On Sunday, Moroccan authorities counted at least 2,000 dead after the powerful earthquake in the center of the country late Friday evening. It is time to mourn, to search for bodies and survivors, but the question of the economic consequences is already being asked. As the high tourist season began, the earthquake brought a sudden halt to a sector that was experiencing strong vitality this year, and which represents nearly 7% of Morocco’s GDP.
“In material terms, we can go to Morocco, but we understand perfectly that tourists do not want to leave and we facilitate the postponement, either to another destination or to another date, free of charge. We are not forcing anyone to leave under these conditions”, summarizes Jean-Pierre Mas, president of Entreprises du Voyage.
The message from the Syndicate of tour-operating companies, which called on the main French tour operators on Saturday to show “commercial flexibility”seems to have been heard: all have chosen to facilitate the postponement of the trip, or even its cancellation.
And even if Moroccan airports remain open and most flights to and from Morocco are at this stage maintained, airlines are also making a move. Royal Air Maroc offers pengers “holders of tickets to and from Marrakech and Agadir (direct and transit), with a flight date until September 23, to make a free change to the same cabin (the same cl), subject to availability, from and to the same destinations, for a travel date within 15 days of the date of their initial flight. » All requests must be made to the original point of sale before September 12th.
At Air France, only trips between September 9 and 12, from or to Morocco, can be postponed free of charge until September 20 (in the same cl), advanced or canceled free of charge.
If pengers wish to cancel a theoretically non-refundable ticket, Air France offers a refund in the form of a credit note, valid for one year. “If necessary, we will add flights in the coming days. And in the event of a postponement, there should be no price difference,” we are told at Air France.
Contacted, the company Transavia also offers a postponement of the trip free of charge, and without deadline, for pengers bound for Marrakech who had to go there within seven days. On the side of the French authorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises “to the extent possible to postpone travel to Marrakech and to areas affected by the earthquake”, even “if Moroccan territory remains open”.
A more complicated situation for autonomous travelers
The flexibility of tour operators currently extends to only a few days, because “departures are mainly on weekends”, underlines Jean-Pierre Mas, but postponements – or cancellation in certain cases – can be “extended in function of the evolution of the situation. The next weekend will certainly be affected. »
But this possibility only concerns a minority of travelers. Of the four million French people who visit Morocco each year, most organize their stay themselves, without going through a travel agency. “For those who buy a plane ticket and at the same time reserve nights in a riad or private accommodation, everything will depend on the policy of the air carrier they have chosen and their host,” observes Jean- Pierre M.
In the Club Med of Marrakech, only some material damage affected the resort. So far, the club has received very few calls. “We are offering customers who were supposed to leave this weekend either to do so (some have done so), or to change destination, or to postpone their stay free of charge,” indicates the company’s communication. If this is not possible, we offer a credit for the stay amount and apply the tourism code. »
It is too early to ess the consequences of the earthquake on the tourism sector, but professionals in the sector are confident. “It’s the start of the season for Moroccans, and it lasts until April,” continues the president of Entreprises du Voyage. From experience, with each event of this type, the impact remains short-term. » According to him, there will undoubtedly be a “hold on reservations” for a month or two. No more.