The pandemic has thrown the tourism economy into an unprecedented crisis. According to professional estimates, the downturn caused by the crisis has reached 85%. Beyond direct support actions, those able to initiate a recovery are expected from all professionals who do not know where to turn. In this interview, a connoisseur of the sector, who is none other than the founder of the Cabinet Chorus Consulting Hospitality & Leisure and member of the Alliance of Istiqlalian economists, Samir Kheldouni Sahraoui, gives us his analysis:
Hespress Fr: -The tourism sector is going through the worst crisis in its history. All links in the chain were impacted. Do you have any idea about the losses in the sector?
Samir Kheldouni Sahrawi : -Listen ! First of all I would like to clarify that Moroccan tourism is a vital sector for the Moroccan economy insofar as it generates 7% of the GDP through non-resident tourists to which are added 4 points through domestic tourism either at total 11 points of GDP.
The persistent crisis resulting from Covid-19 is therefore a disaster for Moroccan tourism, qualifying as force majeure for the actors, within the meaning of article 269 of the Dahir forming the Code of obligations and contracts in Morocco.
This is because, beyond the economic loss in revenue for the Moroccan economy, it is the whole problem of employment-tourism that is posed, knowing that the sector employs nearly 2.5 million people between jobs. direct and indirect. And this, without counting the occurrence of legal conflicts (a real issue on which the government has remained silent) between owners and managers of tourist assets, insofar as the consequences of Force Majeure become a brake on the enforcement of rights. and obligations between national and international owners and managers of tourism assets in Morocco.
Beyond such observations, the health crisis has also exposed a kind of breathlessness from which Moroccan tourism was already suffering long before the advent of the Covid 19: disinterest of successive governments since 2012, lack of strategic coherence, sluggishness of positioning of the Morocco destination, obsolete promotion, dispersion, continuation of the race for the number of tourists instead of objectives in value $, slowdown in the growth of jobs and revenues, and we had within the Alliance of Istiqlalian economists , and long before the occurrence of Covid 19, sounded the alarm and called for the overhaul of Morocco’s tourism strategy.
Of course, Morocco is not the only destination affected by the pandemic. Global tourism recorded a historic 74% drop in international tourist arrivals in 2020 compared to 2019, and UNCTAD and the World Tourism Organization recommend that between 2020 and 2021, the collapse of international tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic could cause a loss of more than 4 trillion dollars for the global tourism industry.
Morocco was however further affected with a loss of more than 85% of its overnight stays of foreign and local tourists in 2020 compared to 2019, causing considerable damage to the entire hospitality sector and related jobs in the country.
Unfortunately, 2021 will be worse than 2020, as the first quarter of 2020 saw near-normal performance. Also, I estimate the loss in 2021 compared to 2020 at 10 additional points at least, hoping that the thinning that the sector is experiencing in the summer of 2021 will somewhat limit the damage.
As for the outlook for a return to performance in 2019, the news is unfortunately not good.
According to its latest survey of world experts, published on May 31, 2021 by the World Tourism Organization, 85% of surveyed experts believe that there will be no real recovery in global tourism before 2023 while 50% believe that the return to performance in 2019 will not take place before 2024-2025 or even beyond. So there is still a long way to go and we are therefore indeed experiencing the most serious crisis in the history of world tourism, and it will be a long-term crisis.
Regarding Morocco, and as of April 2020, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) ranked Morocco the 7th most affected tourist destination in the world by the Covid 19 pandemic after Jamaica, Thailand, Croatia, Portugal, the Dominican Republic, and Kenya.
It is also clear that the speed of convalescence of world tourism will depend on the rate of progression of vaccination and the time taken to achieve collective immunity, itself linked to the vaccination of 90% of the world population.
However, as of July 2021, less than 14% of the world’s population only received two doses of the vaccine. Among the richest, the rates vary between 15 and 50%, while among the poorest, the rates do not exceed 1 to 5%. There is therefore still a long way to go. Africa, for its part, only has a rate of 1.4% of the vaccinated population.
