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Travel - Leisure | Economy - Development

Libya charter tourism destination by 2010

afrol News, 21 December - Libya is getting closer to reach its ambitious plans to diversify its oil-reliant economy and exploiting its unspoilt Mediterranean tourism potentials. A second large contract to develop large-scale holiday complexes has now been signed by Libyan authorities.

According to reports in the British media, the Italian property company Gruppo Norman on Saturday signed a US$ 268 million deal with the government of Libya to construct a complete holiday resort on Farwa Island near the Tunisian border. Contacted by afrol News, Gruppo Norman however did not confirm or reject these reports.

The reports by 'The Observer' and 'BBC' say that the signing of the Farwa Island Project was presided over by Libyan Prime Minister Shokri Ghanem. Gruppo Norman has pledged to create a modern holiday resort with 1,770 hotel rooms and extensive facilities for Western charter tourists.

Construction works at Farwa Island are said to last between five and six years. Libya's first full-fledged charter tourism destination thus will not be inaugurated before 2010, which will give authorities in Tripoli sufficient time to prepare for much needed institutional and infrastructural change to accommodate for Western tourist.

Libyan authorities last year embarked on an ambitious plan to fully exploit the country's Mediterranean tourism potentials by 2018. Currently, around half a million tourists enter Libya each year, defying a complicated access to visas and a very poor tourism infrastructure. Most visitors go to Tripoli and practice cultural tourism at the many historical sites at the coast and in the desert.

The first preparations to copy the mass tourism successes of the other European, North African and Middle East countries along the Mediterranean shoreline were taken in October last year. Thus, Libyan authorities signed a contract with another Italian firm to establish several tourism resorts in the region of Al Khums, somewhat east of Tripoli.

In April this year, the biggest contract so far in Libya's non-oil sector was signed, worth US$ 1.2 billion. The Dutch company Ladorado was ordered to construct 10 tourist complexes at the city of Tobruk near the Libyan-Egyptian border, to be finalised by 2012. The project includes hotels, holiday apartments, shopping centres and restaurants.

The focus on tourism is the result of a long-standing wish by Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi to diversify the national economy, where oil accounts for 60 percent of government revenues. Only on Monday, Colonel Ghaddafi in a televised Tripoli congress urged Libyans to look for business opportunities in non-oil sectors of the economy as oil is an exhaustible resource. One of Libya's most underdeveloped sectors is tourism.

This is however not changed in a couple of years, also Libyan authorities acknowledge. Libya's Tourism Minister Ammar Mabrouk Eltayef recently told the UK-based publicity company 'World Report' that his country had a "huge potential for tourism but lacks the infrastructure. ... It is not enough just to promote our ancient heritage, the sea, the Sahara, Libyan food, music and folk life; we have to build resorts and hotels."

According to Minister Eltayef, Libya also first has to invest in the broader infrastructure, including airlines and airport services, transportation, telecommunications and the banking system. This, he said, "is our goal for the next ten years." During at least that time, Libya will have sufficient oil revenues to pay its development bills.

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