“The best way to support Morocco is to visit it”

A tourist in the medina of Marrakech the day after the earthquake. Credit: AFP via Getty Images While relief efforts continue in the mountainous areas most affected by the earthquake, in Marrakech, the tourist capital of the kingdom where the damage “remains minimal in comparison”, life has returned to normal and Tourist activity continues “at a normal pace, although against a backdrop of mourning”, reassure professionals in the sector. Morocco is in mourning. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives and as many were injured in the violent earthquake which shook the center of the country, and which was felt in several regions. The epicenter of the earthquake, located in the Province of Al Haouz, a few dozen kilometers south of Marrakech, human and material losses were heavy, while the toll continues to climb. In turn, the Ocher City, due to its proximity to the epicenter of this earthquake, the violence of which was felt in a large part of the regions of the kingdom, was affected. To date, the city has reported 18 deaths, while several injured people have been treated. Material damage was noted, particularly in the old medina. French media criticized In the aftermath of this natural disaster, tourist operators in the city, which experiences a large influx at this time of year, had to manage a “more than shocking” situation, while they themselves were devastated by the sad event. During the two days that followed, these professionals found themselves faced with another challenge which “only complicated the situation”, told us Laurence Gourret Lapeyre, owner of a riad in Marrakech. “It is scandalous what certain media and television channels, particularly French, have been broadcasting since the earthquake,” she proclaims, alluding to the alarmist discourse carried by several media. “Uncertainty”, “Fall in reservations”, “Long queues at airports”, “hurried departures”… this is how several of these media have chosen to approach the impact of the disaster on the tourist capital of the kingdom. However, official representatives, as well as tourist operators, both national and foreign in the city, report a completely different reality: “Everyone was obviously frightened and upset, even us, professionals at the very moment of the earthquake” , says the general manager of an establishment belonging to an international hotel chain. Nevertheless, “once the first shock passed, all the staff mobilized to reassure and support customers. And our efforts continue to this day, despite the sadness in our hearts, to guarantee the best possible service.” “Very limited” damage Contacted by us, Hamid Bentahar, president of the Regional Tourism Council (CRT) in Marrakech-Safi, reassures that the city’s tourist structures have only suffered “very limited” damage. . These constructions, he explains, “are mostly built according to anti-seismic standards, allowing them to resist tremors”. In the old medina, where the greatest material losses have been reported in the ocher city, “certain establishments have been affected, but the damage is not very significant”. The damage, continues this interlocutor, was concentrated in rural and mountainous areas outside the city, where “unfortunately the damage was much more significant”, he adds. Tourists walking in the area of ​​the medina affected by the earthquake. Credit: EPA A finding also confirmed by Mustapha Amalik, secretary general of the National Federation of the Hotel Industry (FNIH) who affirms that: “all hotel establishments in the city remain operational and we have not witnessed any strong decline at the city level. The damage, he reassures, was limited to “a few cracks on the walls”. In her entourage neither, the owner of one of the many riads has not had any news about the collapse or closure of one of these guest houses. “I have been in contact with different people since Friday, none of them have reported such information,” she says. Cancellations and early departures “very minimal” This is also what Amalik confirms, stressing that the number of cancellations of reservations has been “very minimal”. These, he adds, mainly concerned Saturday, “which is completely normal”. And although we will have to wait to have the data relating to the coming days, the Secretary General is confident. “After the summer season we expect a large number of visitors during the fall. Tourist activity should therefore continue as normal in the coming weeks,” he assures. Moreover, despite the earthquake, and “its emotional impact”, very few tourists found it necessary to say “goodbye” to the city. “The foreign visitors who are there have only one desire: to stay and enjoy the city. Besides, they are there because they love Morocco, and they decided to stay to bring a kind of solidarity, while enjoying their stay in Marrakech,” says the SG of the FNIH. And the best proof of the resilience of the city’s tourism operators, according to him, is the continued preparations to host the general meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), scheduled for next October, and which should attract some 14,000 speakers. “Marrakech is preparing to host