Should Groups Avoid Morocco After Deadly Earthquake?

Skift Take

After Morocco was hit by a deadly earthquake, several groups make different decisions on whether to go on as planned.

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake, the strongest in over a century, hit Morocco on Friday. The disaster has killed at least 2,000 and injured 2,400, leaving in its wake a humanitarian crisis of massive proportions.

The epicenter of the earthquake was 50 miles from the city of Marrakesh in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Marrakesh was spared for the most part, although some historic buildings were damaged.

Experiential Travel Show Cancelled

The decision to cancel a conference is never an easy one to make. But as the death toll continues to rise, Pure Life Experience organizers canceled their experiential travel show set for September 10 – 13.

Serge Dive, CEO and founder of This Is Beyond, the events company that orchestrates Pure Life, said the team had assessed safety conditions before deciding the best way forward in light of the natural disaster.

“My intent is to respect all of your decisions while doing what is right for those affected in Morocco, our own community, and the fabric of the local tourism,” said Dive. He expressed concern about the inappropriateness of planned events amid the devastation.

Although several international flights were canceled, tourists continued to arrive in Marrakesh. This didn’t sway Dive’s decision. Attendees can receive a credit for next year’s event, although the company does not know if its losses will be covered by insurance.

The reaction to the cancellation was resoundingly positive. Many posted messages of gratitude on Dive’s Instagram, applauding the decision to put care and empathy ahead of business. For those who were already on the ground, Dive and his team orchestrated a community-driven relief effort.

Community service was part of the original agenda, and its partner charity, Education for All, was already slated to get a donation.

Development Conference Postponed

The Center for Global Development was set to hold a conference in the coastal city of Rabat. It has opted to postpone the event. “Due to the recent and tragic earthquake in Morocco’s High Atlas region, this conference has been postponed. Our deepest sympathies are with all those affected, and we’ll share new information on this page about a rescheduled event soon,” its website states. 

Rogerio Studart, a senior fellow at CEBRI and GFCC, learned about the postponement on his way to the airport. “Personally, I am deeply saddened by the tragedy, especially by the loss of lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable,” he said. “I also believe the organizers made the right decision. Even though the meeting was focused on a very important topic and would have brought benefits to Morocco, now is not the time to dedicate time and resources to these activities. This is the moment to focus on saving lives and planning for reconstruction.”

World Bank Meeting Forges Ahead

Some conferences are going ahead as planned. The 2023 annual meeting of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund is set to go ahead on October 9-15. A statement on its website offered condolences and support to the Moroccan government. It also confirmed the current itinerary.

As the crisis settles, tourism and group business will take on added importance as the economic impact will be vital. Take the deadly fire in Maui in August. A few weeks later, Hawaii Tourism Authority execs and the governor urged travelers and meeting groups to return. The boost travelers bring to the local economy is much needed, said the governor in a statement.