MTA sees more pros than cons from
Libyan Lm2.7 billion tourism investment
The Malta Tourism Authority has identified more pros than
cons from Libyas multi-billion dollar tourism investment plan
and is viewing the development in an overall positive light, with the
only troubling point being the risk of dilution brought about by additional
bed stock in the Mediterranean region.
At the beginning of the month The Malta Financial and Business Times
revealed that 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 aims to develop Libyas poor tourist infrastructure
over the next five years at an estimated cost of USD7 billion (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
Communicating with this newspaper, MTA Chief Executive Leslie Vella
remained upbeat on the prospect: "The Maltese tourism industry
has a very strong tradition of capitalising on Malta's central Mediterranean
location and taking up any opportunities that present themselves within
the geographical context of the Maltese Islands.
"In many respects, the entry of Libya in the Mediterranean tourism
industry is very welcome in that it will add a further rich dimension
to the region's tradition of geographical, historical and cultural diversity.
The addition of another destination in the Mediterranean will also continue
associating the process of economic and political stability in the region,
a process for which tourism is recognised as a successful agent.
"Malta has managed to remain successful in the face of much larger
close competitors, such as Sicily and Tunisia, and there are numerous
instances where the Maltese travel trade has been successful in tapping
for more business as a result of these markets' proximity. The same
should apply to Libya, where a number of Maltese companies already have
a strong foothold and a good working relationship with their Libyan
However, in terms of any direct effects Libyas projected massive
investment might have on the Malta product, Vella points out that is
very much dependent on the type of tourism Libya intends to attract
to its post-sanction era shores.
He explains, "Libya offers the potential for both beach and cultural
holidays. In the beach holiday segment, Malta has long realised that
it cannot continue to compete with destinations offering much larger
and more extensive beach facilities.
"Malta offers a unique value proposition in the field of a rich
and varied historical tradition concentrated in a small territory, which
is highly accessible. It continues to be at the forefront of the Island's
endeavours to retain its position as a unique destination in the Mediterranean."
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.