See also:
» 10.03.2011 - Morocco protesters encouraged by King's speech
» 03.03.2011 - Calls for new Morocco protests on Sunday
» 27.02.2011 - Morocco protests halted by police violence
» 27.02.2011 - Investors fear Morocco riots
» 26.02.2011 - Mostly peaceful protests in Morocco today
» 22.02.2011 - New Morocco protests planned
» 21.02.2011 - Morocco does not escape violence
» 20.02.2011 - Large peaceful protests in Morocco

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Travel market tense ahead of Morocco protests

Scene from the widely spread video calling for protests in Morocco

© afrol News
afrol News, 18 February
- With great protests planned for Morocco on Sunday and world media constantly asking "Who's next?", travellers, agents and tour operators are getting nervous. Is it safe to go to Morocco?

Only one week ago, Morocco as a tourist destination had reasons to celebrate the riots and revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. As the Egyptian and Tunisian destinations were collapsing, travel agents all over Europe were offering Morocco and the Canary Islands as alternatives for cancelled trips.

In Germany, Europe's greatest market, travel agents in late January and early February openly campaigned for Morocco as the safe and quiet alternative to Tunisia and Egypt in local media. Similar campaigns were registered in the UK, Scandinavia and France.

Consequently, flights to Morocco from Europe over the last few weeks have been fuller than ever during a low season. Morocco today published record arrivals for January, and the growing Moroccan tourism industry was making important extra revenues.

But these short heydays are now over. Each and every day, international media are overflowing with reports from the protest wave spreading to new countries. There is a widespread impression it is only a question of time for unrest and revolution to reach Morocco.

A nascent Moroccan protest movement is also doing its best to spread that image, with vastly spreading calls for protests via social media. Indeed, massive protest marches are announced for Sunday 20 February all over Morocco.

There are few reasons to believe that Morocco will be hit by an Egypt-like violent chaos within short. But there are indications that a protest movement is forming, and Sunday's announced protests will give a good indication to whether Morocco is headed for instability or not.

Travellers, especially during the last week, are becoming increasingly insecure. Media, including afrol News, are increasingly asked whether it is safe to go to Morocco, and reports about the planned 20 February protests are among the most viewed in internet.

Brian Hagarty, writing one of the most popular travel blogs currently, has observed the same. "Most of the traffic that comes to this blog comes from people on search engines who find the post 'Is Morocco a safe place

The market in Agadir, Morocco, is popular with tourists

© Suzan Marie/afrol News
to visit?'," reports Mr Hagerty.

The blogger, fond of the Moroccan destination, also tries to give an honest answer to the question. "The short answer to the question about Morocco being safe is YES. But in light of the revolutionary spirit coursing through the Arab world, we need to take a look again. Can tranquil, scenic, touristic, ever more cosmopolitan Morocco go the way of Tunisia and Egypt? Short answer is the same: YES!"

Even worse for the Moroccan destination, travel agents throughout Europe have now started giving potential tourists the same answer as Mr Hagerty. In Germany, for example, travel agent Frauke Gräber told the 'Mindener Tageblatt' - in an article titled "Journey into the insecure" - that travel to North Africa by and large were now seen as risky.

Even among tour operators, the tension is high and rising. Yves Hoffmann, spokesman of Luxairtours, told the daily 'Volksfreund' that until recently, especially French customers had chosen Morocco, but the market in France was now quickly growing sceptical towards the destination.

Even Mr Hoffmann, he told the Luxembourgian newspaper, could, "because of the widening unrest in these countries, not recommend Morocco with a good conscience." Bookings for the entire North African region were dropping drastically.

In Morocco, the new trend is already noted. Representatives of the country's tourism industry today told the 'Maghreb Emergent' magazine that the country now was "registering a large number of cancellations." French tour operators confirmed that "the political atmosphere in the region is reassuring tourists."

The short wave of extra bookings for Moroccan destinations has ended. Now, tour operators report, the Canary Islands, Madeira, Cape Verde Turkey are benefiting from the North African political unrest.

For Morocco, these bad news could only mean pouring gasoline on the fire. The tourism sector is among the country's main employers, and if the trend of cancellations is strengthened, rising unemployment would mobilise even more protesters.

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