Tourism can help Morocco back on its feet

A few days ago, a catastrophic earthquake shook Morocco – the most powerful the nation has endured in over a century. As for many fellow Britons, this region holds a special place in my heart; I have marvelled at its landscapes and been deeply moved by the unwavering generosity of its people.

I have been struck by Morocco’s remarkable ability to respond swiftly and effectively when confronted with such challenges. The kingdom has once more shown its resilience in difficult times. It has responded with steadfast determination and calm decisions, under the leadership of King Mohammed VI.

Emergency measures in Morocco were taken from the first moments following the earthquake and included the intervention of the royal armed forces, local authorities, security services, as well as the relevant ministries.

In the short span of 48 hours, Morocco partially reopened a vital route to the earthquake-affected area, creating a lifeline for aid delivery to the hardest-hit regions. The country’s military helicopters have continuously engaged in rescue and relief operations, while Moroccans have rallied in a remarkable grassroots effort to assist those in need. 

The king paid a visit to the injured at a hospital, where he checked in directly on the care being provided and donated his blood in solidarity with the victims.

These rapid measures of relief were just the beginning. Within three days of the earthquake, Morocco’s government set up a national solidarity fund. Countries worldwide, along with national and international NGOs, initiated donation appeals and various leading organisations in Morocco made generous donations to the fund. 

Beyond the immediate care for the injured and restoring access to remote mountainous areas, royal directives were issued that included measures aimed at not only rebuilding but also completely transforming and upgrading the affected areas, while also preserving the local culture and heritage.

The directives from the king were clear and simple: “All resources must be effectively mobilised to ensure that no one is left without shelter.”

Morocco’s response is extensive, ranging from immediate care and the provision of emergency temporary housing to the rapid initiation of reconstruction efforts. One programme specifically targets around 50,000 homes that have either suffered complete or partial collapse across the five affected provinces. Emergency temporary housing, prioritising structures built to withstand harsh weather conditions, will also include financial aid of approximately £2,500 for affected households. To support immediate reconstruction, financial assistance of up to £11,000 will be available. 

Special provision has been made for those children orphaned by the earthquake. They have been fast-tracked as wards of the nation and qualified teams are seeking early adoption by appropriate families.

As Morocco pledges to rebuild in the aftermath of the earthquake, we can anticipate further strong measures that will not only benefit the victims, but also turn this terrible challenge into an opportunity for the progress and resilience of Al Haouz and its neighbouring regions.

Morocco’s long friendship with many countries has seen many give help immediately. I’m delighted that the UK was one of the first, mobilising its international search and rescue team to provide life-saving support. Morocco has done so much for other nations, and it is heartwarming to see this reciprocated. This steadfast support further strengthens the bonds of friendship and partnership between our two nations. In addition, global institutions have demonstrated their confidence and faith in Morocco. 

The greatest support we can give Morocco and its courageous people is to engage even more fully than before. Marrakech itself, the historic “red city” near the centre of the earthquake, will demonstrate the country’s commitment to progress in hosting the annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF next month. Morocco’s welcome to tourists and visitors is as warm as before – and indeed tourism and international exchange are of critical importance to the country now, more than ever.

Sir James Duddridge KCMG MP is a former minister for international trade and minister for Africa

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