Will Beheading of French Hostage by ISIS Affect Moroccos Tourism

Marrakech – The beheading of the French hostage Hervé Gourdel in Algeria in the notoriously dangerous terrorist area of Kabilye has caused a drop in tourist bookings according to the President of the French Travel Agents Union. Morocco, which is secure and does not have the long running terrorism problems that has afflicted Algeria since 1992, suffers by association because it is part of North Africa and it is an Islamic country.There is an irrational fear amongst Westerners when they come to an Islamic country like Morocco that they might be in danger. Morocco and its Malakite rite of Islam is the most welcoming Muslim country in the world and values its Western tourists. Algeria has a negligible tourism industry due entirely to its ongoing terrorism problem. Morocco’s internal security forces are highly effective, and although there are regular arrests of members of networks linked to ISIS and Al Qaeda attempting to send young Moroccans to fight in Syria and Iraq, they have never been able to develop to a dangerous level. There is a threat, as there is in every country, from Islamist terrorists but Morocco has a better surveillance system than most countries.In 1991 during the first Gulf War, western governments ordered their nationals to leave all Maghreb countries. In Morocco’s case, it was recognized afterwards that there was no need for this action, which severely affected Moroccan tourism at the time. The Europeans who remained in Morocco experienced no problem whatsoever.The situation in Morocco in 2014 is different. There is a serious terrorist threat and no country can be entirely sure that all terrorist threats, particularly “lone wolves” unattached to any terrorist network (like the 2011 Argana Café bombing in Marrakech) might strike. Such is the state of the 21st century world, characterized by global terrorism.However, unlike in 1991, tourist centers and towns now have expatriate populations, many of whom work in the tourist industry in riads or hotels. These individuals are committed supporters of tourism in Morocco. No other country in North Africa has this positive tourism environment, and it plays a considerable role in building solidarity and client loyalty with Morocco as the number of tourists coming to the country continues to grow.The Moroccan Tourism Office is holding events for tour operators and the press in France and in Britain this November during the World Travel Market to reassure tour operators of tourist safety in Morocco. This has been a recurring theme over the years, but Morocco’s tourism continues to grow because it is deservedly popular, offers many varied locations, and is embraced by the kingdom’s residents.In fact, Morocco’s tourism figures and rate of return may be said to be more threatened by an alarming increase in the amount of time tourists have to wait to get their passport stamped on entry at Marrakech airport, where 50% of Morocco’s tourists enter the country. Delays of one-and-a-half to two hours are now commonplace, almost as long as the flight time from Europe to Marrakech. Unresponsive immigration staff with only half the number of passport officers on duty at any one time, and the need to put details into computers by hand causes unnecessary delays, which often results in tourists hesitance to return to Morocco.This has been a problem of varying intensity for years. Tourists have asked if there is a way flights could be staggered so that they do not all land at once, or a more efficient entry system for passport details and stamps which do not fade on the passport. Practical details such as this are an important way of smoothing the way for tourist arrivals so that the number of tourists continues to increase.© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed read more