- It will now get much easier to get a tourism or business visa to Libya, at least for British citizens, to start with. Libya, which hopes to develop its tourism sector and to attract foreign investments, has so far been very difficult to travel to due to complicated visa regulations.
The gradual opening of Libya to foreign tourists and investors today was advanced by the signing of a "Visa Memorandum of Understanding" between the British government and the government in Tripoli. Now, at least British citizens will get easier travel access to the Mediterranean country.
Kim Howells, British Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said that "the Memorandum of Understanding on visa facilitation signed today with Libya is a significant step towards making Libya easier to visit and do business with. It offers important assurances for the promotion of trade and investment between our two countries."
According to official sources in London, the new agreement provides "a mutual undertaking to consider most visa applications within one week and to consider issuing multi-entry visas."
So far, Libya has been one of the most closed countries along the Mediterranean coast, and only citizens of most Arab countries have found it easy to enter the country. For European and American travellers, an invitation - for example from a Libyan travel agency - has been necessary. Travelling alone on an unorganised trip, not having contacts in Libya, has been close to impossible.
Most nationals still need to obtain this invitation, get an official translation of their passports into Arabic and send a complex application to their nearest Libyan embassy, or "People's Libyan Bureau". The process is costly and takes a long time.
Due to the new interest in developing the Libyan tourism industry and attracting foreign investors, visa rules however slowly are being relaxed and visas get easier to obtain. Today's agreement with the London government is only one step in this process, which soon should include nationals from most Western countries.
Libya is expected to have very much to offer international tourists as soon as the country becomes more accessible and invests more in travel infrastructures. Its very long Mediterranean coast is one of the few remaining underdeveloped potential holiday resorts in the region. Further, the country offers a long list of historic and cultural monuments and exotic desert destinations.
European tourism resort developers have already shown great interest in investing into Libya's travel infrastructure, in particular Italian groups. One large coastal resort is already in construction and authorities hope to open up more destinations within few years.
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