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Optimistic yet realistic, tourism workers in Marrakech aspire for a full reopening of their city

In Marrakech, tourism workers have welcomed the first foreign tourist group in months. The arrival brings hope to the city and its inhabitants who aspire for a full reopening to tourists.

DR
Estimated read time: 3'

For months, the city of Marrakech, an attraction of foreign and local tourists, has seen its tourism workers remain idle. The international and inter-city travel ban, imposed by the authorities as a response to the coronavirus heath crisis, has hit hard the industry that employs most of the city’s inhabitants.

In an attempt to save the sector, authorities in Morocco announced during the weekend, the arrival of the first foreign tourist group to Marrakech. A trip that opens the door for international tourism in the city after a long and devastating period for many Marrakech-based families.

160 French tourists arrived, Saturday, in the Marrakech-Menara airport to spend their fall holidays in the Kingdom, and participate to the gradual re-launching of tourism in the Red City. Considered «positive», the news is, however, a baby step to revive the already struggling industry.

A positive start for a struggling sector

«Knowing that a first flight has landed in Marrakech brings hope to our hearts, it is a first step and it shouldn’t be the last for us to go back on track», Abdessadek Kadimi, from the regional association of tourist guides in Marrakech-Safi, told Yabiladi on Monday.

«We have missed 70% of the tourist season, but we still have hope for the winter and Christmas period», he explained. Kadimi, like many other tourism workers in the city, believes it is a good start yet a difficult one that is marked by «uncertainty and a global crisis».

To him, re-launching tourism in the city has also to take into consideration «local visitors». «Reopening the city to domestic tourists can also save the season, but we respect the decisions of the authorities», he added.

Similarly, Lahcen Koujout from the Tourist transportation syndicate in Marrakech, indicated that «more initiatives and trips must be organized to the city for workers to get back on track».

«We have waited for too long and for now we just hope that there won’t be any unpleasant surprises», he worryingly stressed.  

Although, Marrakech has welcomed its first tourist group Saturday, drivers in the city has not been able to resume their activities yet. «Only three or four people have been able to work these days and almost 90 percent of them are still idle», he reported.

«But we can’t deny that the latest tourist trip from abroad seems like the light one sees at the end of the tunnel. It is not everything and it won’t do much for these desperate people but we remain positive and we hope for more», he added.

Domestic tourists for a proper recovery

Indeed, helping Marrakech resume its tourism activities can’t be done in a day. «These arrivals have given the city’s inhabitants hope but there will be no real recovery like the previous years», an official at the Marrakech regional tourist office told Yabiladi.

«We must accept the fact that with the pandemic, things must be done in a gradual way and it should take into consideration communication and marketing», he argued.

«I have a friend abroad who wants to come to Morocco for a trip and who did not know that the validity of a PCR test required by the authorities has been reduced from 48 to 72 hours», he explained.

To the official, reviving tourism in the city also depends heavily on inter-city travel. «Cities must be opened up and provided with special permits as domestic tourists are also important to us», he stressed.

According to him, the city used to receive 490 flights a week, a number that fell to 70 flights today. «It’s better than nothing after eight months of closure», he added.

Adapting to the crisis

Waiting for the city to open its doors for domestic tourists and receive more foreign flights, some tourism workers have decided to find an alternative. Struggling for months to provide for their families and feed their working animals, carriage drivers in Marrakech have decided to give up on their tourism-based activities and operate like any other transportation means.

Rachid Loudini from a local association of carriage drivers in Marrakech told Yabiladi that since September, Koutchi drivers have started carrying locals around the city just like taxis. «We are back to what we used to do hundreds of years ago, transporting locals within the city», Loudini said.

Happy to hear about the gradual opening of the city to foreign tourists, Loudini pointed out that «without local tourists, their businesses can’t function properly».

«This group includes 160 tourists, and it is unlikely that all of them would want to ride a 'koutchi' (horse carriage, ed), it won’t be enough without domestic tourists but it is better than nothing», he concluded.

For the record, Marrakech was one of the many Moroccan cities that was affected by the coronavirus health crisis and the measures taken to stem the spread of the virus. Confined for months and then closed to domestic tourists, the city has had its markets, hotels and tourist attractions closed for months.

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