To anyone who has visited Leptis Magna, Sebratha, Cyrene and some of the fascinating towns in its vast desert interior, the rich culture and heritage of Libya is blindingly obvious. Add to that the unspoilt 2000km coastline dotted with numerous beaches, the natural beauty of the Jebel Al-Akhdar (Green Mountains) in the east of the country and the warmth of the Libya people and you have many of the ingredients for a thriving tourism and leisure industry.
In the Qadhafi years, relatively few people visited Libya except on business. The difficulty of getting tourist visas, along with the perception of Libya as a somewhat intimidating place to travel to, meant that it was largely overlooked as a Mediterranean holiday destination. The poor infrastructure did not help either but for those who could put up with some discomfort along with the uncertainties that were part of everyday life, Libya proved a rewarding experience.
Libya's closeness to Europe and its reliable, seasonal weather offers every incentive for developing its tourism and leisure industry. But any such development should be done sensitively, with care being taken to preserve the country's heritage and natural attractions. To achieve this, Libya will need not only massive inward investment but the advice and support of the international community.
Libya will surely come up with the missing ingredients for a successful tourism and leisure industry. This will of course take some time and require sustained effort and far-sightedness by the new Libyan administration. It will be an exciting challenge and one British companies involved in tourism and leisure (and related infrastructure) should rise to. There will be major opportunities to seize and they should be rewarding.
By Chris Holden, Director, MEC International Ltd. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Libya Business News