When the earthquake struck, it was the beginning of peak season for tourism to the country
September 11, 2023 6:50 pm(Updated September 12, 2023 2:03 pm)
Working for a global travel company means I am used to dealing with incidents from natural disasters to civil uprisings. But when the earthquake struck in Morocco on Friday it was different. This was my country. My Morocco. My heart broke as I heard stories of the families who lost their homes and loved ones.
My team and I sprung into action, making sure all 604 customers, tour leaders and our 77 staff were accounted for and safe. We worked quickly to launch an emergency appeal through our non profit, the Intrepid Foundation, to raise money for two grassroots organisations supporting communities in the High Atlas Mountains.
However, when people ask me how to help, I tell them the best thing we can do in the long term for Morocco is to visit.
Of course, for now it’s not advisable to visit the most impacted areas. The damage is mainly in the medina (old town) of Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains, but elsewhere the picture is very different. The fantastic cities of Casablanca, Fes and Chefchaouen in the north are as safe, and the people as welcoming, as ever.
And by visiting, you will be supporting the many people who rely on tourism for their income. Many of Intrepid’s tour leaders have told me they are worried about their future. “It’s great to have donations, but it’s not enough,” one leader, Hamid, told me. “Tourism here is our every day – we want people to come and continue their holidays.”
Since the pandemic, it’s been wonderful to see a huge surge in tourism to the country. Tourism was on track to have its best year on record with 14 million visitors by the end of 2023. Millions of people are employed in the sector from hotel and restaurant workers in the cities to guides and muleteers in the mountains. Walking through the Jemaa el-Fnaa in the evening, I love hearing the chatter of languages from all over the world.
When the earthquake struck, it was the beginning of peak season for travel to Morocco. The time when leaders like Hamid make a large chunk of their income. “This is a very important time for us, everyone was expecting a successful season. We are very sad for the people who have suffered, but if tourists don’t come we will suffer more. We have to think about the future and our children.”
Morocco is a favourite destination of UK travellers – and now is the time to give back and support communities when they need it most.
Zina Bencheikh is managing director EMEA, Intrepid Travel