It's been little over a week since the earthquake in Morocco. The hospitality and tourism industries are staying strong, both in terms of business and in mind-set.
This month’s earthquake in Morocco claimed thousands of lives and left many homeless, including workers in the tourism sector, who are sleeping in empty hotel ballrooms or apartments rented out by their employers, according to the properties we spoke to.
While hotel bookings sank this month, they’re already trending positive for October and beyond in tourism hubs such as Marrakech, 50 miles from the worst-hit areas.
Hotels such as the Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakesh are readying for a much-needed business boost from next month’s annual meeting of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund.
General manager Jean-Francois Brun said: “Everybody has been trying to react in the best interests of everyone of course. Frankly, I think that among all the properties of Accor, we were probably one of the ones the most touched in terms of damages. Thankfully, it’s nothing that cannot be repaired.
“But that’s just materials. What’s important is the team and our guests. The human factor has been difficult to evaluate. People take time to feel that shock. We’ve been trying to help people and the community as much as we can. We’re cooking hundreds of meals per day, providing supplies and helping as best we can.”
In terms of business slowdown, Brun said that more than 80% of cancelations in the system are solely for September.
“We’re quite lucky, we already planned to be fully booked with the World Bank event [now confirmed],” said Brun. “Now we’re seeing a complete switch, there are no more cancelations, and we’re looking very good for November and December.”
While Brun’s luxury resort has sustained damages, he said that many people mistakenly believe that Marrakech was severely hit. “People think that Marrakech was destroyed. This is not the reality,” he said. “We’re trying to campaign to explain and show people that the local attractions, the restaurants, the hotels, it’s all working as normal.”
Tourism in Morocco has experienced a significant upswing following the pandemic, contributing to 8% of the economy. According to the Observatoire du Tourisme, between January and June of this year, the nation welcomed 6.5 million visitors.
Brun explained: “We’re not here to oversell it, but we want to show the real picture. We’ve received hundreds of questions online about how we’re doing. The loyalty in this country is incredible. If really you want to help, come visit us. If businesses stop, the economy will suffer. It paused, it’s on pause for a month maximum, but business is coming back already.”
The country’s tourism sector as a whole is looking to share a similar message. The resumption of the World Bank meetings from October 9 to 15 will not only give surrounding hotels a bump in occupancies, the event is proof the country is willing and able to bounce back already.
Mandarin Oriental Sends Its Own Message
Fellow luxury hotelier Alain-Thomas Briere, general manager of the Mandarin Oriental shared a similar sense of optimism.
By design, his hotel was built to withstand earthquakes, so damage has been cosmetic only.
Briere said: “We’re lucky to be with a great team and from the first day, our team has been absolutely wonderful in coming to work and despite what was happening to the destination to actually continue to look after our guests. I think that’s because we all have a commitment to what we do. We’re all very passionate about what we do.
“There’s a sense of respect for what happened, but we’re looking forward and continuing as best we can. We’re seeing the market stabilize. The message coming out of every hotel is that life can go back to normal in areas like Marrakech.
“International business is here. Planes are landing every day. Our guests are mostly international, and now is no different. We’ve not seen any demand shifts. Our hotel is functioning normally. Marrakech tourism is functional. The destination can be experienced today in the same way it can a year ago, while being respectful to what happened. All of the major hotels are open, from a guest experience stand-out, we’re already [back to] 100%.
“The World Bank event for us sends a message and it projects confidence. Tourism is able to resume. The best way to support Morocco is to support its businesses, and tourism is a huge part of that economy.”
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Photo credit: Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakesh