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The civil war in Libya negatively influenced the development of the travel and tourism industry in the country. However the end of the 42 year Gaddafi era brings both challenges and opportunities for the war -torn nation for travel agents and other tourism operators.
Infrastructure has been destroyed in many places which will require extensive rebuilding and investment in the country’s travel and tourism industry in the long term. However Libya benefits from large oil, gold and natural gas reserves and offers the strongest economic growth potential of all the Arab Spring states. Nevertheless, the unstable nature of a post-revolutionary environment and high input costs for rebuilding damaged infrastructure remain high concerns.
In 2010 arrivals to Libya reached 1,245 thousand trips. The vast majority of arrivals were for leisure purposes accounting for 80% in 2010, as the country was only slowly opening up to the rest of the world for business. Pre – conflict, arrivals from Egypt and from Tunisia continued to dominate in 2010, accounting for 42% and 38% respectively of the total. These two countries share borders with Libya, making it easy for people to travel cheaply. Tunisian and Egyptian tourists are similar to domestic tourists, as they are close in culture to Libya.
More international airlines are beginning to fly to Libya. In particular, regional airlines and Arab carriers are targeting Libya for further expansion. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways began operating 21 flights a week to Tripoli by the end of 2010. Passenger air travel was put on hold during the civil war in Libya following substantial damage to the air infrastructure. Among other market players that have resumed flights to Libya since the fall of the regime are Qatar Airways, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian and the Hungarian operator, Malev.
One of Libya’s unique selling propositions is its vast territory, which is unscathed, and offers diversified natural resources, providing opportunities for the development of ecotourism and adventure travel in the future. In addition, a wealth of attractions and Greek, Phoenician and Roman heritage offer untapped potential which could be an attractive investment opportunity.
Another future growth area is travel accommodation, which had been underserved for many years. However, international brands such as InterContinental, Marriott, Mövenpick, Radisson and Four Points by Sheraton are increasingly targeting cities such as Tripoli, Benghazi and Burdi.
The rebuilding of the country’s infrastructure and establishment of an efficient tourism governing body will be of great importance to drive the pace of international investments.. Establishing good international relations and relaxed visa requirements will further help open up Libyan tourism to a more diversified mix of international travellers, which in turn is expected to boost its appeal globally.