After more than two years of suspension, maritime crossings between Morocco and Spain should resume at the beginning of April, announce Spanish media. A reopening that will boost Moroccan tourism, damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
The resumption of maritime traffic between Spain and Morocco will take place on April 7. A first ferry that will depart from the port of Tarifa to the port of Tangier.
Although the Moroccan authorities have reopened their air borders since February 7, the maritime borders still remain closed. This situation has caused heavy losses for the Spanish port and tourist sectors.
Although the Moroccan authorities have reopened their air borders since February 7, the maritime borders have suffered another fate.
According to ElPlural, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares, who is due to make his first official visit to Rabat on April 1, 2022, announced a possible reopening of the maritime borders between Morocco and Spain and the resumption of Operation Marhaba. . He informed the Spanish Chamber of Deputies that the agenda of his visit to Rabat will also include “the complete normalization of ties with Morocco, including maritime links” and the resumption of the operation “Passage du Strait”. The Moroccan and Spanish authorities will also discuss the control of passenger and goods traffic between Spain and Morocco.
This Transit Operation allows Moroccans residing in Europe to travel to the Kingdom via Spanish ports to spend their summer holidays there. In 2020 and 2021, the Operation was canceled by Morocco due to a health crisis, according to official sources. During these two years, Moroccans from Europe reached Morocco via the ports of Sète in France and Genoa in Italy.
Contacted by MoroccoLatestNews UK, Zoubir Bouhout, tourism expert, is delighted with this news which represents a new start for Moroccan tourism, affirming that Spain represents the 2nd market in Morocco.
“The Spaniards represent the second market in terms of tourism in Morocco after the French who are 1.9 million to go to Morocco each year against 880,000 Spaniards”he explains.
“The French market, if we also count MREs (Moroccans residing abroad, editor’s note) who travel through the sea routes, number 4.2 million compared to 2.2 million in Spain”, adds the expert.
“Operation Marhaba marks its big comeback with the resumption of maritime traffic, it will start around June 15 and will boost Moroccan tourism“, he rejoices, adding that the MRE were the first victims of this closure.
“Many MREs have suffered from this closure of the borders between the two neighboring countries, including those who live in France and travel through the sea, not having the possibility of paying for plane tickets”says Zoubir Bouhoute.
A good recovery for tourism
Despite the suspension of maritime traffic, Moroccan tourism has had happy days since the reopening of the airways. The outlook seems more favorable for the year 2022, following the improvement of the epidemiological situation in Morocco and the implementation of various programs and measures, including those relating to the reopening of national borders and the emergency program granted by the government for the support of the sector in the amount of 2 billion dirhams.
The flow of arrivals increased by 34% at the end of 2021, for a total of more than 3.7 million tourists, notes the DEPF in its latest economic report published on March 22. This development resulted from the 77.9% increase in arrivals of MREs, compared to a drop in those of foreign tourists of 8.8%, after a decline of 76.7% and 80% respectively a year earlier.
Moreover, despite the sharp drop recorded by tourist receipts in January 2022 (-58.6%), due to the closure of national borders throughout this month, the evolution of activity in the sector has more favorable announcement for the year 2022, since the reopening of the national borders on February 7.
Indeed, the number of passengers received at national airports during the period from February 7 to 28 is around 660,045 passengers, 50% of whom are international travellers. It is important to note that international passenger traffic by air recovered 72% of its level during the same period of 2019.