MOROCCO – Moroccan tourism experts have expressed concern of the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the tourism sector which they now claim could lead to Morocco losing 10.5 million tourists and over 19.8 million overnight stays in 2020.

A recent study by Morocco’s Local Tourism Office (CRT) on COVID-19’s repercussions on the sector shows 2020 as a “year of recession for Morocco’s economy.”

According to the study, before the Covid-19 era, Morocco’s tourism had made many strides, achieving key milestones that put it on the path of becoming Africa’s top tourist destination.

According to the Local Tourism’s report, the number of arrivals of tourists in Morocco jumped from 9,375,155 in 2012 to 12,932,260 in 2019.

Overnight stays had also improved during the period under review rising from 17,562,229 to 25,243,989 between 2012 and 2019.

The stellar performance in the tourism industry between 2012 and 2019 reflected a positive impact on Morocco’s foreign exchange receipts, which jumped from MAD 59.8 billion ($6.3 billion) in 2012 to 78.7 billion ($8.3 billion) in 2019.

This certainly made tourism to be one of the main pillars of Morocco’s economy, contributing to the GDP by 11%.

The Local Tourism Office however expects around 10.5 million fewer tourists in 2020, making tourism to be undoubtedly the sector most affected by the coronavirus crisis.

To counter the impact of COVID-19, the Local Tourism Office is now promoting domestic tourism and encouraging residents to travel within the country amid Morocco’s border closure.

The closed borders is however, a challenge for Moroccans living abroad seeking to return for a summer holiday at home.

According to Morocco’s Local Tourism Office, more than two million Moroccans living abroad arrive in Morocco annually, especially in the summer, to spend time with their families.

With the COVID-19 crisis, the return is not an easy option as only a handful of special flights are operating.

Morocco reopened borders for citizens and foreign residents living abroad in Mid-July, with only the state carrier Royal Air Maroc and Air Arabia Maroc allowed to serve Moroccans wishing to come back to the country.

The Local Tourism Office study argues that “it is very likely that the achievements of 2020 would be similar with the figures recorded at the beginning of the 1980s.”

Liked this article? Subscribe to DealStreet Africa News, our regular email newsletter with the latest news, deals and insights from Africa’s business, economy and more. SUBSCRIBE HERE