MOROCCO – Experts say it is still possible to travel to Morocco after the historic earthquake, but it is advisable to only visit the northern regions.
The “most devastating earthquake in over 60 years” in Morocco has had a significant impact on tourism in this North African country. CNN provides updates on what travelers should keep in mind if they are planning to go to Morocco.
The epicenter of the 6.8 Richter scale earthquake occurred last Friday in the High Atlas Mountains, about 166 km southwest of the heritage city of Marrakech in central Morocco, in the Al Haouz province. This area also saw the highest casualties.
Marrakech was heavily affected by the earthquake, with many historical structures suffering severe damage. Starting from September 11th, all historical sites in Marrakech, including the Bahia Palace, Saadian Tombs, and El Badi Palace, are closed.
The High Atlas Mountains region suffered the most serious damage, and travel experts advise against visiting this area at the moment. Many hotels have been severely damaged, with some having to close. Bilal El Hammoumy, CEO of the Inclusive tour company in Morocco, stated that many tourists are inquiring about the situation in the High Atlas region. His company is advising travelers planning to visit Morocco in September to change their itineraries and explore destinations in the northern part of the country instead.
Normalcy in Most Tourist Spots
Abdelilah El Khadir, a receptionist at Tour Hassan Palace Hotel in the capital city of Rabat in the northern part of the country, mentioned that the situation in most cities in Morocco is “still stable.”
Coastal resort cities like Essaouira and Agadir also experienced strong tremors but didn’t suffer any damage. Cities like Casablanca and Fez, located approximately 482 km northeast of Marrakech, also felt the tremors but weren’t significantly affected.
Zina Bencheikh, CEO of Intrepid Travel, a travel company based in Morocco, stated that apart from the High Atlas Mountains region and central Marrakech, most other destinations in Morocco haven’t been disrupted. Travelers can still visit cities like Casablanca, Fez, and Chefchaouen when moving northward or explore Ait Benhaddou and the Dades Valley when traveling south.
Taxis, buses, trains, airplanes, and other transportation services continue to operate after the earthquake. Airports are open, and flights are running on schedule, including those in Marrakech.
Meryem Ameziane, a tour guide in Fez, mentioned that guided tours are still proceeding as planned. She hasn’t had to cancel any tours since the earthquake.
“The northern region is not affected by the earthquake, and traffic between cities is normal. This is the beginning of the peak tourist season in Fez,” Ameziane said.
The tour guide added that many famous Moroccan destinations like Merzouga, Skoura, and parts of the Sahara Desert are “peaceful and safe.”
The Middle Atlas Mountains in the north were not affected by the earthquake, as they are located approximately 643 km away from the epicenter. This region offers experiences similar to the High Atlas Mountains, allowing travelers to immerse themselves in Moroccan rural life and Berber culture.
Despite the somber atmosphere prevailing in the High Atlas Mountains and Marrakech, Meryem Ameziane believes that tourism professionals in other regions should not “feel guilty or ashamed” to continue welcoming guests. Sustaining tourism activities in other areas can also support those affected by the historic earthquake.
Tour Companies Adjust Schedules
Travelers planning to visit Morocco in September should communicate closely with their tour organizers. Immediately after the earthquake, Intrepid Travel canceled trips to Morocco for this week to assess the situation. The company is now resuming departures from September 14th but is adjusting itineraries, canceling activities in the center of Marrakech, and rerouting tours in the High Atlas Mountains. World Expeditions, a company specializing in mountain trekking tours, also canceled and rerouted treks in the High Atlas Mountains.
Currently, the U.S. State Department has not issued any travel advisories for Morocco, and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has not provided specific guidance on whether to travel to Morocco at this time. Travelers should closely monitor information from tour companies. Additionally, they should check with airlines for any changes to flight schedules.
Moroccan Tourism Professionals Hope for Visitors
Vanessa Branson, the owner of a hotel in Marrakech, stated that a decline in tourists coming to Morocco will have a significant impact on the livelihoods of residents and businesses dependent on tourism. “Tourists bring hope for the country’s tourism industry to recover after the pandemic,” Branson said.
Bilal El Hammoumy mentioned that “those suffering from the consequences of the earthquake rely on the tourism industry for income.” Not only in the High Atlas Mountains and Marrakech, but many other areas in Morocco also depend on tourism. He is concerned that tourists might “stay away” from Morocco due to earthquake fears, which could further damage the country’s economy, “three times as cruelly” as the tourism industry was affected during the pandemic.
“We encourage people from around the world to visit in the upcoming fall season to help Morocco’s tourism industry recover quickly after this disaster,” said the CEO of Inclusive tour company.
Bencheikh, the CEO of Intrepid Travel, noted that the earthquake occurred during one of the busiest months for tourism, and many service providers were concerned that natural disasters might deter travelers from visiting Morocco. “The country needs tourism more than ever as it rebuilds,” Bencheikh said.