Morocco Earthquake and Travel: What Tourists Should Know

Some of the world’s most popular tourist destinations — Turkey, Greece, Hawaii and, now, Morocco — have been ravaged by disaster this year, with earthquakes, wildfires and floods razing entire towns and villages, killing residents, and destroying or damaging cultural monuments.

The series of catastrophic events has left many tourists in a conundrum over how to respond. Those already in a country in the wake of a disaster debate whether they should stay or leave. Those with upcoming trips wonder if they should cancel. Can they and the revenue they bring in be of any real help, or will they be a burden? How appropriate is it to let tourism go on while a nation is in a state of collective mourning and rescue efforts are underway?

There are no easy answers, travel experts say. Each disaster’s impact is unique, and while travelers are advised to follow the guidance of government officials in the aftermath of such events, local communities don’t always agree on the best course of action. After the Maui wildfires destroyed much of the town of Lahaina in August, killing at least 115 people, residents on the island, which depends on tourist dollars, clashed over the decision to allow tourism to continue while locals grieved for all that was lost.

In Morocco, however, where a powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck the Atlas Mountains southwest of Marrakesh on Friday, killing thousands, the outlook is more unified. With the high tourism season underway and most of the destruction affecting rural areas far from tourist hot spots, many locals are eager for foreign visitors to keep coming so that they can support the economy and bring in funds for relief efforts.

“After Covid, the abandonment of tourists would be terrible for Marrakesh, where so many resources come from tourism,” said Mouna Anajjar, the editor in chief of I Came for Couscous, a local feature magazine. “Directly or indirectly, all the inhabitants are linked to this resource and would be terribly affected.”

Here’s what travelers faced with the prospect of visiting a country where devastation has struck should think about.

Check official government guidance and local media reports to assess the situation on the ground. When the deadly wildfires swept through parts of Maui last month, the local authorities urged tourists to stay home. So far, the Moroccan government hasn’t issued any statements beyond the status of rescue efforts, and the country’s tourism office did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The British Foreign Office advised its citizens planning to travel to the country to check with their tour providers about any disruptions.

While the U.S. State Department has not updated its travel advisory to Morocco, it is a good idea to check the website before traveling to any country that has been struck by disaster.

Establish exactly where the disaster hit and which areas have been affected. When Greece was ravaged by wildfires in July and thousands of tourists were evacuated from the islands of Rhodes and Corfu, many tourists canceled their vacations, even those traveling to unaffected areas. The Greek tourism minister issued a response, highlighting that the majority of the country, including parts of the affected islands, remained safe for tourists.

When the earthquake struck Morocco on Friday, it was felt in many popular tourist destinations, including Marrakesh and the towns of Imsouane and Essaouira, but most of the damage is concentrated close to the epicenter in Al Haouz Province. In the immediate aftermath of the quake, most Morocco tours were canceled as operators scrambled to make critical safety assessments, making sure that all their clients and staff were accounted for and that tourists were not hindering rescue efforts.

But now, having established that the damage is localized in rural areas and following government guidance, most tours are up and running with some amended itineraries. Hotels have largely been unaffected, according to Morocco’s hotel association.

“There are areas inside the Marrakesh medina that have been damaged, some historical monuments are closed, but most areas inside the cities are totally OK to be visited,” said Zina Bencheikh, the managing director of Intrepid Travel’s Europe, Middle East and Africa operations, who was born in Marrakesh. “The majority of the country is open, with airports, schools, hotels, shops and restaurants operating as normal under the shock of the incident.”

Intrepid Travel had 600 customers in Morocco on the night of the earthquake, and only 17 have cut their trips short. TUI, Europe’s largest travel operator, said that some of its itineraries were under review, but that the majority of its guests had decided to stay on after the company carried out safety inspections and chose to support keeping Morocco open.

When a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey in February, Turkish Airlines, the country’s national carrier, canceled dozens of flights across the country to open up resources for rescue efforts. During the Maui wildfires, airlines also canceled flights to Hawaii so that they could use the planes to fly passengers back to the mainland. Most of West Maui is still closed to tourists but is expected to reopen on Oct. 8.

Sahred From Source link Travel

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