Morocco expected to hit record tourism arrivals despite headwinds
Morocco's tourism industry appears to have experienced a record year, contributing significantly to the country's economy, despite facing challenges such as the September earthquake and disruptions to winter bookings attributed to the war in Gaza.
While the earthquake caused minor damage in Marrakech, one of Morocco's primary tourist destinations, the city rebounded with the hosting of the IMF and World Bank meeting in October. However, since the onset of the conflict in Gaza, located 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) away, there has been a reported decline in bookings and an increase in cancellations for the winter season, according to Faouzi Zemrani, a tour operator in Marrakech.
Several hotels in Marrakech confirmed that bookings for the upcoming New Year holiday season were below pre-pandemic levels, indicating a recent downturn in tourism activity linked to geopolitical events.
Tourism holds a significant role in Morocco's economy, contributing 7% to its gross domestic product (GDP) and serving as a vital source of foreign currency. The Tourism Ministry anticipates that by the end of 2023, arrivals will reach 14 million, with 13.2 million visitors recorded by the end of November. In 2022, Morocco welcomed 11 million tourists, while in 2019, the last year before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted international travel, there were 13 million arrivals. Tourism Minister Fatim-Zahra Ammor expressed optimism about reaching the 14 million milestone by December. Looking ahead, Morocco has ambitious targets for its tourism sector. The country aims to attract 17.5 million visitors by 2026, facilitated by the launch of new airline routes. Furthermore, with the co-hosting of the World Cup with Spain and Portugal in 2030, Morocco envisions welcoming 26 million visitors, underscoring its commitment to continued growth in the tourism industry.