Rabat – In light of King Mohammed VI’s August 20 speech calling upon Moroccans to respect health measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, cities across Morocco are closing their beaches.
Each year, thousands of Moroccans head to the beach to seek refuge from the summer sun. Many are drawn to the north, in particular, where the Rif mountains tumble into the Mediterranean Sea.
Even with the virus’s continued spread, this summer is no different. Despite having the second-highest COVID-19 case count in Morocco, the Tangier-Tetouan-Al Hoceima region continues to experience a high volume of holiday traffic.
As COVID-19 lockdown measures began to lift in June, Morocco’s Head of Government Saad Eddine El Othmani encouraged members of the government and public sector officials to vacation inside the country. The encouragement of domestic tourism sent droves of Moroccans to the mountains and beaches.
Authorities erected security barriers to limit movement in and out of cities classified as COVID-19 hotspots. However, many travelers circumvented restrictions and bypassed blockades to take a vacation. These actions caused the virus to spread to cities that had yet to be affected, such as Chefchaouen, Martil, and M’diq.
Packed beaches and an overall lack of adherence to health measures have exponentially increased the number of new COVID-19 cases Morocco reports each day. As a result, beaches are shutting down, affecting the multitudes of vendors who rely on summer tourism to make ends meet each year.
Impact on seasonal workers
Many small towns along the coast are able to survive the year from the income they generate during the summer tourist season. But due to Morocco‘s closed beaches, thousands of seasonal workers are experiencing economic setbacks, many of whom were already suffering financially from the prolonged COVID-19 lockdown.
With borders closed, Morocco’s GDP has suffered significantly. The International Monetary Fund ranked Morocco’s tourism sector as the fourth hardest hit by COVID-19 worldwide.
After the government encouraged Moroccans to travel domestically this summer, vendors in vacation towns along the coastline were hopeful they could earn enough income to survive the pandemic.
At any Moroccan beach, you will find vendors traversing the umbrella-dotted shores selling a range of products—swimming accessories, toys, snacks, ice cream, coffee, and more. Sitting along the edge of the beaches are cafes, snack shops, and restaurants hoping to tempt sea-goers with a quick bite or ocean views.
All of these seasonal workers are now at the mercy of COVID-19 and unable to make their summer income now that Morocco’s beaches are off-limits to vacationers.
Restaurants that are usually full this time of year sit empty. Many owners struggle to pay the overhead and have closed for good.
Vendors who rely on vacationers to earn their seasonal income are now forced to consider alternative sources of income to ensure their livelihood and support their families.