In Marrakesh, tourism is frozen. So is the economy.
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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 do I need to know about tax season this year?
Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.
How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?
It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.
How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?
Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.
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