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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
A holiday in Libya may sound like an absurdity now, but many of the country’s tour operators and officials are already starting to predict a bright future for the travel industry once the dust of war settles.
The coastal country has all the makings for a vibrant tourism business, they say: warm weather, beaches, antiquities and proximity to Europe — all factors that helped the industry thrive in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia.
If developed, tourism could eventually help dent Libya’s high jobless rate by creating work for tour guides, drivers, restaurant workers and hotel staff, as well as help it diversify its economy away from dependency on oil and gas.
The fact that operators are thinking about resuming business at all — some predicted tourists would start arriving again within a year — testifies to the relative peace that has prevailed in Tripoli and other parts of Libya since the former rebels ousted Muammar Gaddafi’s forces from the capital in August.
One company, Sherwes Travel, already advertises a three-day, 295-euro tour of “post-war Libya” on its website, featuring visits to sites in Tripoli and to the Roman ruins of Leptis Magna. Employees admit it may be a bit optimistic.
“The tour was very popular, actually. But not now, not yet,” said Ibrahim Usta, the company’s self-described international customer assistant. He said while some potential visitors had been in touch, it was not yet possible to bring them to Libya.
“We have many inquiries right now, but the problem is mainly security and visas,” he said. “There’s no (visa) system in place and many embassies are not functioning.”
Usta and others said tourism was languishing before the revolt because of apathy, incompetence, complex visa requirements, draconian police oversight and mercurial regulations under Gaddafi’s government.