Morocco joins list of countries seeing tourist numbers fall

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The Independent Travel

The tourist industry was last night counting the cost of al-Qa'ida's response to the war in Iraq as Morocco joined the lengthening list of holiday destinations targeted by terrorists.

The tourist industry was last night counting the cost of al-Qa'ida's response to the war in Iraq as Morocco joined the lengthening list of holiday destinations targeted by terrorists.

The Moroccan economy, already reeling from the effects of the 11 September attacks, has been dealt another blow by last week's terrorist attacks just as the country was trying to re-establish itself as a choice destination for UK travellers.

Tourism, which employs 600,000 people and is the country's second biggest source of foreign currency, had been earmarked for huge development by the Moroccan government. It was planning to boost foreign visitors to the country to 10 million by 2010 and invest more than $4bn (£2.5bn) in five major coastal developments. "Morocco's image as a rare haven of religious coexistence suffered a great deal from these attacks," one senior economist in Casablanca said last night.

The Association of British Travel Agents said yesterday that about 1,200 British citizens who are holidaying in Kenya were being advised last night abouttravel arrangements after the Foreign Office issued a warning against non-essential travel to the country and five other east African states, and flights between the UK and Kenya were suspended.

Tourists are still staying away from the island of Bali, where hotel occupancy has slumped to 15 per cent in the wake of last October's attacks, which left 200 dead. Tourist authorities in the region are hoping the imminent trial of those charged with the bombings will restore tourist confidence.

Morocco's combination of ancient culture, year-round sunshine and fine cuisine attracts some 70,000 visitors from the UK each year. But the country's income from tourism fell 19 per cent last year after the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001.

The German government warned its nationals yesterday against travel to Morocco and other European tourists, who account for three-quarters of Morocco's tourist income, were being advised to exercise extra caution if travelling there.

The Foreign Office was last night warning visitors to Morocco that there was a "clear threat " from terrorism and advised them to "maintain a high level of vigilance in public places such as hotels, restaurants and shopping malls".

Representatives of the Spanish business interests in the country, the second largest foreign investors after France, were blunt in their assessment. "It's a catastrophe," said Francisco Albert, chairman of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Casablanca.

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