Two years after the normalization of Israel-Morocco relations in the Abraham Accords, the annual conference of the Association of Israeli Travel Agencies and Tourism Consultants was held this month in Marrakesh.
Ask yourself - why do travel agents need a conference, and is their profession still relevant in the post-corona world?
Good that you asked.
After all, only two and a half years ago they closed the branch.
And now, hundreds of industry leaders flew to Morocco for a professional conference with a tight schedule, promoted collaborations with airlines and strengthened relations with senior officials in the Moroccan government. There were lectures, speeches, tours of the city, performances by Einat Sharoff and Shimon Buskila - and two gala evenings in suits.
Because despite the corona virus and the websites that make it possible to dispense with travel agents, these remain an important and influencing factor on the international travel market.
The choice to hold the extravagant conference precisely in Morocco was a statement of strength on behalf of all the leading travel and tourism factors who gathered there to signal: we are more relevant than ever.
Wait, then why Morocco?
It ranks first in the list of African tourism destinations for the fifth year in a row.
About half a million of the country's citizens make a living from the tourism industry.
20 percent of the gross national product comes from tourism and is based on the 13 million tourists who visit Morocco every year.
It is highly recommended to bargain, but without insulting, photo: Shlomi Yosef
Marrakesh: the reddish city
At a glance, Marrakesh reminds Beer Sheva.
A city in the desert.
It has no towers, but it has one dominant color.
The unique sight can already be seen from the plane and stands out to the eye throughout the stay in the city painted in a reddish-dark shade.
The houses, the walls, the walls - everything is painted red-orange.
In the past, a type of mud brick from local Hamra soil was used to build the city, and thanks to a municipal by-law, the obligation to build in the same color became the Jerusalem stone of Morocco.
The most prominent tourist attractions in the Red City are the La Bahia Palace, which belongs to the royal family, and also the Majorelle Gardens, previously purchased by Yves Saint Laurent.
In the Jewish quarter, they still preserve their connection to Judaism, and the locals will greet with a greeting, "Hello, what's up?"
Anyone who walks through the narrow alleys and is suspected of being Israeli.
Every tourist is sent for a tour of the old city, where a lively and touristy market takes place.
The vendors will speak to you in Hebrew with a heavy Moroccan accent, and expect you to bargain with them.
Caution: they will be offended if you bid too low.
You should consider a tour around the city on a horse-drawn carriage, which departs from the city center and allows you to feel like aristocrats and wave at ordinary citizens walking down the street.
No matter how, in the end you'll roll into Jama' el-Fna (Square of the Lost) - one of the most famous and most visited squares in Morocco.
It is huge in size, was founded about 1,000 years ago and is home to street artists, beggars, traders, tourist traps, people who offer to take pictures with their monkey or snakes, and others who get henna tattoos.
Another caution: among them there are lots of pickpockets running around who will try to take your wallet.
Casabella: The Asli menu
In the west of the kingdom, about three hours drive from Marrakech, is Casablanca.
If you give her a chance, she can be the beginning of a wonderful friendship (I had to quote from the movie, and it's better than "we'll always have Paris").
The Hassan II Mosque is the main tourist attraction that must be visited.
It is a purposeful display of the "look how big we have" of the Moroccan people, in all its glory.
This is a national project, an initiative of King Hassan II, to establish which every resident of Morocco contributed some amount according to their financial situation.
The mosque is considered the largest in Africa, and one of the most famous in the world, and was inaugurated 30 years ago.
It has a minaret 200 meters high, decorations, carvings, ceramics, splendor and splendor.
Its size signals its spiritual power.
At peak demand, during Ramadan, the mosque is able to accommodate 25,000 worshipers in its interior area and another 80,000 in its outer square, which is located on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and captures the powerful wind that blows from it.
Casablanca is the antithesis of Marrakech.
This is a white city.
The style is western and modern, skyscrapers, cafes, shopping malls and the smell of the sea.
From everywhere, the citizens look at pictures of the king, and in the tourist markets they sell the same chipmunks that you will find in the flea market near the house.
The prices in Morocco, almost needless to say, are ridiculous and cheap.
The restaurants serve couscous, salads, fish, rice and chicken, and the rest of the popular Hasli menu that has spilled over to Israel.
In the markets you can get spices that are worth adding to cooking, and the seller (who will insist that his grandmother made spices for the king) will also offer in Hebrew "take a bag home - for the spicy fish".
70 thousand Israelis in 2022
Today there are about 15 flights a week from Israel to Morocco: El Al, Arkia, Israir and Air Morocco.
The duration of the flight is about five-six hours.
Since July 2021, when direct flights between the countries began, the open flight destinations are Marrakech and Casablanca.
Passengers need to obtain a visa before traveling.
You can submit an application online, wait for approval, print the form and leave it with the immigration officer at passport control upon entering the country.
In 2021, about 40 thousand Israelis visited Morocco, and this year the number increased to 70 thousand.
In the opposite direction - only a few thousand tourists and businessmen from Morocco visited Israel, and this creates a problem.
Full planes leave only in one direction, and this economic crisis has raised the prices of flights up to 1,000 dollars and more.
If you ask the travel agents, Morocco is the thing.
The historical connection with the Jews and the warm hospitality invite the Israelis.
Hotels are adapted to those who observe mitzvot and provide food that is kosher from Hadrin Glatt.
In Casablanca there is a restaurant by the sea, at the entrance to which, on the wall, hangs a picture of Eyal Golan.
In the market in Marrakesh, the Berber spice seller volunteers to tell the Hebrew speakers that he likes Zohar Argov the most.
"When the corona hit the travel industry, there were many doubts about its importance," Adel El Fakir, CEO of the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism, explained to the conference participants. "But the epidemic and the lockdowns showed how much flights are an essential part of our world.
We need to fly to connect with others."
Al-Fakir is optimistic.
He aims to triple in 2023 the number of tourists who will come from Israel to his country.
To realize his dream he will need the help of Israeli travel agents.
Therefore they are still relevant.
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