Travel businesses in Morocco are weighing the impact of the deadly earthquake on the country and their businesses.
“Morocco is open, Morocco is safe, and Morocco is still an incredible place to visit.”
That’s the word on the ground from Zina Bencheikh, Intrepid Travel’s EMEA managing director, as the company confirmed tours are running again as of Wednesday, 13 September.
“Safety is always Intrepid’s number one priority. I cannot stress enough the importance of traveling to Morocco at this time. We will be making necessary changes to itineraries rerouting from the Atlas Mountains and Marrakech Medina. Still, otherwise, the tourism industry, airports, hotels, and restaurants are all operating as normal, and guides, leaders, and hosts are all eager to welcome travelers,” said Bencheikh.
Numerous tour operators and conference events decided to cancel or suspend operations following the deadly earthquake that claimed nearly 3,000 lives on Friday, September 8.
The North African country is the latest tourism hotspot to be devastated by a natural disaster, following the wildfires in Hawaii’s Maui and Greece’s Rhodes Island during this year’s summer peak season. This has raised concern about balancing recovery with support as travel businesses, and tourists consider how soon is too soon to restart tourism.
Tourism in Morocco has surged since the pandemic, accounting for 8% of its GDP. The Observatoire du Tourisme says the country received 6.5 million arrivals between January and June of this year, with some 11.7 million nights booked, and tourism spending valued at an estimated $13.4 billion (47.9 billion dirhams) during the same period.
Medina Heritage Damage
Morocco’s devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit 50 miles outside of Marrakesh in the High Atlas Mountains, a popular tourist destination. Marrakech’s Unesco World Heritage Site Medina is the worst hit area of the city, as authorities assess a repair plan and secure damaged buildings, some dating back to the 12th century, to limit the risk.
El Fenn Hotel Marrakech, a luxury hotel in the Medina, posted a statement confirming it had only suffered “cosmetic damage.”
“For now, be assured that the recovery in Marrakech will be quick, but it will be a far longer process for many rural communities. We hope many of you will participate in the process by donating, traveling, and supporting this beautiful land we’re proud to call home.”
Small group tour operator G Adventures, headquartered in Toronto, Canada, initially canceled six tours to areas most impacted by the earthquake, including Mount Toubkal.
Soumia Ait Bendawad, Regional Operations Manager Morocco & The Middle East, based in Marrakech, said G Adventures is rerouting tours to Imlil and Ait Ben Haddou. “We are also offering alternative experiences in Marrakech to avoid the Medina,” said Bendawad, who confirmed the company had a total of 21 trips underway in Morocco, and due to start within the next week.
G Adventures has allowed all guests to cancel or secure an alternative experience tour.
‘We’re here to help’
Journey Morocco, founded by Redouane Ouadi, confirmed they were operating tours as usual “without any issue caused by the earthquake.”
The company provides six multi-day tours all around Morocco, including some of the affected sites, according to Redouane, who confirmed these tours were being modified.
“We received some requests if tours are still operating, and we confirm that we will operate all our tours. We are here to help,” said Redouane.
Similarly, Bencheikh confirmed Intrepid was focused on immediate relief to grassroots organizations, with donations to the Intrepid Morocco Earthquake Appeal estimated at $200,000.
“If you have existing travel plans, whether with Intrepid or other companies, I encourage you to stick to them. And if you’ve wondered how you can help, consider booking a trip and visiting us here. You will see firsthand what makes this country so special,” said Bencheikh.