The boss of Intrepid Travel has called on the trade to encourage travel to Morocco to give the destination the support it needs in the wake of last week’s earthquake.
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, James Thornton stressed the important role of the travel trade in the destination’s recovery.
He urged travel agents to continue selling and encouraging clients to travel to Morocco.
“It’ll be even more tragic if customers stay away from this beautiful country,” he said, asking agents to encourage clients to travel with established tour operators with a presence on the ground.
The epicentre of the earthquake on September 8 was in the Atlas Mountains but areas affected included Marrakech, while tremors were felt in the capital Rabat, Casablanca and Essaouira.
But Thornton stressed that while some areas were extremely badly affected, much of the country was operating as normal and undamaged by the disaster.
He said: “Many other parts of Marrakech, many other tourist parts of Casablanca, Meknes, Fez, Rabat, the Sahara desert; they’re fine, they’re operating normally. “Schools are back, airports are open, life is normal. It’s absolutely tragic in terms of the local area that’s been impacted, but many parts obviously remain unimpacted.”
Out of more than 600 Intrepid customers on the ground, only 17 had chosen to leave the country as a result of the earthquake, and just 20 with forward bookings for this year have cancelled. In September and October alone the company will carry 3,500 customers to Morocco.
“That gives you some insight into kind into the way we’ve responded. Our customers’ mindset is they want to stay in destination. They want to continue to travel where they can just ensure that money continues to get into local communities,” he said.
“We continue to monitor [the situation] every single day, but at the moment the vast majority of those customers are continuing on trips.”
The operator has announced plans to restart tours later this week with amended itineraries, avoiding the Atlas Mountains and spending less time in the old town in Marrakech.
“It’s really important in situations when there are natural disasters that areas are given the space to be able to recover. But at the same time, it’s really important that travellers do go through areas that haven’t been impacted so communities continue to benefit and get money into those areas.”
Thornton said the early signs were that clients still wanted to travel to the destination while fam trips were set to go ahead to the destination next week.
“At this stage, it’s really positive but of course, you know, only time will tell how that will continue to evolve. Early signs are really promising that the customer still wants to travel.
“Marrakech Airport is open and working and travel advisories haven’t changed. Morocco is still open for business.”
He added: “Intrepid is working really hard to make sure we’re taking care of our customers, and they’re having wonderful experiences on the ground when they do come to destination. We wouldn’t be running trips to places if we weren’t confident we’re able to do.”
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