Morocco’s Covid Policies Work Against Creative New Tourism Pitch

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Morocco Tourism in its latest brand campaign — Kingdom of Light — attempts to move away from cliches and reposition the country as a modern, creative, and adventurous destination. However, a campaign might just not be enough to attract visitors.

Morocco still requires passengers test negative for Covid within 48 hours of arrival and then again on the spot at the airport upon arrival. And maybe even be selected randomly for an additional PCR test.

This test is not required for those arriving via ferry.

With stiff competition coming in from Middle Eastern destinations, Morocco definitely needs to up its game.

What Deters Travelers

“The last-minute border opening and closing and the additional requirement of tests to enter Morocco and on-arrival tests act as deterrents for long-haul travel agents and travelers. As a result, they are instead opting to travel to Egypt, Turkey or Dubai,” said Karim Fehry Fassy, co-founder and managing director at Alizes Private.

After two years of lull, Morocco is heavily banking on a summer recovery. However, having received only four million tourists in 2021, the destination would need favorable policies in place to get back to its 2019 levels of 13 million tourists .

With the domestic market close to non-existent, the travel industry in Morocco is heavily dependent on international tourists and the flip-flop on border openings over the past two years has had a devastating impact on the sector.

“While the Moroccan government’s efforts have been exemplary in managing an unprecedented pandemic of this order, we would want the authorities to communicate more frequently,” Fassy said.

Underlining the importance of a transparent communication system, Fassy opined it is essential to be in touch with luxury feeder markets such as U.S., Canada, Latin America and some countries from the Asia-Pacific region.  

Morocco needs to gain the trust of its feeder markets after the previous two border closures.

The Campaign: A Much-Needed Shift

The new campaign that released right in time for summer travel, complements Morocco’s ambitious rebranding system to strengthen its position as a global player on the world luxury map.

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Calling the campaign, a turning point in the communication of destination Morocco, Adel El Fakir, CEO of Moroccan National Tourism Office, shared on social media, “The objective is to position Morocco among the most coveted global destinations and to strengthen its trendy image, especially among the younger generation of travelers.”

Morocco has suffered for many years with its image as a low-end budget destination, especially from European markets, said Zina Bencheikh, managing director Europe, the Middle East and Africa of Intrepid Travel.

A shift was needed to attract better quality and sustainable tourism and this campaign is a great start, she added. “It targets a younger, more affluent customer who might stay longer, explore more of the country and ultimately spend more. A customer who will return.”

The campaign marks a change in the narrative away from the cliched culinary, handicraft and artisan model that the destination earlier focussed on.

However, some social media responses to the campaign have been dismissive.

From parallels being drawn to Paris — the quintessential “city of lights”, to many observing that the music used in the campaign sounds distinctly Indian and not Moroccan, naysayers have had their say.

What’s Next?

Some others have noted that Morocco should complement such campaigns with improvement in infrastructure, building green spaces and attention to safety and hygiene.

Morocco now needs to focus on increasing its hotel infrastructure in cities like Tangier, Agadir, Ouarzazate, Rabat and Fes, similar to what was done at Marrakech, said Alizes Private’s Fassy.

“There is also a need to develop a daily domestic air network and the authorities need to work on a real strategy to develop entertainment facilities for both local and international travelers,” Fassy said.       

He opined that the destination’s latest campaign matches pace with international demand.

With Morocco being well positioned in terms of its location and weather, Intrepid’s Bencheikh said the destination needs to promote these elements in order to attract international travelers.

However, now that borders have reopened, the recovery is going well, she noted. “At Intrepid, Morocco is our top-selling destination from the UK, EU and U.S. markets and features in our top three list of destinations globally.” 

And that’s not all, the destination has more reasons to cheer. Two travel associations representing the largest European tourism markets — Britain’s The Travel Association (ABTA) and The German Travel Association (DRV) — will both be travelling to Morocco for their conventions this year.