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Morocco seeks to boost tourism with simplified visa procedure

Morocco seeks to boost tourism with simplified visa procedure

Moroccan government spokesperson Mustapha Baitas has confirmed that the North African country is launching an electronic visa for Morocco.

The simplified visa procedure will allow visitors to the country to obtain their travel permit for Morocco exclusively online and avoid the cumbersome embassy visa application which is a turn-off for many tourists.

“Foreigners who want to visit Morocco are no longer obliged to go to consulates to collect a paper visa” Baitas said during a press conference about the system on June 23.

Baitas also announced that the e-Visa would launch on July 10 and will at first be available to 49 different nationalities. Those eligible for the new visa are grouped into 3 categories:

● Countries such as Thailand and Israel
● Foreigners from the USA, Australia, Canada, the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand with a Schengen visa valid for a minimum period of 90 days.
● Foreigners who have resided in the European Union, the USA, Canada, the UK, Japan, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Australia for a minimum of 180 days.

The visa can be obtained through an online platform managed by the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It’s estimated that the document will take within 24 or 72 hours to process.

While the approved visa only allows a single entry stay for up to 30 days, it can be extended once in the country to a multiple-entry document valid for 6 months. The government has not yet announced the tax duties for the visa.

The decision to introduce an online visa was made in order to boost the number of tourist arrivals and help to promote the country as an attractive holiday destination. It is also expected to help the Moroccan tourism industry climb back up to pre-pandemic levels.

COVID-19 took a heavy toll on Morocco’s tourist arrivals, which saw an
unprecedented drop of 71% in 2021 compared to the pre-pandemic period. Although tourism in Morocco is thought to have made an economic contribution of US $8 billion in 2021, this was only 7% of the country’s GDP.

Nevertheless, since Morocco reopened its borders and lifted travel bans on February 7, 2022, the Moroccan Directorate of Treasury and External Finance has reported a major upsurge in the number of tourist arrivals, both by foreign visitors and Moroccans residing abroad (MREs).

The number had reached 1.5 million by the end of April, and Morocco Minister of Tourism Fatim-Zahra Ammor said that tourism revenues had climbed up to MAD 9.5 billion (US $1 billion) by the end of March. This is an 80% increase compared to the same period in 2021.

During a parliamentary session at the Moroccan House of Representatives, Ammor asserted that the numbers signaled a considerable recovery for the tourism sector post-COVID restrictions.

Ammor cited the Moroccan government’s launch of a MAD 2 billion ($199.75 million) emergency plan to revive the tourism sector as a major factor in the recovery. This scheme was crucial in providing financial assistance to tourism industry employees hit hard by the pandemic

A large part of this success was also down to a campaign to expand hospitality in Morocco and double the number of tourist arrivals by 20230, she said. Morocco has initiated a number of campaigns in recent months to specifically encourage post-pandemic tourist travel.

In April, Morocco’s National Tourist Office (ONMT) launched the “Morocco, the Land of Light” campaign to promote the country as one of the “world’s most coveted tourist destinations.” The initiative involved a tour promoting Moroccan tourism, with stops in Paris, London, and New York.

The campaign aimed to reinforce Morocco’s attractiveness in the international market. The specific focus was on attracting tourists aged between 25 and 59 from France, Spain, Germany,  the UK, the US, and Israel, as well as African and Middle Eastern states

Following the success of the promotional tour, ONMT General Director Abdel El Fakir said “We will continue our work to promote Morocco in international markets. In the aftermath of the Land of Light campaign, it was important for us to fully involve Moroccan professionals in promoting Morocco as a holiday destination”. 

A further campaign, Operation Marhaba 2022, was launched in May. This initiative, due to run from June through to September, specifically focused on attracting the Moroccan diaspora back to the country for summer holidays.

Compared to last year, tourists and diaspora members booked nearly 20% more overnight stays in the country compared to 2019. It is hoped that the latest campaign will help the numbers get back to pre-pandemic levels, which were three times as high as they are now.

At the moment, both vaccinated and unvaccinated visitors are allowed to travel to Morocco. However, passengers are required to present either a negative PCR test or proof of vaccination to gain entry.