If the majority of the tourist sector is satisfied with the return of the growth of air traffic, and therefore of the arrivals of foreigners or MREs, the intermediaries that are the travel agents complain of not reaping the benefits due to several changes induced by the pandemic and the current situation.
The 2022 pilgrimage did not benefit travel agents
So a well-known operator in the profession confides that the exceptional recovery does not benefit his sector. Apart from the pilgrimage for which “travel agents literally went to pieces to try to take advantage of part of the quota of pilgrims, there was no rebound in activity”, he testifies.
According to him, it is not with the 5,000 travelers assigned to Morocco that “his profession will be able to regain the hair of the beast, after two years of crisis which have completely devastated the sector, and prices which have soared”.
“How can the few agencies to which we have distributed barely a third of the number of pilgrim trips make a profit, when we know that the Ministry of Habous, which markets two thirds of the quota, has sold all the services of the pilgrimage (plane, hotel, etc.) at the cost price of 60,000 dirhams”, wonders our source, for whom the State practices unfair competition. Questioning the vocation of the Ministry of Habous as a tour operator, our interlocutor considers that the latter must delegate all the provision of the pilgrimage to travel agents, with specifications if necessary.
Nationals boycott physical intermediaries
Concerning the capture of the domestic market, our interlocutor indicates that national tourists no longer, or less and less, use the services of an agency to book a hotel stay. They prefer to approach the establishment directly in the hope of obtaining better accommodation rates.
Unlike foreign operators who suffer from a shortage of skilled labor to meet demand, the profession is faced with a problem of purchasing power. According to our operator, the holiday voucher could boost national travel and, consequently, the activity of travel agencies.
MREs prefer to book on foreign sites
Moroccans residing abroad (MRE) do not solicit them for plane tickets either, which they prefer to buy on platforms in their country of residence; similarly, for a hotel stay that they book directly with the establishment or through Booking.
Asked about their usefulness at a time when online booking sites allow or give the impression of saving money while physical agencies will charge for their intermediation, our source objects that a good travel agent makes it possible to avoid certain bad surprises, such as scams or rooms that are sold multiple times.
According to him, “in the event of problems, the customer who has a contract with the agent knows who to contact and, faced with a problem on arrival, the latter is required to repatriate his customer whereas a site will leave in the wild”.
The explosion of airfares discourages foreigners like Moroccans
Although he recognizes that the demand for foreign tourist stays is very real, our interlocutor affirms that the increase in air fares, some of which have seen increases of up to 100%, discourages a good part of the groups accustomed to making reservations in his agency.
And this, despite the strong desire to travel to Morocco from foreigners after the pandemic, or Moroccans who generally go to Turkey, Indonesia, Thailand in the summer…
Indeed, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine caused the price of kerosene to explode, which had to be passed on to the price of tickets, not to mention the problems of obtaining visas for those very many who went to Europe during the ‘summer.
“Local agents will have to wait for the winter season to bounce back”
Mohamed Semlali, who chairs the National Federation of Travel Agencies, wants to be more optimistic about the effects of the global crisis, which he considers manageable. He evokes a gradual resumption of activity for his sector, awaiting MICE events which are being prepared months in advance.
“While it is true that the prices of plane tickets have increased a lot, in my opinion, this will not prevent MREs or foreigners stranded at home for two long years from going to Morocco in the summer. »
“Knowing that Morocco opened its skies late and that several lines are still closed, the air offer is not sufficient to meet the great demand, and this is one of the reasons why air fares have increased” , specifies the president who speaks of a gradual, but undeniable recovery.
In conclusion, Semlali argues that the recent introduction of an electronic visa, which concerns a potential market of millions of foreigners, will make it possible to return to the level of activity of 2010 by the end of the year.
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Disintermediation and soaring airfares, brakes on the recovery of travel agents? – Media24