As you are hopefully well aware of by now, the COVID 19 (aka coronavirus) pandemic has adversely affected all of us — from the distant shores of Thailand to the maze of souks in the old Marrakesh medina. Brave first responders, nurses and doctors have put their lives on the line amidst a severe lack of proper safety gear. Restaurants and cafes are shuttered and literally, millions of people are now out of work and have lost their livelihoods. The travel industry, as you know, has been hit particularly hard. Here, you’ll find a collection of information concerning the COVID 19 in Morocco, our position, our related policies, and general travel outlook for Morocco.
What is the Situation of COVID 19 in Morocco?
With a little luck and a lot of foresight by the Moroccan government, the spread of the coronavirus has not had the explosiveness in places like the US, Brazil, Spain, Italy or even China. Numbers continue to be low and the majority of the population vigilant after a strict quarantine, one of the strictest in the entire world.
When the Moroccan government suddenly shuttered its borders, we had to quickly pivot. Though one never wants to deal with an emergency while on the tour of a lifetime, this is where our experience truly shined. We were able to leverage our extensive knowledge of Morocco, contacts in the government, and general travel know-how to get all of our clients on flights back home. Unfortunately, other travelers were not so lucky. There were numerous reports about the thousands of travelers and students with study abroad programs unable to get home from Morocco and other countries. Once our clients were home safe, we worked diligently within these communities to share what information we had and try to make getting home a reality for them.
When the coronavirus situation exploded…we were unbelievably lucky to be on the receiving end of help from Journey Beyond Travel. Their efforts to find “escape” options for us (the US government was “missing in action”) — and to communicate them as promptly and accurately as possible — were invaluable. I cannot imagine being in better hands. The grace and professionalism showed us during a time when they were being pulled from all sides were beyond anything we could have expected. – Linda Haines, March 2020
Economically, though, it looks to be a long recovery with many of those working in tourism unsurprisingly hit hardest. If you want to read more about how many of the unofficial workers in Morocco are fairing during the course of this pandemic, ABC News did a brief story on this you can read here: https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/lockdowns-kill-jobs-africas-informal-workers-suffer-69785841. Needless to say, these are communities we will be working a lot with in the coming months (and likely years) as the economic fall out of this pandemic continues to ripple throughout our industry.
For your information, we have dedicated a small fund to help many of the informal workers we are in contact with to help support them. This goes to the heart and soul of what we believe in as a sustainable tour provider. Not only do we work to sustain you, our travelers, and the beautiful environs of Morocco, but perhaps most importantly, we try our best to provide for the people who make travel so special here in Morocco.
With COVID 19 Still Circulating, Can I Still Book a Tour to Morocco?
For those still looking forward to planning Fall, Winter 2020 as well as 2021 trips, it’s probably best to adopt a policy of monitoring the situation at the present and to make your travel decision a bit down the road, when things calm down and you feel most comfortable.
Air travel to and from Morocco remains restricted to specific categories of travelers. These are the current Moroccan directives concerning travel that will be effective through at least November 10th, 2020:
- Citizens and residents of Morocco, as well as foreign nationals of visa-exempt countries (which includes US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and UK citizens) with reservations with Moroccan hotels or travel agencies are allowed to enter and depart.
- Business persons invited by Moroccan companies are allowed to enter and depart.
- Special operations flights serving these passengers, including a direct flight on Royal Air Maroc between Casablanca (CMN) and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), will continue to operate under the Health State of Emergency.
- Ferry passage remains limited to special operation ferries between Morocco and Sète, France and Genoa, Italy.
- The land borders with Ceuta and Melilla remain closed.
- Anyone entering Morocco at this time must undergo COVID-19 testing before departure and present a negative PCR test dated within 72 hours of departure (Morocco no longer requires a serological test for boarding).
- There is no requirement for COVID-19 testing in order to depart Morocco; however, travelers should verify the testing requirements of their travel destination.
Right now, we’re predicting that most trips for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 will be either from people who have postponed their trips because of the virus, or those looking for a last-minute option. It should go without saying that you should keep abreast of the situation in your own country and the possibility of international travel.
