- Title: MOROCCO: Tourists flock to Morocco despite security alert
- Date: 12th October 2007
- Summary: (MER1) MARRAKECH, MOROCCO (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF SNAKE CHARMER IN JAMAA EL FNA SQUARE IN MARRAKECH
- Embargoed: 27th October 2007 13:00
- Location: Morocco
- Country: Morocco
- Topics: Travel / Tourism
- Reuters ID: LVA847VF6300D5IRPRO9S6RHZQ6G
- Story Text: Morocco sees numbers of tourists visiting the country increase significantly in spite of suicide bombings and threats by al Qaeda that have led to the government raising its security alert to "maximum."
The number of tourists visiting Morocco grew 10 percent in the first seven months of the year despite suicide bombings and threats by al Qaeda that prompted the government to raise its security alert to "maximum."
At a busy hotel in Rabat, tourists arrive by the bus load as they prepare to start their North African adventure.
"Morocco is a very beautiful tourist destination. We were well welcomed here and the Moroccans are very nice people," said As far as I am concerned, the terrorist threat did not affect my choice," says Laurent, a French tourist who is visiting Morocco with his family.
Laurent's wife, Sophie, says that in spite of the so called security threat, she believes that Morocco is a safe country to visit.
"People here are very nice with children. Yesterday, I walked alone with my children at around 9 o'clock. We were not scared even though we were in a foreign country. Everything was fine," she says.
Tourism is key to the government's attempts to reduce poverty and high unemployment in the North African country of 33 million.
Around 4.3 million tourists flocked to Morocco's seaside resorts, mountains and bustling cities in the January-to-July period of this year, according to figures from the Tourism Observatory released by official news agency MAP.
The figure will come as a relief to the government and to investors -- many of them from the Gulf -- who are pouring money into resorts, hotels and holiday homes.
A clients manager at a hotel in Rabat, Mohammed Ouadghiri, puts the popularity of Morocco as a tourist destination mainly down to the quality of service offered in the Moroccan tourism industry.
"The reasons behind our success is the high quality of the services we offer to our customers in the first instance. Secondly, we advertise heavily and finally, we have some very strong links with travel agencies that allow us to fill our hotel all year long," he says.
Seven suicide bombers detonated devices in Casablanca in March and April, killing themselves and a policeman and sparking fears the normally peaceful country may fall prey to a prolonged period of violence that scares away tourists and wrecks growth.
The government announced the "maximum" security alert in July after threats of attacks by al Qaeda's North African wing, but lowered it to "intermediate" in September after peaceful parliamentary elections.
The government is aiming to attract 10 million tourists annually by 2010, up from a record 6.5 million last year.
Revenue from tourism jumped 29 percent to 52.9 billion dirhams ($6.56 billion) in 2006, bringing in much-needed foreign currency and helping Morocco cope with a heavy fuel import bill due to high world oil prices.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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