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Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Japan prepare for an influx of tourists after two summers marked by Covid-19

The summer tourist season is in full preparation in June. After two summers marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, the summer of 2022 should mark the return of tourists to many countries, which are therefore preparing for a greater influx than in previous years.

Gibraltar expects record influx

In Gibraltar, the great summer transhumance is preparing and the authorities are expecting a record number of crossings of the strait towards the bled. After two catastrophic summers for the Moroccan tourism sector, the fighting has been going on for several months. In total, nearly 2 million travelers are expected at Moroccan border posts by plane, ferry, bus or car.

The Spanish authorities have even launched the “Paso del estrecho” operation (“crossing the strait”, in French). Police and customs staff have been increased and holidays cancelled. On the Moroccan side, the “Marhaba” operation (“welcome”, in French) has also been launched. This is for the Mohammed V foundation to provide assistance to travelers on their way to vacation in the bled.

Even if air transport has been democratized in recent years, families still cross Europe in overloaded cars, blue tarpaulin on the roof. Whether they pass through the ports of Sète, Marseille and Gène in the northern Mediterranean, or further south through the ports of Algeciras or Almeria, many still prefer to travel by car and ferry. Thus, the port of Tangier is preparing to receive 53 ferry rotations per day and 500,000 passengers by the end of August. On French and Spanish roads, the gendarmes watch: overloaded cars will be weighed and immobilized.

In Saudi Arabia, the objective of welcoming 12 million tourists

Saudi Arabia has set itself an ambitious target for 2022 of a total of 12 million tourists, or 3 million more than in 2021. It was the Ministry of Tourism that announced this figure at the beginning of June. Riyadh is betting in particular on the easing of restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, which have greatly affected the country’s tourist activity.

The restrictions have particularly weighed on religious tourism, which has existed for a long time, with the pilgrimage to Mecca. Riyadh is therefore counting on an increase in these visits next month. This year should also make it possible to launch another tourism, long taboo because it is accused of defiling the holy places of Islam but now wanted by the prince inheriting Mohammed Ben Salmane, on ancient sites or in desert and sea landscapes. Saudi Arabia had prepared for this in 2019, by launching tourist visas, but the pandemic put everything on hold.

The kingdom has therefore sought to enhance internal travel in the meantime, to support the nascent tourist sector. The shift towards foreign tourism will therefore be tested in the coming months. It whets appetites: France is cooperating on the development of Nabataean cemeteries. French companies have also won infrastructure contracts.

This development of tourism has been accompanied for several years by societal reforms. For example, concerts where young people can mix are finally authorized, major sports competitions are organized… It is a way of reaching young people but also of trying to change the image of the kingdom, marked by repression, the death penalty or the bloody war in Yemen. Tourism must serve as a tool for international influence, with a target of 100 million visitors by 2030, and for diversifying its economy by reducing its dependence on oil.

Japan is finally reopening its borders

In Japan, for the first time in two years, foreign tourists can land since Friday June 10, but only in groups with a travel agency. This reopening of the borders worries the Japanese a little: “In the end, the Covid-19 spread because of foreigners coming to Japan, so I’m a little worried, but it’s true that now it’s almost like a cold”, admits this young mother from Tokyo. The government itself has maintained this fear of foreigners by closing the country to them for two years, while leaving the Japanese free to come and go. If he reopens the borders, however, he wants to control the behavior of individuals known to be very quick to remove their masks and ignore the regulations.

Although individual tourists will still have to wait, Japan needs tourists. At one time, it could do without it thanks to the Japanese big consumers, but that’s over. The country therefore loves tourists above all for their money and the government does not hide it. “In 2019, before the pandemic, we had more than 30 million foreign visitors for revenues of 44 billion euros. From an economic point of view and the vitality of the regions, this is an extremely important contribution”bluntly admits Hirokazu Matsuno, spokesperson for the executive. “At this stage, we cannot say how many people will come but it seems that bookings from abroad are going well and we hope that the resumption of tourist travel will lead to a boost in the economy of the regions. But for that, society will have to readapt to the mixing of cultures.

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