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

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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