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Marrakech welcomes tourists after pandemic restrictions ease

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A relaxing day by the pool for Pascal and Nathalie Greco. But this holiday has been long time coming. The Canadian tourists have come to Marrakech for the first time since February 2020. They are normally regular visitors to the Moroccan city.

But like so many others around the world, the coronavirus pandemic had put a stop to their jet-setting. So far, they are pleased with their first trip under COVID restrictions.

"Since I arrived, I have felt very comfortable, there is nothing different from what I was doing when I was in my country, so it's really not a problem," says Pascal. "These are the constraints unfortunately that we are forced to undergo against COVID, wearing masks, but we have no choice, and then we must just be careful." he said.

Restrictions on flights into the country were relaxed on June 15. Since then, Morocco's tourism industry has had some level of recovery. As well as tourists, Moroccans living abroad have been traveling home to spend time with family for the Islamic feast of Eid al-Adha.

With its climate, attractive hotels, restaurants and traditional markets, Marrakech is a top tourist destination. "It's very difficult when I arrive in Marrakech to go elsewhere, I'm so in love with Marrakech, I find my happiness here, so I'm not moving for the moment," says Nathalie.

"I have always said that Marrakech is a second Quebec because there is an incredible human warmth."

Inside the hotel, COVID precautions are more obvious. Guests wear their masks and hand sanitiser is just part of the routine. It's reassuring for guests like Jyl Savoie who has come here from the US.

"Yeah, we're glad that the hotel is taking it seriously and giving us sanitisation when we get in, and the mask is worn, and we're vaccinated but we're conscious that not everyone is, and we're glad that precautions are being taken," Jyl said.

Up in their room, Pascal and Nathalie are taking it easy with a cup of coffee. It's a moment to reflect on their first holiday for a long time.

"We haven't been able to leave Montreal since February 2020, so it's been 18 months, it's true that it's nice - thanks to the vaccination - to be able to start traveling again since the sanitation rules are easing," says Pascal.

Nathalie adds: "You feel perfectly safe in Marrakech."

The Radisson Blu is their usual hotel.

Occupancy here is around 62 percent, according to hotel management. Around 12 percent is made up of foreign tourists but the majority are Moroccans. The regular cleaning there is a reminder that the virus has not gone away.

In fact, cases have risen. On June 15, Morocco recorded 476 cases. Just over a month later on July, the tally stood at more than 2,100. The Moroccan authorities are increasing the number of warnings because of this rise.

But so far, there has been no announcement of a return to restrictive measures.

"Since June 15, the borders have already opened and then there is a slight recovery with the foreign tourists, so we felt a small recovery, it is not a total recovery," says Rachid Oubassou, who does Sales and Marketing for Radisson Blu Hotel in Marrakech.

"Coronavirus has not disappeared yet, today we know that the future should be better if the pandemic situation remains the same and then we are currently keeping the same considerations and the same precautions with regard to the precautions against COVID-19." Oubassou said.

In the markets and restaurants, the gradual return of tourists is a welcome sight after so long in shutdown, with little income.

In the middle of the square in Jamaa Lefna, there are dozens of outdoor restaurants that serve popular meals, such as tagines, tanjia, and other delicious dishes. French tourist Canelle has had chicken with a friend there.

She's glad to be back. "I think it's bad that with the COVID that we weren't able to come here because it cut us off in tourism. We could not come to Marrakech before because we should be vaccinated before traveling," Canelle says.

Morocco with population of around 36.5 million. more than 11.2 million people have been vaccinated.

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