In Morocco, therefore, we can only congratulate ourselves on the mastery of the situation with nearly 27% of the vaccinated population, which constitutes an exceptional performance both for the health of our fellow citizens and for the economic convalescence of which the tourism is a strong link.
Under these conditions and subject to the emergence of new post-Delta variants, and according to my projections, international tourism should not return to the performance of 2019 before 2025, and, insofar as the precariousness of our hospital infrastructure prohibits taking risk, I do not see how the tourism of non-residents could return under our skies to the levels of 2019, before 2026-2027 or even beyond. At an exceptional growth rate of 20% per year from 2022, we would join the performance of 2019 in 2028!
– How to get out of the crisis ?
-Faced with force majeure, there is unfortunately no magic wand. The pandemic knows no borders and all the world’s tourist destinations are facing the same problem. Today and in my opinion, the next government will have to tackle two priority areas. The first is to safeguard jobs and skills. The second is the reinvention of post-Covid Moroccan tourism, because the tourism of tomorrow will never be the one we have known until today.
In the future, the notions of responsibility and sustainability in tourism will no longer be a fad, but will impose themselves as imperative practices. Any form of tourism based on volume, mass, proximity, human gathering, will be relegated to the background.
The future lies in the great outdoors, outdoor services, and the discovery of nature. These are also strategic reversals that we recommended, within the framework of the Alliance of Istiqlalian Economists, long before the pandemic, especially since it is a form of tourism that is much more profitable than so-called mass tourism, where tourists with low added value are parked in so-called All Inclusive hotels, without any benefit for the local populations
– What role can guardianship play?
-Listen, it must be said that caution is required and in this regard, and the government was right to limit the risk. But vigilance cannot be reduced to the sole restriction of movement and the outright and indefinite closing of our borders.
The thinning of tourist activity that we have seen since July this year will do the actors of Moroccan tourism a great deal of good, but it will unfortunately be insufficient since the pandemic is starting again in Morocco. and out of the Kingdom, and there is a high probability that September will see a return to travel restrictions.
The guardianship therefore does what it can, especially since the decision is not up to it alone. It must deal with the interior and health departments which are responsible for the lives of Moroccans. Once again, this crisis affects the most precious of men, health, and therefore life. It therefore goes beyond the tourism department alone.
However, it is up to the supervisory authority to impose itself among the ministerial departments, to alert on the importance of the sector for the economy, to implement labeled and certified international health protocols, and above all, as I said. above, to prepare the post-covid recovery by reinventing the marketing mix of Moroccan tourism, whether it is about the product, (in particular and initially for domestic national tourism which has always suffered from a unsuitable for the greatest number), the pricing, distribution or promotion policy.
For this summer season for example, and while at the instigation of King Mohammed VI, air prices were regulated at their lowest historical level for the access of our MRE to their country, it is noted that the prices hoteliers intended only for resident tourists have exploded. It is noted, for example, that it is impossible to find a decent hotel room on our northern coast of Morocco for less than 1700 Dhs, knowing that prices can go up to 5000 Dhs, or even 15,000 Dhs on some Resorts. Consequence: only socio-professional categories A + can benefit from it. However, Morocco is not made of the only socio-professional category A +. Far from there. The right to vacations for all is a universal right and this is not the sole responsibility of the private sector, but also the responsibility of the government.
Also, and like the royal initiative on air travel, a measure that could have been considered to boost domestic tourism this summer for example, was not to launch a campaign to encourage Moroccans to travel (they ask only that) but to pronounce a moratorium on the free market for a determined period (June to September for example) with a framework of prices, so as to optimize the occupancy rates and make accessible the hotel industry to the middle classes.
Thus, the next government will have a lot to do on the issue of national domestic tourism which remains to be invented, and the democratization of access to vacations with dignity and resort. Concepts and solutions exist for this.
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