Barely announced, the emergency plan planned to save Moroccan tourism is causing controversy. Some judge that the envelope dedicated to support remains below expectations. Others regret that many tourist professions are excluded from the vision.
The Moroccan government has just announced the launch of an emergency plan of 2 billion dirhams to support the tourism sector. However, this plan does not seem to be unanimously approved. For the tourism expert, Zoubir Bouhout, the envelope dedicated to the support remains below the expectations of the operators who have demanded a real Marshall Plan to rebuild a ruined sector. According to him, it is very far from healing the wounds due to the closure of the borders and causing enormous losses for the sector. In figures, the professional notes that the closure of the borders has had a negative impact on the sector since March 2020, since activity has fallen by 80% in 2020. In 2021, he estimates that the fall was nearly 75% in 2021. “Morocco has lost 10.4 million arrivals in 2020 compared to 2019 and almost as many in 2021. The volume of overnight stays has suffered the same fate since it has dropped from more than 25 million in 2019 to about 6.9 million in 2020 (8.5 million maximum in 2021),” adds Bouhout. The same is true of the secretary general of the National Federation of Tourist Transport in Morocco (FNTT Maroc), Mohamed Bamansour. According to him, the aid of 2MMDH is very insufficient, taking into account the losses suffered which exceed 100 MMDH.
The plan provides for the extension of the payment of the fixed allowance of 2000Dhs during the first quarter of 2022 (including also tourist transporters and classified restaurants), the postponement of the charges due to the CNSS for 6 months for these same employees, the establishment of a moratorium relating to the banking maturities over a period of up to 1 year, for the hoteliers and tourist transporters (the intercalary interests will be taken in charge by the State for a period equivalent to the months of non-activity in 2021, as well as the first quarter of 2022), the taking in charge by the State of the professional tax due by the hoteliers in 2020 and in 2021, the granting of a subsidy of the State to the hotel sector, for a global amount of 1MMDH to support the investment effort (maintenance, renovation, training..) of hotels wishing to prepare for a rapid resumption of activity as soon as the borders reopen.
Are these measures sufficient to relaunch the activity? “It is a commendable initiative. However, the implementing decrees, the conditions of eligibility and the timetable for implementation must be published as soon as possible. The urgency is absolute. And the fear is that this project will fall into oblivion again, as was the case for the programme contract signed previously”, warns Lahcen Zelmat, President of the National Federation of the Hotel Industry.
This emergency plan is criticised for excluding certain important professions in the tourist ecosystem, such as car rental agencies, tourist guides, travel agencies, tourist restaurants, etc. Protest movements have recently been launched by these professions to express their dismay. There have been many meetings, demands have been made and promises have been made. In the end, nothing was planned to save what remained to be saved. As soon as the emergency plan was announced, the National Union of Travel Agencies expressed its discontent in a press release. It is astonished to be excluded from the emergency plan, knowing that the sector has not benefited from any support programme so far, except for the extension of the payment of the fixed allowance of 2000Dhs during the first quarter of 2022 and the postponement of the charges due to the CNSS for 6 months. The sector is not concerned then by the postponement of the banking deadlines, the exemption of professional taxes, nor by the direct support of 1MMDH.
According to the President of the Regional Association of Travel Agencies of Casablanca-Settat (ARAVCS), Khalid Benazzouz, travel agencies have been struggling for two years. Benazzouz thus proposes to set up a Marshall Plan of support with concrete measures “We are harassed by the banks for our unpaid bills. And we are facing a critical situation with a dry cash flow, fixed charges that are accumulating, taxes and fees to be paid… No effort has been made in this direction. And if the situation continues, we will end up throwing in the towel,” he warns.
All the representatives of tourism professionals are unanimous: they plead for an opening of the borders.
Tourist transporters will benefit from the moratorium on bank payments for up to one year but are not concerned by direct aid and the exemption from business tax. “The resumption of activity requires colossal expenditure to maintain vehicles that have been completely shut down for a long period. It seems to me that the public authorities are not aware of the gravity of the situation. And I believe that this plan is designed to meet the interests of certain professions at the expense of others,” deplores Bamansour, who also warns of the dramatic social situation of professionals in the sector and their families. The operator also urges the government to find solutions for employees who do not benefit from the fixed allowance and to accelerate the revision of the profession’s specifications so as to allow transporters to operate with local clients. It also notes that, given the inadequacies of this plan, it would be necessary to set up specific programme-contracts for each profession.
All the representatives of the tourism professionals are unanimous: they plead for an opening of the borders. Zelmat is categorical: “we need aid, of course, but we also and above all need the opening of borders”, he insists. And he adds: “If the decision is taken tomorrow, we will need at least 6 months to restart the activity because we are starting again with a major handicap: the loss of confidence of tour operators, airlines and tourists in Morocco. It will therefore be necessary to rebuild everything from the start. And domestic tourism? “Domestic tourism cannot replace international tourism for a certain number of reasons, firstly because Morocco depends on 70% of the overnight stays of international tourism, given that the per capita income of the citizens of the main emitting markets is higher than that of the Moroccan citizen. On the other hand, the tourism plans that Morocco had in 2010 and 2020 did not give more importance to the reception infrastructures for domestic tourism, including the “Biladi” programme, concludes Bouhout.