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Tourists walk past a damaged building in the old quarters of Marrakesh, Morocco, two days after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country.

To Meet or Not to Meet?

After a devasting earthquake, is now the time to bring more than 10,000 people to a meeting in Marrakech? The IMF and World Bank are working with Morocco to make the call.

When a meetings destination is struck by a natural disaster—think Florida’s West Coast after Hurricane Ian in 2022 or the wind-driven wildfires that destroyed Lahaina in West Maui in August—a tension can develop between bringing events back to the area as a source of revenue and jobs, and keeping them away to allow for recovery and healing.

That tension is on display on the world stage with the upcoming International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings in October.

The October 9-15 events are planned for Marrakech, Morocco, just 45 miles from the epicenter of the 6.8-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 2,900 people on September 8. It was the country’s strongest earthquake in more than a century, and emergency-response efforts continue, with those living in the hardest-hit mountain villages lacking food, water, electricity, and shelter.

According to this article in Reuters, the IMF and World Bank are assessing whether the meetings, which would bring 10,000 to 15,000 people to Marrakech, can be held safely for participants, but also without interrupting relief efforts or straining the country's resources.

At the same time, Moroccan officials have made public statements indicating that the meetings will go on as planned. Those statements, the article notes, show “strong pressure from the North African country for the IMF and World Bank to forge ahead with meetings that would bring significant revenue to Morocco and shine a global spotlight on its resilience and strong economic policies.”

The IMF and World Bank spokesperson told Reuters that the tourism impact of the events is estimated to be tens of millions of dollars. The Marrakech meeting has already been postponed two years in a row because of Covid-19.

Interestingly, the article notes that IMF and World Bank are considering how the temporary structures going up for the event “could be repurposed later for relief efforts and how the meeting agenda could focus on aid.”

With just three weeks to go before the possible start of the event, it’s safe to say that the meeting professionals producing the IMF and World Bank meetings are working on overdrive, on high alert for some answers.

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