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Morocco posts fall in foreign tourist arrivals

Tourism is a backbone of Morocco's economy, along with revenues from exports and the remittances of Moroccans who work abroad (AFP Photo/Fadel Senna)

Rabat (AFP) - Morocco has announced a 5.6 percent drop in foreign tourist arrivals for the first half of 2016, with holidaymakers apparently put off by unrest and attacks across the region.

Tourism is a backbone of the North African country's economy, along with revenues from exports and the remittances of Moroccans who work abroad.

Morocco has been spared unrest triggered by the Arab Spring revolts that have rocked North Africa and the Middle East since 2011, as well as attacks claimed by the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.

But the number of tourist arrivals dropped by 5.6 percent in the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2015, said the Moroccan tourism office.

It said the number of British visitors fell by eight percent, with arrivals from Germany down by seven percent and those from both France and Italy five percent lower.

The number of Moroccans living abroad who visited the country in the first half of the year was up by 1.7 percent, said the Moroccan Observatory for Tourism.

Overall, nearly 4.2 million tourists visited Morocco in the first six months of the year, or 2.6 percent fewer holidaymakers than for 2015, it said.

Marrakesh and Agadir, the country's two main tourist destinations, also suffered from the slump, it added.

Marrakesh was the scene of a deadly attack on a cafe in 2011 that killed 17 people, mostly of them foreigners.

It was the deadliest attack in Morocco since the 2003 Casablanca blasts that killed 45 people, including 12 suicide bombers.

The decline in tourist arrivals in Tunisia follows a series of attacks that killed dozens of foreigners in Tunisia and Egypt last year and were claimed by IS jihadists.

Morocco has reinforced its security measures since 2014, after IS declared an Islamic "caliphate" in territory it seized straddling Syria and Iraq.