As Moroccan tourism industry continues to grow as a major pillar of the national economy, so does the black market of fake tourist guides.
Found in cities which attract big numbers of foreign tourists, like Marrakech and Fes, fake tourist guides hinder the image of national craft and prevent local businesses from benefiting from tourism revenues.
Unlicensed and untrained, fake tour guides take on the role of professional guides and provide cultural, historical, and contemporary heritage information and assistance to foreign visitors.
Though some see the practice as harmless and justified by the lack of business opportunities in the local market, the fake tour guide presents a critical threat to the local economy of touristic cities.
Denounced by both professional tour guides and the authorities, not only do fake guides compete in an unfair way with official guides, but they also impede and harass tourists with the intention of persuading them to make purchases from specific shops, profiting from their illegal business with tourists as well as from deals with shop owners.
“Fake guides are posing a persisting threat on local businesses,” Youness Mendriss, a general manager of two riads in Fes, explained to Morocco World News.
“Fes’s economy is dependent on two things; tourism and craftsmanship. When both sectors are controlled by a circle of fake tour guides, the result is an illegal trade, which both endangers the attractiveness of Fes, as these fake guides persistently harass foreign visitors, and the local economy of the city.”
Mendriss said that the fake guide business in Fes has become systematic. “The practice of fake tour-guiding has ceased to be a way for frustrated and unemployed people to generate a living. It has become a strategic, well studied capitalist plan.
“Fake tourist guides watch over the entrances of the city for new coming tourists. Upon spotting a new comer, the fake guide insists on the foreigner to employ him as a guide, promising quality service and best deals. Fake guides usually make deals with bazaar owners to bring tourists to their shops, in exchange for commissions and protection from the tourism brigade.”
Tourism revenues circle between fake guides and bazaar owners, controlling the infrastructure of business in Fes and other touristic cities in Morocco. This phenomenon threatens the safeguarding of craftsmanship in Morocco, as trade becomes localized in specific bazaars while the rest of the shops suffer from consumer shortage.
The fake guide trade is a relatively old practice. In 2011 alone, about 1,400 guides were arrested and prosecuted by the courts for usurpation of function and fraud.
To counter this growing phenomenon, the touristic authorities carry out regular campaigns against fake guides. The brigade of the tourist police of the prefectures of Fes and Marrakech have already arrested more than 1029 fake guides between January 1 and March 31, 2017.