Morocco is the latest destination to be hit by a serious natural disaster, with tour operators having to implement contingency plans to deal with the aftermath of a deadly earthquake.
The impact of Morocco’s deadly earthquake is still being assessed as emergency services continue their relief operations. The 6.8 magnitude earthquake caused more than 2,000 deathsand thousands more are injured, after the natural disaster which struck Friday about 80 kilometers from Marrakech, in the Moroccan High Atlas mountains.
Intrepid journeyone of Morocco’s largest tour operators, said it had around 650 customers in the country at the time of the earthquake.
The tour operator said all customers currently on tour, tour leaders and staff in Morocco are accounted for. Departures scheduled until September 12 were canceled to allow authorities to respond to the immediate disaster.
“Safety is always Intrepid’s number one priority – we are relieved to have been able to respond to all of our customers and believe that canceling upcoming tour departures is in the best interests of local communities at this time,” said Zina Bencheikh, Intrepid general manager for EMEA. , based in Morocco. “Our thoughts are with all Moroccans who have been affected by this disaster, and we will do everything we can, including through the Intrepid Foundation, to support communities in their reconstruction. »
Affected customers will be contacted and will be able to reschedule their trip or receive a refund. Intrepid touring will resume on September 13.
Intrepid Travel has also created a relief fund, the Appeal for the earthquake in Morocco, through its non-profit, the Intrepid Foundation, pledging to match all donations up to $64,000 (AU$100,000). Emergency relief funds collected will support Education for all and the High Atlas Foundationwho work with local communities, Bencheikh said.
“Through this relief effort, we hope to give back to the country that has given so much to our traveling community,” Bencheikh said.
Some G Adventures tours canceled
Small group tour operator G Adventuresheadquartered in Toronto, Canada, confirmed that all travelers and staff we represented were safe in Morocco.
The company canceled six tours in the areas most affected by the earthquake. A spokesperson confirmed that all other departures to Morocco are expected to go ahead as planned, with minor changes to travel routes to avoid affected areas.
The canceled tours included a weekend hike to Mount Toubkal, a climb of Mount Toubkal and a four-day visit to Marrakech.
“We advise all guests to make contact with their embassy to register their attendance and will release more information as it becomes available. Our thoughts are with the Moroccan people at this time,” the spokesperson said.
No changes to TUI operations
While the TUI Groupheadquartered in Germany, did not immediately confirm how many customers it had in Morocco, Europe’s largest tour operator confirmed it was continuing its operations in Morocco, with the next TUI flight to Morocco scheduled for Monday September 11.
“We are aware and deeply saddened by the devastating earthquakes that occurred last night approximately 70 km southwest of Marrakech. We can confirm that there has been no change to advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), customers are remaining in their hotels and flights are operating. We will closely monitor the situation and keep customers informed of any relevant updates,” said a TUI spokesperson.
When asked why TUI was not canceling or suspending any of its trips to Morocco, the spokesperson said customer safety remained the “top priority” as the company takes guidance from travel advisories of the government.
“In Morocco in particular, we are in contact with local authorities and partners and continue to assess the situation. At this time, we have no reports of injuries to TUI customers or colleagues, nor of structural damage to hotels and resorts hosting TUI customers. Our TUI service teams are present in the hotels and (can) help guests with any requests or questions they may have.
UNESCO will contribute to the repair plan
Tourism represents 8% of Morocco’s GDPthe government declaring in March this year that it planned to spend $580 million (6.1 billion dirhams) to attract 17.5 million tourists by 2026. This is more than double the 6.5 million visitors last year. In 2019, Morocco welcomed 13 million visitors.
Natural disasters such as earthquakes can have a profound impact on cultural heritage sites that are an integral part of multi-day tours to a destination like Morocco. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site and famous for its ancient mosques and palaces, Marrakech has yet to determine the full extent of the damage to its historic buildings.
Reuters reported that an earth and stone mosque in the High Atlas Mountains, built by a medieval dynasty that conquered North Africa and Spain, was severely damaged.
The United Nations heritage organization has sent an assessment team to Marrakech’s medina and confirmed it will help Morocco draw up an inventory of damage to national heritage sites and a repair strategy. Although unconfirmed, some reports indicate that most of the Old City’s major historic sites appear largely unscathed.
*This is a developing story.