Keeping A Taghazout Surf Camp Alive Throughout CovidHow Do You Remotely Keep Things Going During Covid
Surf Berbere – A Changing Surf Camp Operation
Over the years Surf Berbere has morphed in a few different ways, but the general trend has been to try and hire local people if there’s any way that they can do the role, keep supporting local associations, charities and schools and obviously make sure our guests have a great time.
Morocco Was One Of The First To Close It’s Borders
Covid has thrown up some huge challenges, especially at the start. Who knew that Morocco would be one of the first countries in the world to close their borders… we certainly didn’t, nor did the 40 or so guests staying with us at the time. Being a younger, fitter crowd that were staying with us, they definitely were not top of the repatriation flights priority lists, and so day after day, they’d head to the airport, wait, return to the camp to try again to get on a flight home. Each day having to deal with getting bumped off flights having reserved seats to enable older residents to get home (many of whom actually lived in Morocco).
How Long Do We Wait (Or Can We Wait)
One Irish guest decided to make Taghazout his home for six months – on paper an absolute dream choice, until the Moroccan authorities banned surfing along with any outdoor activities!
Financially the first couple of months of covid were pretty ruinous as we were having to shell out refunds / move bookings as well as support our team. The Moroccan government did eventually pay a subsistence salary to all staff on a declared payroll (which thankfully was nearly all of the people working for Surf Berbere), but for most businesses in the area, this was a real problem as the majority of their staff were not declared and as such not eligible for furlough. Sometimes doing things by the books pays…..
Once the initial shock of dealing with repatriations, refunds, moving bookings, paying staff out of ever depleting funds and just coming to terms with what covid meant for tourism we got to a place where we were no longer hemorrhaging money and just playing a waiting game.
Summer 2021 – We’re Back… Oh Wait
There have been a couple of false dawns, Summer 2021 we actually had Moroccan guests staying and our cafe was open again, then in September 2021 international guests were allowed in. We had a hard time getting things going again / reactivating things and trying to get them back up to the level they were before, but by October we had got there. Then Omicron arrived on the scene and again we got wrongfooted by the Moroccan government. They closed their borders again in November (pretty much the only country in the world to completely close their borders) and we had to go through the whole process again (although on a smaller scale as fewer bookings and fewer guests).
Things Are Different Now
This time feels different! Flights are back on (in fact there are even more options than before), cafes are busy again and for us in Taghazout, the sewage network is finished so there is no more sickness (something that has plighted us for years). So there’s finally a good buzz that we may have reached the end of covid. Obviously the threat of a 3rd World War has not got anyone shouting for joy from the rooftops.
In many ways the last couple of years has seemed like a blur. Things we never imagined possible have not just happened, they’ve repeated. Governments have made decisions we never thought possible. Simply put, the world has changed, but until Russia invaded Ukraine, we were cautiously optimistic that we could get back to a new normal.