The sound of tambourine is back in Marrakesh. The high season is coming soon and visitors eager to return to Morocco and its UNESCO-listed old cities’ narrow alleys.
Fruit juice sellers, handicraft store-owners, and other workers lost purchasing power during the pandemic. Indeed, the tourism sector was battered by the kingdom’s tight restrictions and the shutdown in travel.
Morocco's air borders reopened on February 7, paving the way for a long road to recovery.
"Once the airports opened, business began to pick up and merchants were able to get back to work,Abdellah Bouazri, a handicraft seller says.Every store here can feed up to 6 families, thank God things are moving forward."
The ancient southern city of Marrakech is renowned for its views of graceful red buildings set against palm trees and snow-capped mountains.
It has long drawn visitors including celebrities from Madonna to French designer Yves Saint Laurent.
Morocco welcomed 13 million tourists in 2019. In 2021, that dropped to just 4 million. Tour guides like Hassan Achouchat, are optimistic about the future: "After the opening of the sea and air borders, tourism restarted. We wish the best for this country and that's why we have to preserve our traditions and our heritage, especially in the city of Marrakesh which is considered to be the main tourist hub of Morocco."
French tourist Marie is happy to be back: "We've known Marrakesh for a long time, we came before Covid and we're here now, it's still very lively."
And no one will refute her. Snake-charmers are back on Marrakech’s famous Jamaa El-Fna square, where tourists throng again. According to official figures, Morocco’s tourism revenue in the first quarter of 2022, was up by 80 percent compared to the same period last year. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, estimated that tourism contribution to Morroco’s GDP reached 6.9% in 2018.