Bombings may hit Moroccan tourist trade

As Moroccan authorities piece together the events surrounding Friday's devastating attacks in the country's commercial capital Casablanca, economic experts have expressed fears that the fallout could spell a downturn for the tourism sector.

    Attacks in Morocco are likely to
    have a negative impact on tourism

    Moroccan Justice Minister Mohammed Bouzoubaa told Moroccan television Sunday that authorities have identified eight of the bombers who carried out the attacks.

    He said their "names, families and affiliations" were obtained from an accomplice who did not die in the bombings.

    A young engineer who is allegedly a member of the armed group called Jihadi Salafi, is currently being interrogated by Moroccan authorities. It is believed that he may have supplied the attackers with the explosive material used in the bombings.

    Friday night's attacks which left 41 people dead and at least a hundred injured has left many Moroccan families in a state of mourning, and has done significant damage to Morocco's growing economy.

    Economic effect

    A senior fund manager said the attacks meant investors would now question the stability of Morocco.

    Casablanca's bourse, Africa's third biggest by capitalisation, was likely to open on Monday with a sharp, if short-lived decline, said the fund manager, who asked not to be

    "Stocks set to suffer most will be those linked to tourism, such as construction, transport and insurance firms", he said.

    "Morocco's image as a rare haven of religious co-existence suffered a great deal from these attacks. The authorities must focus their efforts on restoring this image, because it has always been our main asset."

    Tourism is Morocco's second-biggest industry employing more than 600,000 people.

    Transport and handicraft industries are also closely tied to the sector which the government had slated for massive development.

    Hoping to quadruple the number of foreign visitors to 10 million by 2010, Morocco has sought tenders for five seaside resorts as part of an ambitious $4.2 billion project. 

    But Moroccan officials remain defiant. In an interview published on Sunday in "Assahra Al Maghribia", Morocco’s Interior Minister Mustapha Sahel said that the economy “would not be affected”.

    King Mohammed VI (right) has 
    focused on economic development

    Security has been reinforced in all parts of the kingdom, said Sahel, noting that these "blind attacks have targeted innocent people" and will by no means have any effect on Morocco.

    Past suffering

    However, his statements may not reflect economic reality.

    After the attacks of 11 September, Morocco’s tourism industry saw business decline by 19 percent. But that paled in comparison to the collapse following the 1991 Gulf War when tourism figures plunged by 80 percent.

    Aljazeera’s economic correspondent in Morocco, Abdul Salam Razzaq says that Rabat will have to produce a new long-term strategy to attract foreign investment, and minimise the effects of a recession that is all but inevitable after the Casablanca attacks.

    However, some are optimistic that Morocco will be able to weather the economic storm. Angel Colom, representative of Spain's Catalan regional government in Casablanca, said that there were still businessmen who plan to pursue investments in the North African state.

    "They still plan to invest in Morocco because they think it's positive, both for them and for the country.

    "Morocco is a safe country. It was three days ago and it is still today. This also happens in New York. It happens in Riyadh, it happens in many other cities,", he said.


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