Now that the country’s travel is getting back on its feet, much is being made of the tourism prospects. | MDB

ABTA, now referred to as The Travel Association, first held its annual convention in Mallorca in 1973, when it was still very much the Association of British Travel Agents. There was to be a tradition of coming to Mallorca every ten years, one that was threatened by a boycott in 2003. The reason for the threat? The ecotax. There was no boycott and ABTA looked forward to the next convention, which was brought forward two years. In 2011, it was due to have been held in Tunisia but was switched to Mallorca because of the unrest that came to be known as the Arab Spring and which is taken to have originated in Tunisia in December 2010.

Tunisia, which subsequently suffered the Sousse terrorist attack in 2015 that led to a two-year dip in tourism, is often bracketed with Egypt and Turkey a) because of terrorism that resulted in Mallorca getting increased numbers of tourists and b) as one third of a triad of tourist destination competitors to Mallorca.

Morocco, which has had its own issues, doesn’t tend to get mentioned in the same breath, and yet its tourism, pre-Covid, was greater than Tunisia’s - some 13 million visitors in 2019 versus 9.5 million. The battering that this tourism has taken from Covid has been as bad as elsewhere, if not worse, given that the borders were closed to all but essential air traffic from the end of November last year until February - this was because of Omicron.

Now that the country’s travel is getting back on its feet, much is being made of the tourism prospects. One source for this optimism is ABTA, which should have held its 2020 convention in Marrakech. This year’s convention will be the first since 2019, and it will be in Morocco. And it so happens that ABTA won’t be the only travel association holding a convention in the country. Germany’s DRV will also be there this year.

The fact that the two travel associations representing the two largest European tourism markets are both going to Morocco certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed in Mallorca and Spain. Or in London, where the director of the Turespaña bureau, Manuel Butler, says that Morocco is advancing very quickly as a tourist destination. It is very competitive and its hotel capacity is increasing. Butler stresses the need to be aware of this growing competition.

He adds that under the current circumstances of war in Ukraine, Morocco is being looked upon favourably by comparison with Egypt and Turkey. This is because of the distance, and Morocco is closer than the Canaries for travellers from the UK. The two conventions, meanwhile, will coincide with a “battery of promotional measures”, according to Morocco’s national tourism office. So, it would appear that Morocco can be added to the list of genuine competitors, when it probably always has been but has tended to be overlooked.
And what about ABTA and Mallorca? The ten-year cycle was broken because of Tunisia, but 2023 would restore the pattern. Will it?