Libya drafts Lm2.7 billion plan
to develop tourism
By David Lindsay
Maltas main economic pillar, tourism, could stand to be threatened
by a tourism development master plan being drawn up by Libya.
Aiming to capitalise on the final lifting of sanctions against the oil-rich
Maghreb country, Libya has drawn up an ambitious multi-billion dollar
plan to attract some three million tourists a year to shake off the
effects of years of international economic embargoes.
The scheme - prepared by experts from Libya, a number of Arab countries
and Europe - aims to develop Libyas poor tourist infrastructure
over the next five years at an estimated cost of USD7 billion (approximately
Lm2.7 billion). As part of the massive capital outlay, tourist villages
and hotels will be built on Libya's pristine 1,000-kilometer Mediterranean
Maltese companies could be in for a slice of the action as well, as
Libya is reportedly looking to garner investment from neighbouring countries,
with Libya already concluding a deal with Italy for the construction
of a tourist village on the Mediterranean coast.
Saudi business tycoon Prince Al-Walid bin Talal has also joined the
melee by reaching a deal with Libya to set up a USD20 million hotel
company. The 44-year-old billionaire prince, a nephew of King Fahd,
owns prestigious hotels across the globe, including holdings in the
Swiss group Movenpick and the Four Seasons chain.
The project comes as Libyan authorities are wrangling with a decision
over whether to adopt a policy of so-called popular capitalism
with a view to liberating the economy after three decades during which
vital economic sectors were controlled by the government. The move also
follows hot on the heels of a call in June by Libyan leader Muammar
Ghaddafi for the wholesale privatisation of the vital oil and other
sectors in light of the uncompetitivity of the heavy state-run economy.
Ghaddafi has also instituted a cabinet reshuffle aimed at giving tourism
a new-found impetus, most notably was the creation- for the first time
of a Tourism Ministry headed by former prime minister Ammar Latif,
whose first move was to inaugurate Libya's first tourism fair.
Libya is looking to capitalise on its many tourism assets including
numerous well-preserved Roman and Greek ruins and pristine beaches.
But the absence of nightlife in the Muslim country, where alcohol and
discos are banned a far cry from the Maltese tourist scenario
- could discourage tourists.
International sanctions were imposed on Libya in the wake of the 1988
Lockerbie airline bombing, but they were eased after Tripoli handed
over two suspects in the case to a Scottish court.
In late April Tripoli accepted civil responsibility for the attack and
offered compensation to the victims in the hope of obtaining a full
lifting of US and UN sanctions.
Since sanctions were eased, several international European airlines
have resumed flights to Tripoli and travel agencies have mushroomed
in the Libyan capital.
Last year some 570,000 tourists, including 200,000 Europeans, visited
Libya, according to the tourism office. Most of the Europeans came from
Italy, France and Germany.
Die-hard tourists also visited Libya when the sanctions were strictly
enforced between 1992 and 1999, arriving overland from Tunisia or by
boat from Malta.