Marrakesh comes to life

Marrakech (Morocco), May 14 (EFE).- After two years of sanitary restrictions, Marrakech, the tourist lung of Morocco, is coming back to life with squares full of tourists and all shops open, although it has not yet reached the pre-pandemic visitor levels.

At the beginning of the year, the city had half of its shops closed and its mythical Fna square was almost empty, as a result of the border closure that the Maghreb country applied from November 29 to February 7. Almost three months after the reopening, the situation has begun to change and there is an upturn in visitors.

PLAZA FNA, ALMOST FULL

The mythical Fna square has thus regained its lost identity and the disorder that the writer Juan Goytisolo admired so much. Regardless of the high temperatures these days, some tourists now take a ride in a carriage and others haggle over the price of orange juice among the food stalls that permeate the square with the smell.

It was this landscape of a crowded and bustling plaza and «good food» that led Karina, a 30-year-old Ecuadorian living in the Spanish city of Zaragoza, to convince her friends Estefanía and Patricia to visit the country.

«The culture is different, it’s another world, the food is very good, it’s the second time I’ve been here and I love it. When the option of Marrakech came up, I said yes to everything,» Karina told Efe as they wandered through the square drinking juices. hand.

WITHOUT REACHING THE PRE-PANDEMIC LEVEL

The tourist rebound observed in Marrakech, according to tourism expert Zoubir Bouhout, occurred progressively after the reopening of the air space on February 7 and the maritime space two months later. In Marrakech, the number of flights since the first week of opening in February has increased by 270%.

«We are progressively coming out of the crisis and it is expected that the peak will be reached with the launch of the Marhaba operation (Crossing the Strait), which resumes after two years of interruption with the transit by sea of ​​more than three million people. in a period of three months (between June and August),» Bouhout explains to Efe on a rooftop overlooking Fna.

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According to the Moroccan Exchange Office, tourism receipts were 9.7 billion dirhams (921 million euros) from January to March this year, which represents an increase of 79.6% compared to the same period in 2021.

Despite these promising prospects, Bouhout believes that tourism will not be able to recover its pre-pandemic level this year as more time is needed for the recovery of the sector, which was hit hard by the health crisis. The expert predicts that the number of tourists in 2022 could reach 9 million (compared to 13 million in 2019).

The same observation is shared by Ayoub Elguant, a seller of decoration products in the medina of Marrakech, who has confirmed that the presence of tourists in the city has reached 70% of its level before the pandemic.

«At this time we used to have more tourists, this year we have a lot but it’s not as crowded as before,» he says.

INTENSE PROMOTION CAMPAIGN

To consolidate the recovery of the sector, Moroccan authorities and professionals have launched an intense campaign to promote Morocco as a destination.

The Moroccan National Tourism Office (ONMT) launched a campaign in mid-April, baptized «Morocco, land of lights», with billboards and advertisements on screens of the squares in the squares of 19 capitals, such as Time Square avenue in New York, Plaza del Callao in Madrid or Piccadilly in London.

The campaign targets tourists between the ages of 25 and 59 who are interested in art, culture and rural heritage, beaches and leisure.

They are initiatives that, according to professionals, can be stopped by some restrictions that are still in place, such as the obligation to present a negative PCR test to passengers entering Morocco by air.

«I want more people to come. They should remove the PCR so that people feel free to come, that will help,» says Ayoub.

Fatima Zohra Bouaziz

(c) EFE Agency