See how to ethically visit Morocco after earthquake – 09/19/2023 – Tourism

See how to ethically visit Morocco after earthquake – 09/19/2023 – Tourism

Some of the planet’s most popular tourist destinations – Turkey, Greece, Hawaii and now Morocco – have been hit by disasters this year, with earthquakes, wildfires and floods leveling entire cities and villages, killing residents and destroying or damaging cultural monuments.

The series of catastrophic events left many tourists faced with a dilemma about how to react. Those already in a country when it is hit by a disaster need to decide whether to stay or leave. Those who have trips planned wonder if they should cancel them. Can they, and the revenue they generate, really help, or will they be a burden? How appropriate is it to allow tourism to continue while a country is still in collective mourning and rescue efforts are underway?

There are no easy answers, travel experts say. The impact of each disaster is unique, and while travelers are advised to follow guidance from government authorities after events like these, local communities do not always agree on the best course of action.

After Maui’s wildfires destroyed much of the city of Lahaina in August, killing at least 115 people, residents of the island, which depends on tourist money, clashed over the decision to allow tourism to continue while residents Locals lamented everything that was lost.

In Morocco, however, where a powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Atlas Mountains southwest of Marrakech on September 14, killing thousands of people, there is a more cohesive outlook. With peak tourism season underway and most of the destruction affecting rural areas far from tourist hotspots, many locals want foreign visitors to keep coming so they can support the economy and bring funds to relief efforts.

“After Covid-19, the abandonment of tourists would be terrible for Marrakech, where so many resources come from tourism,” said Mouna Anajjar, editor-in-chief of I Came for Couscous, a local magazine. “Directly or indirectly, all inhabitants are linked to this resource and would be affected in a terrible way.”

Below are the questions that travelers faced with the prospect of visiting a country where there has been devastation should think about.

Is the place open for tourism?

Check official government guidance and local media reports to assess the situation in the area. When deadly wildfires swept through parts of Maui last month, local authorities urged tourists to stay home. So far, the Moroccan government has limited itself to releasing statements on the status of rescue efforts, and the country’s tourism service has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

The UK Foreign Office has advised British citizens planning to travel to the country to check with their tour organizers about any difficulties with their plans.

Although the U.S. State Department has not changed its advice regarding travel to Morocco, it is a good idea to check the department’s website before traveling to any country that has been hit by a disaster.

Determine exactly where the disaster occurred and what areas were affected. When Greece was devastated by wildfires in July and thousands of visitors were evacuated from the islands of Rhodes and Corfu, many tourists canceled their holidays, even those who were due to travel to unaffected areas. The Greek Tourism Minister released a response, highlighting that most of the country, including parts of the affected islands, remained safe for tourists.

When the earthquake hit Morocco on September 8, the tremor was felt in many popular tourist destinations, including Marrakech and the cities of Imsouane and Essaouira, but most of the damage is concentrated near the epicenter, in Al Haouz province.

Immediately following the earthquake, most tours to Morocco were canceled as tour operators scrambled to make critical safety assessments, making sure all their customers and team members were safe and that tourists were not hampering rescue efforts.

But now, after finding that the damage is located in rural areas and following Moroccan government guidance, most tours are back, with some itineraries changed. Hotels in general were not affected, according to Morocco’s hotel association.

“There are areas within the medina [cidade histórica] of Marrakech that have been damaged, some historical monuments are closed, but most areas within the cities are completely OK to visit,” said Zina Bencheikh, executive director of Intrepid Travel’s Europe, Middle East and Africa operations, who was born in Marrakech. “Most of the country is open, with airports, schools, hotels, shops and restaurants operating normally despite the shock of the incident.”

Intrepid Travel had 600 customers in Morocco on the night of the earthquake, and only 17 interrupted their travels. TUI, Europe’s biggest travel operator, said some of its itineraries were being reviewed but that the majority of its customers had decided to remain in the country after the company carried out safety inspections and chose to support the decision to keep the Morocco open for tourism.

As a tourist, will I be a burden on local communities?

When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey in February, Turkish Airlines, the country’s national airline, canceled dozens of flights into Turkish territory to free up resources for rescue efforts. During the wildfires on Maui, airlines also canceled flights to Hawaii so planes could be used to transport tourists back to the mainland. Most of West Maui is still closed to tourists, but is expected to reopen on October 8th.

In Morocco, access to the worst-hit areas in the Atlas Mountains remains restricted while rescue efforts continue, and tourists are advised not to enter these areas. But in other areas of the country, which were not affected, tourist activities are encouraged.

Hafida Hdoubane, a Marrakech-based guide who leads visitors on hiking and trekking tours, encouraged visitors to go, arguing that the danger of the earthquake had long since passed and that Marrakech authorities were carefully isolating all buildings in front of them. signs of damage.

She said tourists who had reached out to cancel their expeditions felt uncomfortable about the idea of ​​vacationing in a country that had just suffered such devastation, but that locals did not share that view. “I think it’s better to come and show that life goes on,” she said. “What a mountain tourist can do to help is come, show that they are here and that they are supportive.”

Should I change my behavior?

Most locals don’t expect visitors to do so, but it’s important to be welcoming and aware of the weather around you.

Ángel Esquinas, regional director of Barceló Hotel Group, which has properties in Marrakech, Casablanca and Fez, said there was no immediate need for tourists to shorten their trips unless they felt it was necessary.

“It is absolutely acceptable for tourists to continue with their planned activities, such as participating in excursions, relaxing by the pool or enjoying the nightlife. Morocco remains a vibrant and welcoming destination,” he said. “However, we encourage visitors to be aware of their surroundings and to respect the specific circumstances of local communities. It is important to strike a balance between supporting the local economy and not placing a burden on the community.”

What can I do to help you?

Visiting a country can be a great support for disaster relief efforts, as many locals depend on tourism income for their livelihoods. In Morocco, tourism is responsible for 7.1% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is a crucial source of income for low- and middle-income families. Many restaurants and hotels have started fundraising campaigns to help their employees and their families in the most affected areas.

You can donate money to some of the relief organizations, such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, that are responding to the disaster. And the Intrepid Foundation, the travel company’s charity, created a support campaign for victims of the earthquake in Morocco, to support efforts to provide food, shelter, clean water and medical assistance to local communities.

In Hawaii, the Hawaii Community Foundation continues to manage a fund to support the long-term needs of those affected by the wildfires.

If you are a tourist already in a country that has been hit by a disaster, consider donating blood at local blood banks, which are often established by authorities after natural disasters.

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