After seven years of UN sanctions that banned air links with the outside world, Libya’s little-known tourist jewels are awakening from their slumber. Aiming to encourage tourism—not only the country’s fastest growing sector, but also the only other source of hard currency besides oil exports—the Libyan government together with the World Tourism Organization and a number of local consultancy firms, have come up with a five-year national tourism plan.
The new plan calls for raising the number of hotel beds in the country from several thousands to 60,000, with an initial foreign investment of between two to three billion dollars. Italy has already confirmed its involvement in Libya's new five-year tourism plan, making it the first foreign country to sign on as an investor.
The Gulf News reported that according to Libya’s minister of tourism and archaeology, Fathi Mustafa Misrati, a contract had been signed in February with an Italian firm to build a large tourism complex at Villa Sbeleen, 90 kilometers east of Tripoli. The Italian complex is planned across a 100-hectare plot, with first phase costs estimated at $50 million. Libya also welcomes investment from the UAE and other Arab countries, Misrati noted.
According to the latest government statistics, dated 1997, Libya has 109 accommodation facilities with only 7,784 rooms, and it had received a total of 968,447 foreign visitors that year, 91 percent of which came from neighboring Middle East and North Africa countries.
However, external estimations aren’t nearly as high, asserting only 120,000 tourists checked into one of Libya’s nine major hotels in 2000, from both Arab and non-Arab countries. The five-year program is therefore initially targeting special interest groups, such as those focused on archaeology, healthcare and the desert, and tourists from across the Mediterranean Italy, and Germany—Libya’s top export partners. — (Albawaba-MEBG)
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