As tourism declines in Egypt, Morocco has been making the most of its status as a safer destination in Muslim North Africa.
On Tuesday, a Sinai-based extremist group warned all tourists to leave Egypt within days, or risk attacks. The terror group, called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, is the same organization that claimed responsibility for the explosion of a South Korean tour bus near the Egyptian city of Taba on Sunday that killed four and injured 17.
“The tourism sector remains the most affected by the political scene in Egypt,” Omneia Helmy, director of research at the Egyptian Center of Economic Studies, told International Business Times.
Even before the recent attacks, tourist visits to Egypt dropped 31 percent to just 678,000 in 2013, according to CAPMAS, the state statistical agency.
Meanwhile, more than 10.5 million tourists visited Morocco last year – up 7 percent since 2012, according to AFP.
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Last week, Lahcen Haddad, Morocco’s tourism minister, told Bloomberg that airlines and tour companies see the country as “a secure destination.”
He noted that he’s been speaking with British Airways, Lufthansa, Ryanair, EasyJet, Transavia and Air Berlin about organizing routes. Plus, he said direct flights to and from China should become a reality in 2015.
Despite the increased numbers, tourists are spending less in Morocco, thanks to a slow economy in Europe. In fact, tourism receipts fell 0.5 percent last year. But the country is still in a much better state than its neighbors and seem to be taking advantage of the situation.
“In a region that has recently come to be associated with social upheaval and anemic growth, Morocco often stands out as an exception,” reads a World Bank report issued Jan. 24. The bank's data shows that tourism now accounts for 11 percent of the country’s GDP, and officials are also pursuing emerging sectors such as eco-tourism.