COVID-19

In Marrakesh, tourism is frozen. So is the economy.

Marketplace Staff May 28, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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A Morrocan woman wearing a protective mask walks through the nearly deserted Jamaa el-Fna square in Marrakesh on March 17, 2020, days before Moroccan authorities implemented a strict lockdown. Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

In Marrakesh, tourism is frozen. So is the economy.

Marketplace Staff May 28, 2020
A Morrocan woman wearing a protective mask walks through the nearly deserted Jamaa el-Fna square in Marrakesh on March 17, 2020, days before Moroccan authorities implemented a strict lockdown. Fadel Senna/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

For many living in Marrakesh, Morocco, the month of Ramadan was unlike any other in recent memory. The country closed its borders on March 20, before Ramadan began, and had locked down most public spaces beforehand.

“The authorities started by shutting down schools, then restaurants, then mosques, then, all of a sudden, the hotels and guest houses,” said Youssef Babas, a grocer in Marrakesh. “Our business depends so much on tourism that we had no choice but to shut down.”

For Babas and many others in Marrakesh, the tourism industry is essential. According to a 2019 report from the World Travel and Tourism Council, about 30% of the local economy in Marrakesh revolves around tourism, making it one of the most tourist-dependent economies in the world.

“Ninety percent of my customers are restaurants, guest houses, and coffee places,” said Babas in a phone interview with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal. “And the other 10% are local customers.”

Still, Babas is confident he can reopen for locals, at least. Said Babas, “I’m pretty confident we’re gonna make it.”

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the latest on the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

As of now, those $600-a-week payments will stop at the end of July. For many, unemployment payments have been a lifeline, but one that is about to end, if nothing changes. The debate over whether or not to extend these benefits continues among lawmakers.

With a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, are restaurants and bars shutting back down?

The latest jobs report shows that 4.8 million Americans went back to work in June. More than 30% of those job gains were from bars and restaurants. But those industries are in trouble again. For example, because of the steep rise in COVID-19 cases in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, increased restrictions on restaurant capacities and closed bars. It’s created a logistical nightmare.

Which businesses got Paycheck Protection Program loans?

The numbers are in — well, at least in part. The federal government has released the names of companies that received loans of $150,000 or more through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Some of the companies people are surprised got loans include Kanye West’s fashion line, Yeezy, TGI Fridays and P.F. Chang’s. The companies you might not recognize, particularly some smaller businesses, were able to hire back staff or partially reopen thanks to the loans.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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