this major event. What emerges from this is that Morocco is a strong state: despite the general mobilization to help the victims of the earthquake, the work continues at the same time and the preparations have not stopped,” he explains. Thus, in the face of adversity, “all professionals maintain the same courage, because the best way to help our country is precisely to continue the activity”, adds, for his part, Hamid Bentahar, emphasizing that “it is a natural disaster, which can occur at any time in any country. Moroccans, as always, continue to show strength and solidarity.” Normal tourist activity Our first interlocutor, as well as Bentahar, indicate that “tourist activity is gradually returning to its rhythm, while the city is returning to a rather normal rhythm of life”. A recovery, “against a backdrop of mourning”, but “necessary”, we underline. According to the accounts of the operators contacted by Le Desk, “a normal atmosphere, although tinged with sadness” returned the day after the disaster. “Visitors always enjoy their stay in complete peace, while everyone shows solidarity, especially with the staff who have lost members of their families, but also with all the affected populations,” add these sources. Beyond the hotel establishments, in the alleys of the city, in the souks, in cafes and restaurants, tourists flocked “assiduously” during the weekend, our sources further specify. This is what Imane Rmili, president of the National Federation of Tourist Restaurateurs (FNRT), confirms: “We are deeply moved by the earthquake which certainly affected our country, but, apart from a certain number of restaurants affected in the medina, those in the city are operational and continue to welcome and reassure foreign customers present in Marrakech.” For this tourism professional, continuing to provide services to welcome all visitors in the best possible conditions is a “responsibility”. Moreover, “reassuring our international customers and guaranteeing them a warm and attentive service, even in these difficult times, is an integral part of our national identity”. It is therefore in this spirit that all professionals have made themselves available to their clients, in order to guarantee the continuity of activities. A continuation of efforts in difficult conditions which does not go unnoticed. One of the French tourists staying in Marrakech, who has no intention of interrupting his trip, testifies: “Morocco is a country that is very dear to us, and where we are always well received,” he shares, emphasizing that “in these difficult times, the attitude of professionals is the ultimate manifestation of the strength of spirit and the values ​​of Moroccans”. Support Morocco “by visiting it” At the kingdom’s airports, “traffic continued normally, and no major disruption took place,” Bentahar said. Visitors, contrary to what some media reported, did not rush to the airports to flee the country. “The professionals turned to the city authorities, who in turn reassured both residents and travelers,” insists this official, stressing that “in all the structures, the tourists were supervised and accompanied by the staff throughout Friday evening, and this mobilization continues to this day.” The president of the CRT expects the city, and Morocco in general, to welcome more new visitors in the coming weeks. “We are monitoring the situation in collaboration with our international partners. They are deployed in order to reassure their citizens.” Message broadcast by all national actors and their international partners: “The best way to support Morocco is to visit it,” says Bentahar. This is also the message that was conveyed by several foreign tourist operators in Morocco, including Laurence: “spreading fear can only further harm the country. Local people here have always relied on tourism activities. The need is even greater now and therefore travelers must continue to go to Marrakech,” she explains. The same message was conveyed by Vanessa Branson, sister of the famous billionaire Richard Branson, and whose family owns several hotels in Morocco and Marrakech. “Although a number of old buildings have been damaged, the fundamental heart of the city, like its people, is robust,” she stressed in an interview with The Times. “There is no reason not to visit Marrakech now,” urging visitors to maintain and continue their vacation plans in the kingdom, since it is the best way to support the country. “My message is: don’t cancel your vacation. You will come to a country where the true resilience and beauty of people shines despite the crisis,” she added. In Spain too, travel agencies have reassured their customers. In a press release released on Saturday, the Spanish Confederation of Travel Agencies (CEAV) affirmed that “the operations planned for travel to Morocco are maintained”. As for visitors already present in the kingdom, the same source assures that “all these travelers are taken care of and informed”, while “tourist activity continues normally”. ©️ Copyright Pulse Media. All rights reserved. Reproduction and distribution prohibited (photocopies, intranet, web, messaging, newsletters, monitoring tools) without written authorization