Tunisia and Morocco hoteliers eye an end to COVID downturn

The October solar warms the sands of Hammamet seaside on Tunisia’s east coast, however the coronavirus pandemic nonetheless casts a shadow, and customer numbers are but to bounce again.

After two ruined seasons in a row, operators in Tunisia and Morocco are licking their wounds and hoping the lifting of journey restrictions will spell higher days.

TUNISIA SHATTERED BY COVID

This year was higher than the final, “which was really a terrible season. But (2021) was still only half as good as 2019,” mentioned Haykel Akrout of the Bel Azur lodge.

The luxurious facility, with swimming swimming pools overlooking rows of deckchairs alongside the shore, had to halve its capability of 1 000 beds in July as a spike in coronavirus circumstances battered Tunisia.

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TUNISIA KEPT OUT 

The nation discovered itself on European nations’ crimson lists, making it just about inconceivable for holidaymakers from main markets together with France, Germany, and Italy to go to.

But as restrictions have begun to ease, some have managed to attain the North African nation.

TUNISIA REGAINS INTERNATIONALS 

Elena Bakurova flew in from Vladivostok within the east of Russia to have a good time her forty fourth birthday and “discover Africa”.

Yanis Merabti, from France’s Lyon, mentioned he had chosen a vacation in Tunisia for the value and the climate.

“France isn’t like this in October. You can’t get to the beach or enjoy the sun, it’s cold,” he mentioned. “It’s so nice here.”

TUNISIA MOROCCO MISSING THE PROFITS 

Akrout mentioned the lodge was at round 30% capability, with Russians making up roughly half that quantity.

“We are talking about survival – it’s nowhere near profitable,” he mentioned.

‘CATASTROPHIC’

Dora Milad, head of the FTH hoteliers’ affiliation, mentioned the “catastrophic” 2020 season had battered the sector, with lodge stays down by 80%.

This year noticed an 11% uptick, she mentioned. “That’s very slightly better… but it’s still far from normal.”

In a superb year like 2019, Tunisia registers about 9 million lodge stays, and the tourism sector accounts for up to 14% of gross home product – offering livelihoods to round 2 million Tunisians.

MOROCCO INTERNATIONAL TOURISM-DEPENDENT 

Nearby Morocco additionally relies upon closely on guests to its coastal resorts and historic inland cities.

This season noticed a modest inflow of vacationers when the nation reopened its borders in June following months of closure.

Roughly 3.5 million guests had entered the nation by the end of August – up from 2.2 million the year earlier than.

But that’s nonetheless far in need of the 13 million registered in the identical interval of 2019.

MOROCCO COVID RESTRICTIONS 

Facing its personal spiking Covid-19 caseload, Morocco was pressured to impose new restrictions, similar to limiting journey to the vacationer scorching spots of Marrakech and Agadir.

“The recovery has been focused on the coastal cities, but it has been slowed down by the restrictions imposed in August,” mentioned Hamid Bentahar, the president of the nation’s tourism federation.

ALGERIA DOMESTIC TOURISM 

In neighbouring Algeria, the sector relies upon largely on home tourism, additionally hit exhausting by the pandemic.

National Hoteliers’ Federation chief Ahmed Oulbachir mentioned services have been working at only a quarter of their regular rate.

TUNISIA SET FOR RECOVERY 

Tunisia has seen its coronavirus circumstances tumble since their mid-year peak and lastly has had some excellent news on the tourism entrance too.

Key markets the UK and France have each eliminated the nation – together with Morocco and Algeria – from their journey crimson lists.

SAVE 2022

For the Bel Azur, “it’s already too late”, mentioned Akrout.

“But at least it lets us save the 2022 season, as we can sign contracts with tour operators.”

Hotels in Hammamet at the moment are making ready for a recovery.

‘UNEXPLOITED’

But Akrout says it’s time to rethink the sector past the cliches of “camels and the beaches”. 

“Mass tourism has shown its limits. It’s time to make use of magnificent sites that are totally unexploited,” he mentioned.

Milad of the Tunisian hoteliers’ affiliation agreed.

WEEKEND CITY ESCAPE DESTINATION 

The sector has “sat on its laurels” because the Nineteen Sixties and failed to absolutely exploit nation’s desert south, spectacular inside, and the traditional ruins of Carthage, close to Tunis, she mentioned.

She additionally pitched the capital Tunis as a vacation spot for weekend metropolis escapes.

POST COVID OPPORTUNITY 

Since the beginning of the final century, “Tunisia has been a destination for winter breaks in the sun, and to treat lung conditions,” she added.

“That could be an opportunity, after Covid, to regenerate and get out in the fresh air.”

by Francoise Kadri with Maghreb bureaus

© Agence France-Presse

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