Despite a devastating earthquake – Marrakesh is back in business

Despite a devastating earthquake – Marrakesh is back in business
Mark Seddon

Barely six months ago a devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Morocco, killing nearly 3000 people and injuring many more. Thousands of others, often already struggling, were left destitute. It was reported at the time that this was the strongest quake to hit this part of the Maghreb in 120 years. Many of the fatalities, of course, occurred in difficult to access mountainous areas, with the epicentre of the earthquake near Ighil in the High Atlas Mountains, southwest of Marrakesh, which was also damaged. 

A pile of rubble and debris

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If this quake had happened in Bavaria, Germany or in the English Home Counties for instance, the coverage of its aftermath would likely have been as intensive as it would have been comprehensive. As it was, the focus and attention of the global media swiftly moved away from Morocco, just as it had done following the even more serious earthquake earlier in the year in February, which hit Turkey and Syria, claiming more than 50,000 lives. It seems that the human capacity for absorbing and processing calamity and disaster in other parts of the World is, to a degree at least, limited. But also, there is an inevitable media focus on bad news and less interest in what might constitute, some positive news

For in the aftermath, there were those who not only contributed generously to emergency appeals from around the World, but who took stock of the situation, kept their holiday bookings and visited Marrakech and other afflicted areas. Amazingly tourism numbers remained constant even in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. 

And, barely six months on, Morocco is bouncing back with tourism helping to lead the recovery. Tourism Minister, Fatim-Zahra Ammor, has been particularly fulsome in her praise for those who stuck with Morocco, saying that; ‘The solidarity that occurred during the earthquake, whether from Moroccans or sympathetic foreign populations greatly helped the local populations overcome this tragedy’.  Indeed, the country is still on track to hit a target of 25 million tourists by 2030. Visitor numbers last year appear to have been largely unaffected, with Marrakesh becoming particularly attractive to business travellers, especially as word got out. Minister Ammor says that foreign tourists who were in the city were using social media to say, ‘Look, things are going well in Marrakech. Don’t believe everything you hear. We’re here; everything is fine. Come to Morocco!’ And it appears that they did and are still doing so. 

*Mark Seddon is a former Speechwriter to UN Secretary-General Ban ki moon & former Adviser to the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly

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