HOPEFUL: Libya tour operators eye post-war boom for neglected industry
Some say tourism was languishing before the revolt because of apathy, incompetence, complex visa requirements, draconian police oversight and mercurial regulations under Gaddafi's government. Will the future be any better?
October 15, 2011 10:00 by Reuters
The site is overgrown with weeds and graffiti etched onto one of its old columns. A renovation crew of Italians, Americans and French fled after the uprising started, guards there said.
Jamal Salem, 50, sitting in the afternoon sun outside a souvenir shop filled with woven baskets, photographs and ceramic statues still on display, said there weren’t many visitors even before the revolt.
“A lot of people think Libyans are terrorists, and so they’re afraid of coming here,” he said. “We hope the picture will become clearer now, and that things will get better.”
GUNS IN THE MEDINA
Others lingering in the area of Cyrene said they also hoped the revolt would help stamp out what they saw as widespread corruption and regional favouritism in the industry.
“Before, companies had their headquarters in Tripoli. They brought the cars fromTripoli, they brought the translators from Tripoli, everything. Nobody here benefited from it at all,” Hussein Saleh, who volunteered to help guard Cyrene, said.
Others near Cyrene and other sites said they also hoped a new government would show more interest in preserving relics.
“We’re expecting a better future, and maybe more interest in renovating the antiquities,” said Muftah Mabrook, a 35-year-old researcher at the ancient Greek port of Apollonia, a picturesque collection of columns and other ruins set against the sea.
While such ambitions are running high, it’s too soon to say how the situation will turn out.
Tripoli’s atmospheric old city is slowly coming back to life as jewelry shops and cafes reopen up in its winding streets, for instance, but many alleys are still littered with bullet casings.
In some areas, young men with Kalashnikov assault rifles sit smoking and chatting on stoops or around street corners. They are friendly, for the most part, as they smile and wave at foreign passersby, but their presence is not likely to encourage most holidaymakers.
The relative lack of English and French language speakers, as well as the ban on alcohol, may also make it hard for Libya to compete on a large scale with Egypt andTunisia even after the war is finished, some operators say.
But Usta, like many others, was confident the industry would eventually thrive.
“We have everything. We have the desert, we have the sea, we have mountains. We just need the right people in the right place.” (Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)