Morocco experienced a significant magnitude 6.8 earthquake on Friday, described as the deadliest in a century, leaving much of the region south of Marrakech in a state of recovery. The devastating event has claimed the lives of over 2,000 people, predominantly concentrated around the Atlas Mountains.
While Morocco typically sees a surge in international visitors during the cooler autumn months, the timing of the earthquake has raised concerns among tourists and those planning to visit the country. Thousands of international travelers are currently in Morocco or have travel plans in the near future, prompting questions about the safety of visiting the region.
The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has issued a travel advisory warning of possible transportation disruptions and aftershocks but has not advised against traveling to Morocco. It is estimated that around 44 New Zealanders were in Morocco at the time of the earthquake.
Given that the epicenter of the earthquake was just 70 kilometers south of the popular tourist destination Marrakech, there are concerns among visitors about potentially overburdening infrastructure that may have been damaged by the seismic event.
Despite these concerns, several tour operators, airlines, and hotels continue to accept bookings and accommodate guests, albeit with certain modifications to their services. TUI, one of Europe’s largest all-inclusive package operators, has stated that groups are arriving as planned on September 11th and 15th.
With numerous bookings scheduled for the autumn season, tourists are left to assess whether it is safe and suitable to travel to Morocco at this time.
Regarding the safety of traveling to Morocco, the Safe Travel website mentioned that “airports are reported to be open and functional.” Travelers planning to visit Morocco are advised to confirm arrangements with their accommodation providers or tour operators before departure in case of any disruptions or damages caused by the earthquake.
New Zealanders currently in Morocco are encouraged to register their details with the SafeTravel consular service.
The earthquake has directly affected approximately 300,000 Moroccans, resulting in significant damage to homes and infrastructure. The decision to travel to Morocco now rests with individual travelers. Nevertheless, some tour operators, airlines, and travel providers are offering travelers the option to rebook their travel or explore alternative options.
Despite the earthquake, scheduled international flights are operating as planned at Marrakech Menara Airport, with Ryanair and EasyJet maintaining their flight schedules. Some airlines have accommodated passengers by offering additional capacity for those wishing to reschedule their flights and return early due to earthquake-related disruptions.
British Airways and Air France have introduced fare flexibility, allowing passengers to change or cancel flights without incurring fees for travel into Marrakech until September 24th.
Regarding trip cancellations, travel insurers may not provide refunds for costs unless travelers have been directly affected by the earthquake. Since regular travel routes and international flights continue to operate, and MFAT travel advisories do not discourage travel, those with upcoming plans to visit Morocco are advised to contact tour operators and travel providers to discuss potential options.
Numerous tour operators have made the decision to cancel scheduled trips to areas in Morocco severely affected by the earthquake. Intrepid Travel, a leading tour company, reported having over 650 customers and 80 local tour operators in Morocco at the time of the earthquake. While all tour groups have been accounted for, departures have been canceled until Tuesday, September 12th, to allow emergency services to respond to the crisis. Intrepid Travel has pledged to match donations to its Morocco Earthquake Appeal, up to AU$100,000.
G Adventures has also canceled tours in areas heavily impacted by the earthquake. However, all other Morocco departures are proceeding as planned, with a commitment not to return to the Atlas mountains until it is deemed appropriate.
In contrast, the TUI Group, a German package tour company, continues its operations in Morocco, reporting minimal damage to its hotels and no impact on staff or guests due to the earthquake. TUI Group assures that it is closely following government travel advisories and confirms that planned arrivals on September 11th and 15th will proceed as scheduled.
Despite being briefly evacuated from hotels on the night of the earthquake, 125 parties booked through TUI Group have chosen to maintain their travel plans, signaling a level of confidence in the ongoing safety of their trips.