After two months of closure, Morocco's borders will reopen on 7 February, as will the country's airspace. The government's announcement comes just days after the health authorities indicated that the peak in the number of cases of the omicron variant had been passed, which is why flights to and from Morocco were suspended. The Alawi Kingdom was one of the few nations, along with Israel and Japan, that opted to close its borders after the new strain was detected in South Africa.
"To accompany the implementation of this decision, a technical commission will be set up to assess the needs of border posts in terms of requests for formalities and the conditions required for travellers, which will be announced at a later date," MAP reports.
The Moroccan news agency also notes that the government's communiqué is in line with the recommendations of the Scientific and Technical Committee. Spain, on the other hand, announced that the land borders of Ceuta and Melilla will remain closed until 28 February.
The government's decision is undoubtedly great news for Moroccan tourism. The sector, which has been hard hit by the constant border closures, had been calling for the reopening for weeks. A few days before the government's announcement, workers in the sector organised protests in several Moroccan cities.
In Rabat, for example, nearly 200 tour operators gathered in front of the Ministry of Tourism to demand the reopening of the borders, according to TV5 Monde. Demonstrations have also taken place in other cities such as Agadir, Tangier, Dakhla, Fez, Marrakech and Casablanca.
"The last two months have been incredibly difficult for the many people who depend on tourism for their income in Morocco," says Zina Bencheikh, the managing director of Intrepid Travel EMEA, a Moroccan travel agency.
"Domestic tourism cannot compensate for the fall in the number of foreign visitors and many businesses have struggled to stay afloat," Bencheikh also told the British tourism portal Travel Weekly. However, as she points out, this decision is "fantastic news for the local population and for travellers who had hoped to see the country". "Morocco will quickly return to the list of travellers' destinations by 2022," Bencheikh adds.
The Ministry of Tourism, headed by Fatima Zahra Ammor, aware of this situation, has designed an emergency plan for the sector. The Moroccan government has announced that it will allocate 1 billion dirhams to the industry.
In this regard, it is also worth noting the dozens of Moroccans who are abroad because they were unable to return to the country on the special repatriation flights organised by Rabat. These citizens, in addition to the almost 5 million Moroccans living abroad, had also demonstrated and called for measures to be taken by the government.
The Moroccan authorities continue to ask the population to comply "strictly" with all health measures. They also insist on maintaining the vaccination campaign, stressing that the inoculation of the third dose will boost "national solidarity" to overcome the pandemic.