Some of the world’s most popular tourist destinations — Turkey, Greece, Hawaii and, now, Morocco — have been ravaged by disaster this year, with earthquakes, wildfires and floods razing entire towns and villages, killing residents, and destroying or damaging cultural monuments.
The series of catastrophic events has left many tourists in a conundrum over how to respond. Those already in a country in the wake of a disaster debate whether they should stay or leave. Those with upcoming trips wonder if they should cancel. Can they and the revenue they bring in be of any real help, or will they be a burden? How appropriate is it to let tourism go on while a nation is in a state of collective mourning and rescue efforts are underway?
There are no easy answers, travel experts say. Each disaster’s impact is unique, and while travelers are advised to follow the guidance of government officials in the aftermath of such events, local communities don’t always agree on the best course of action. After the Maui wildfires destroyed much of the town of Lahaina in August, killing at least 115 people, residents on the island, which depends on tourist dollars, clashed over the decision to allow tourism to continue while locals grieved for all that was lost.
In Morocco, however, where a powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck the Atlas Mountains southwest of Marrakesh on Friday, killing thousands, the outlook is more unified. With the high tourism season underway and most of the destruction affecting rural areas far from tourist hot spots, many locals are eager for foreign visitors to keep coming so that they can support the economy and bring in funds for relief efforts.
“After Covid, the abandonment of tourists would be terrible for Marrakesh, where so many resources come from tourism,” said Mouna Anajjar, the editor in chief of I Came for Couscous, a local feature magazine. “Directly or indirectly, all the inhabitants are linked to this resource and would be terribly affected.”
Here’s what travelers faced with the prospect of visiting a country where devastation has struck should think about.
Is the place open for tourism?
Check official government guidance and local media reports to assess the situation on the ground. When the deadly wildfires swept through parts of Maui last month, the local authorities urged tourists to stay home. So far, the Moroccan government hasn’t issued any statements beyond the status of rescue efforts, and the country’s…