If you have already booked travel with us, we will work with you directly if the situation changes from September 2020 moving forward.
If you are looking to travel to Morocco, please do contact us about last-minute options and the possibility of travel in 2021.
Our COVID 19 Morocco Peace of Mind Policy
For our clients, both future clients and those who have already purchased tours with us, we have adopted the following Peace of Mind policy in response to the COVID 19 pandemic.
- Any bookings postponed due to COVID 19 are eligible for full credit throughout 2021 (and likely through 2022, though please do contact us first to make sure this is possible).
- Re-booking is subject to availability.
- Annual or seasonal rate changes may apply. We will strive our best to take any extra charges upon ourselves, though if there is a savings of any kind, we will pass that on to you, our customer.
- In the event of cancellation, within 1 month of the tour dates, legally no refund can be issued at this time (more on this below).
We’re really trying to go out of our way here to be the exception in the industry. If a tour is booked with us, we would love nothing more than to provide a full refund. This is both easier for customers and easier for us! Going forward, full refunds will be possible until the 30 day mark from the beginning of your tour. After this date, we must send funds to Morocco to ensure they arrive on time to pay for everything for your tour. At this point, a refund is not possible. The Moroccan dirham is a “closed currency” (meaning that basically once we send money into Morocco, we are unable to send it back out). We are working with the banks and with the government to see if there is any solution for this. As of now, the law states unequivocally that exporting currency from Morocco is illegal. We will update this policy as necessary and inform you in person should anything change. As a refund in the 30 days leading up to your tour is not possible, we will be able to postpone your tour for at least 18 months for no penalty.
Our operation is a large financial risk for us, personally, but we believe in JBT, the travel industry, and Morocco as a destination. We believe we are going to come out of this on the other side. We believe that there is still a lot of good we can do in the world. We want to continue our excellence in going above and beyond people’s expectations, both yours and ours!
Traveling Safely in Morocco with COVID 19
While dealing with the coronavirus in Morocco, we are blessed with physically distanced places, such as the vast Sahara, great beaches along the Southern Atlantic Coast, and incredible beauty of the Rif and Atlas Mountains. Because our tours are fully customizable, getting away from the crowds has never been much of a challenge. That said, with COVID 19 in Morocco, there are real challenges that we are meeting head on.
Over the past few months, we have worked with the Cleveland Clinic and the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) to discover the best preventative measures while on tour in Morocco. We recognize that like any travel, there is no “zero-risk” situation, but through layering protection — PPE, hand sanitizer, physical distancing, et cetera — the risk is minimal. We’ve worked tirelessly with our guides and drivers to keep up-to-date with the latest information available concerning COVID 19 and our preventative measures. Here is an abbreviated list of some preventative measures you can expect:
- Groups will be limited to family and friends.
- Your private, chauffeured vehicle will be fully disinfected the day before your tour begins. If logistically possible, it will also be disinfected while on tour.
- Your driver will wear a mask or clear face guard at all times while driving or within 2 meters (6 feet) of any other person.
- Masks, rubberized gloves, and hand sanitizer will be provided to you.
- Guides will wear masks throughout your tour. If necessary for them to de-mask, they will maintain a distance of a minimum of 2 meters (6 feet), and only de-mask outdoors.
- Masks will be required for any indoor activities (i.e. cooking classes)
- All accommodations will be limited to traditional architecture holding no more than a dozen or so rooms (i.e. no big chain hotels).
- We will ask you to be transparent and honest with your health while on tour with us.
- We will remain in contact and be ready for an evacuation plan in COVID 19 is detected with you or someone in your party.
COVID 19 in Morocco, Some Final Thoughts
As we have put this together, the virus has proven resilient and forced many changes. The only thing we can expect is the unexpected with still more changes to come over the coming months and, likely, years. We strive to be as flexible as yogis with you, our clients, as we navigate these uncertain times!
We all wish the very best of health for you, your family and loved ones and hope you are finding ways to be physically distant, though emotionally engaged throughout all of this.
The Team at Journey Beyond Travel