Tourism: A trompe l'oeil recovery?

Sector indicators point to a recovery in the situation. The recovery rate is estimated to be 40% lower compared to 2019. The effective recovery is conditional on the lifting of the obligation to present a negative PCR test on entry into the country. All the ingredients, or almost, are present for an effective recovery of the tourism sector. Moreover, several indicators plead for a good performance of the sector since the reopening of the air borders. Indeed, the volume of commercial traffic reached 2.2 million passengers from February 7 to the end of March, and 28,404 flights, thus raising the recovery rate to 65% for passengers and 75% for airport movements. It should be noted, however, that of the 26 airports open to air traffic, barely 17 of them have been served since the reopening of the air sky. The national office of airports forecasts an average forecast rate of recovery of passenger traffic from Morocco's airports of 75%, compared to 2019. It would exceed 100% for several airports (Tangier and Nador airports: 104%, ‘Al Hoceima: 106%, Oujda Airport: 108%, Tetouan Airport: 537%). Regarding connectivity, the 2022 summer season will be marked by the creation of 48 new lines, namely 2 at MohammedV airport, 12 at Marrakech, 11 at Agadir and 9 at Nador airport. Alongside, 48 air routes for several airports will be set up (Mohammed V Airport: Al Manama and Kuwait City. Tangier Airport: Rome and London-Stansted. Oujda Airport: Barcelona, ​​Seville, Montpellier and Nantes, etc.). For their part, travel receipts amounted to 9.7 billion DH in the 1st quarter, up 79.6% compared to the same period in 2021. Nevertheless, these receipts show a drop of 43.6% compared to compared to the 1st quarter of 2020, before the 1st confinement. This means that everything is good to start again on a good basis. Only one variant remains which is not the responsibility of tourist operators. This is the lifting of the restriction to present a PCR test at Moroccan airports and ports. “The demand for the Morocco destination is well expressed, but the shoe pinches at the level of the rate of its retraining on the ground. With this requirement of a vaccine passport in addition to an anti-Covid test, we are only making it easier for competing destinations in Morocco”, laments Hamid Bentahar, president of the CNT. Every day that passes means more losses. The observation is seriously necessary when we know that the impact of this decision, still relevant, could extend over the next 12 months. For good reason, foreign tourists book their destination 6 months up to 1 year in advance. Despite this, the resumption of activity is visible, according to the operators contacted. Except that the recovery rate is significantly lower than that recorded in 2019; a drop of 40%. Another observation: this recovery is mainly due to local customers, on certain destinations, such as those of the Oriental. Quentin Bourru, General Manager of Radisson Blue Resort & Residences in Al Hoceima, explains that this recovery in activity is not necessarily correlated to the improvement in sanitary conditions but rather to the season itself, which is known by the arrival domestic tourists. “All the work that should have been done long before winter was not done. We could have signed contracts with tour operators in Southern and Eastern Europe if this restriction had been lifted,” says Mr. Bourru. It must also be said that this region is not pampered in terms of air service. “With, for example, one flight per week from Belgium, Al Hoceima airport does not have the international dimension required to attract foreigners,” adds Mr. Bourru. In any case, our source estimates that the current occupancy rate is between 15 and 20% and could reach 70% from June. This situation of mixed recovery is all the more visible by the continued closure of certain hotel establishments and Riads, which prefer to wait for a total easing of health restrictions to claim a return to normal activity rather than reopening and face the inability to cover their expenses. This affects several cities, including Agadir, which has an occupancy rate varying between 10% for some establishments and 30% for others. “Although there was a good influx of tourists during this period which coincides with the Easter and Passover holidays, this was not enough to fill all the litter capacity of Agadir. Cruising speed has not yet been reached”, indicates Rachid Dahmaz, president of the CRT of Agadir. The latter provides for an occupancy rate of 90% during the summer season, achieved mainly by locals, knowing that the national market constitutes 40% of national production. What is missing is mainly linked to charter flights, even if the seaside products are present for the destination of Agadir and its surroundings. “Currently, we have to prepare for the winter season which continues to attract tourists. This remains conditioned by the lifting of the obligation to have a PCR test which slows down this tourist revival, ”concludes Mr. Dahmaz.