Tourism: travel agencies disrupted by digital platforms

By Zahira Bechari As the tourism sector seeks to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, competition from online platforms is in turn disrupting the recovery of some industry players. Travel agencies, which have traditionally played a key role in promoting and selling travel to Morocco, are facing challenges in maintaining their market share in the face of digital competition. Travel agencies in Morocco face increasingly fierce competition from digital platforms, such as Booking, Expedia, AirBnB, Lilgo and other players. These platforms have revolutionized the way travelers book accommodation, flights, and other travel services. They offer very easy online booking options with often competitive rates, and 24-hour availability. Another advantage is that they also offer increased convenience and accessibility via their user-friendly online interfaces Digital harms rarely raised Digital platforms, such as Booking, Expedia, and others, have grown in popularity with travelers looking to book their travels online quickly and easily. These platforms often offer a range of accommodation, flight and activity choices, with price comparison options and traveler reviews. As a result, travel agencies in Morocco find themselves facing increased competition from these online platforms, which has largely affected their ability to attract and retain customers. However, some Moroccan travel agencies have tried to digitize, such as Atlas Voyages, which already launched its API (Application Programming Interface) in 2018 to better sell Morocco as a destination, in addition to Monarch Travel, another Moroccan travel, which still plans to double its overall turnover thanks to its online booking site. The latter, having hoped in vain to reach more than 70% of its turnover via the online channel around the year 202, found itself immediately defeated by the various online players, in particular which holds the monopoly of reservations and who wants to be difficult to dethrone. The federation of travel agencies calls on the government to protect the sector Faced with this growing competition from digital platforms, the federation of travel agencies in Morocco has called on the government to take measures to protect the sector, thus expressing its concerns about the impact of competition from online platforms on traditional travel agencies, particularly in terms of competitive advantages, operating costs and regulations. Mohammed Semlali, President of the National Federation of Travel Agencies of Morocco (FNAVM), denounces the unfair competition of online hotel reservation platforms. This competition, suffered for years without Morocco being able to retaliate, is considered totally inadmissible by Mr. Semlali. He underlines the fact that a Moroccan resident of Rabat must sometimes, even often, go through a foreign platform to book an overnight stay in Agadir, which is unacceptable. The federation of agencies lists the losses Decidedly, competition from digital platforms has had strong financial repercussions on travel agencies in Morocco. The federation of travel agencies believes that traditional agencies suffer financial losses due to competition from online platforms, whether due to lower sales volume, lower profit margins or other financial challenges arising from this competition. As a result, current losses are estimated at around 30% of overnight stays booked by nationals. Widad Benhammou, director of the Terratour group, points out that Moroccans are contributing to currency flight, without the state being able to exercise control over the loss of revenue, which is also tax-exempt. She is also indignant that a hotel owned by a Moroccan has to pay commissions in foreign currency to a foreign platform so that national customers can book a room, while expressing her concern at the growing dependence of hoteliers on these platforms, representing up to 80% of their turnover, a situation which it considers unacceptable. Finally, it is important to note that financial challenges and reported losses may vary depending on the size and specific nature of travel agencies in Morocco. Small local agencies, in particular, may be more vulnerable to competition from digital platforms due to their limited ability to invest in technology and online marketing. It may also have an impact on employment in the sector, with the possibility of staff reductions in some traditional travel agencies. It is therefore essential for traditional travel agencies and for the Moroccan government to take measures to mitigate the challenges posed by competition from digital platforms. This could include efforts to promote the advantages of traditional travel agencies, such as personalized customer service, local expertise and in-depth market knowledge, as well as the establishment of fair regulations for online travel agencies and traditional. Collaboration between travel agencies and digital platforms could also be explored to create win-win partnerships and optimize the opportunities offered by the digital transformation of the tourism sector.