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Interest in Marrakech falls 46% after tourist arrest

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Tourist arrested and imprisoned for 20 days for “being gay”

Interest in travel to Marrakech in Morocco has fallen by 46%, according to a hotel comparison website, following the arrest of a British tourist for “being gay”.

Trivago, a travel metasearch engine focusing on hotels, said hotel searches to the Moroccan city nosedived after news emerged on the arrest of 69-year-old Ray Cole, who was imprisoned for 20 days for “homosexual acts”. He was eventually released and flew back to the UK this week.

Cole was arrested in September, but the story was first reported via Pink News on October 4. As the news spread, Trivago said campaigners took to Morocco’s official Facebook page to urge potential tourists to avoid the country.

The comparison website compared hotel searches for Marrakech made by UK travellers on Monday October 6 and Tuesday October 7. When compared with searches made on the same days the previous week it found that interest had dropped by 46%. Travel interest in the country as a whole dropped 31% over the same period.

“Forty-six percent is a significant decrease rarely seen in popular tourist destinations. Following the military coup in Thailand in May 2014, hotel searches decreased by just 26%,” Trivago spokesperson Denise Bartlett said. “Although the British tourist in question has now been released, it will be interesting to see if tourists continue to avoid the destination.”

An agent commented on this story on TTG Digital that a “vast increase of my clients [had been] experiencing petty theft” in resorts in Morocco and was now “hesitant to carry on recommending Morocco”.

TTG Digital

[pictured: Museum of Islamic Art, Majorelle Garden, Marrakech; photo by Viault, Creative Commons license]

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