World tourism is recovering after two blank years caused by the coronavirus and the war in Ukraine, although it has not yet regained its pre-pandemic health.
International tourist arrivals around the world have more than doubled, up 130% in January 2022 compared to the same period last year, according to the latest figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
Travelers are regaining confidence and Europe and America are leading the upsurge. Worldwide, there were 18 million additional visitors, according to UNWTO, ” the equivalent of the total increase recorded over the whole of 2021″.
In 2019, global tourism revenues reached $1.48 billion. This figure dropped by nearly two-thirds due to the pandemic the following year.
As January confirms the recovery trend started in 2021, UNWTO highlighted how the Omicron variant has recently dampened the upside. International arrivals in January 2022 were still 67% lower than before the pandemic.
Europe is the continent that did three times better and America twice better. This is still far from the numbers before the pandemic.
For its part, the Middle East is also experiencing a boom, with arrivals up 89% compared to 2021, as is Africa, with numbers up 51%, but these two regions are still very far from their 2019 totals, according to the UNWTO.
Unsurprisingly, the number of travelers is decreasing in the Asia-Pacific region, where several destinations remain closed. In January, international tourist arrivals were down 93% from pre-pandemic levels. Travel by Chinese tourists, the world’s biggest spenders before the pandemic, is also being hit hard by China’s zero-Covid policy.
Morocco: A “timid” but promising recovery
In Morocco, the recovery is promising, since the reopening of the borders on February 7, and the latest statistics released by the National Airports Office (ONDA) amply prove it.
Moroccan airports welcomed 2.2 million passengers via 21,330 air flights between February 7 and March 31, 2022. Mohammed V airport in Casablanca leads the pack during the same month with 565,484 passengers transported by 5,330 flights, i.e. 71% of traffic in 2019.
In March alone, they recorded a commercial traffic volume of more than 1.4 million visitors in 13,543 flights, representing a recovery rate of 70% for passengers and 80% for airport movements compared at the same time in 2019.
However, despite the figures put forward by ONDA, a player in the tourism sector, contacted by MoroccoLatestNews FR, has reservations about the improvement in the tourist situation this summer.
Operating in Marrakech, our interlocutor judges this recovery to be “timid” and affirms that reservations have only jumped by 50% for this summer, in comparison with 2021.
The tourist expert believes that the PCR test imposed on arrival is a brake on the development of tourism in Morocco. Indeed, to access the Kingdom, travelers must have a negative PCR test of less than 72 hours in addition to the vaccination pass.
A measure which has been rectified for travel by sea after the competent authorities have set either the vaccine pass or the PCR as conditions. But air travel is always conditional on both documents.
Several members of the anti-covid scientific committee joined by MoroccoLatestNews UK, recommended setting up either the vaccination pass or the PCR test to access the country by air, given the epidemiological situation which is currently stable. But they insisted on respecting the barrier measures to avoid a rebound in the pandemic.
Operation Marhaba to help the emergence of Moroccan tourism
Can the resumption of Operation Marhaba help tourism to raise its head? This transit operation allows Moroccans residing in Europe to travel to the kingdom via Spanish ports to spend their summer holidays there.
In 2020 and 2021, the Operation was canceled by Morocco due to the health crisis. During these two years, Moroccans from Europe reached the Kingdom through the ports of Sète in France and Genoa in Italy.
Contacted by MoroccoLatestNews UK, Zoubir Bouhoute, tourism expert believes that the resumption of Operation Marhaba is a new start for Moroccan tourism, saying that Spain represents the 2nd market in Morocco.
“The Spaniards represent the second market in terms of tourism in Morocco after the French who are 1.9 million to go to Morocco each year against 880,000 Spaniards”he explains.
“The French market, if we also count MREs (Moroccans residing abroad, editor’s note) who travel through the sea routes, number 4.2 million compared to 2.2 million in Spain”, adds the expert.
“Operation Marhaba marks its big comeback with the resumption of maritime traffic, it will start around June 15 and will boost Moroccan tourism“, he rejoices, adding that the MRE were the first victims of this closure.
“Many MREs have suffered from this closure of the borders between the two neighboring countries, including those who live in France and travel through the sea, not having the possibility of paying for plane tickets”says Zoubir Bouhoute.
In the direction of recovery, the Minister of Tourism, Handicrafts, and the Social and Solidarity Economy, Fatima-Zahra Ammor made professionals aware of the importance of developing leisure and entertainment offers, in order to capture the tourists, especially local tourists. These offers will supplement the promotional efforts made by the ONMT and promote, in the short term, growth in new markets.
In the long term, the vision communicated by the minister reveals a bold and optimistic objective of doubling the number of arrivals by 2030. A vision that has been welcomed by all members of the confederation.
As a reminder, Morocco is the second most visited country in Africa behind Egypt, according to a report by the African Exponent and has more than 12 million visitors per year.
Several foreign tourism industries, notably German and British, have chosen Morocco as their main destination to relaunch their post-pandemic activity for 2022-2023.