it possible to maintain tourist activity at a minimum with a share of the internal tourism market of 57% of total arrivals, an increase of 18 points compared to 2019. Similarly, overnight stays by Moroccan residents fell by 55, 4% in 2020, compared to -72.4% for inbound tourism, rising to 3.5 million overnight stays, maintaining the average per tourist at 2.4 overnight stays compared to 3.2 for non-residents. This corroborates the role of domestic tourism in maintaining the tourism production system in times of crisis with the consolidation of its market share at 50% of total overnight stays against 31% in 2019. This crucial role of domestic tourism has, however, been hampered by the restrictive health measures implemented differently in the regions according to their epidemiological states and whose effects continued into 2021. Indeed, the contraction in domestic tourism was less severe in the Souss-Massa region (respectively -45 % and -41% for arrivals and overnight stays), and relatively severe in Marrakech-Safi (respectively -70% and 69%) and Tangier-Tetouan Al Hoceima (respectively -64% and -60%) which concentrate 66% of overnight stays and 59% of resident arrivals. The impact of the pandemic is also perceptible through the slowdown in visits to retail and leisure venues during periods of mobility restrictions, particularly during the first wave of the pandemic (-69% in Q2) and the second wave of the 4th quarter of 2020 (-23%). Moreover, the situation has improved since the end of Ramadan of the same year. Obviously this is a very special situation that the whole world has known. In normal times, domestic tourism was not the only alternative available to Moroccans. What makes say to the authors of this study that Morocco offers a potential of outgoing tourism which it would be necessary to direct in favor of the internal market. Indeed, according to the same study, the number of Moroccan tourists going abroad has certainly fallen by an annual average of 0.9% since 2010, but it is still high. The number of Moroccan tourists going abroad reached 2 million tourists in 2019, or 5.5% of the total population. It should be noted in this regard that the Moroccan passport offered access without a visa or with a visa on arrival to 62 countries in 2019 against 51 in 2010. The decline in outbound tourism in Morocco, (the only one recorded at the continental level), however, was accompanied by the most notable increase in Africa in spending per Moroccan tourist abroad (+6.9%) to reach $1,579/tourist in 2019. Moroccan tourists going abroad favor destinations short-haul, namely Spain (39%) and France (38%). The study also notes the incompressible share of religious tourism which represents 9% of departures abroad and has been consolidated annually by +9.6% since 2010, almost driven by Umrah (+13.7%) which represents 82% departures to Saudi Arabia. The Turkish destination has emerged, with the strongest annual growth (+16.9%) representing 12% of Moroccan departures abroad in 2019, thus gaining 9 points over the last decade. This concentration of tourist activity in France and Spain could only continue, given the number of Schengen area visas approved in 2019, which reached 544,062 for Morocco (3.6% of total visas issued). , including 57% and 31% respectively for France and Spain. Also, according to the authors of this study, it would now be wise to mobilize the existing hotel capacity for the benefit of national tourists at affordable prices, especially during low seasons and by smoothing the pressure on accommodation by restoring holidays by zone. .