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Is Libya the next hot destination?
Thursday, 22nd March 2007
Source : Phoenicia Group Libya, LLC
Tourism infrastructure development is being given national priority by the Libyan government, with the Libyan Economic Development Board - a policy result of the National Economic Strategy - tasked with steering the far ranging initiative.

Libya's massive tourism potential - Libya seeks U.S. and international partners and investors in developing tourism infrastructure to sustain an estimated 1,000,000 visitors a year by 2015 - belie the dearth in essential tourism related infrastructure as a result of long-standing sanctions and economic malaise.

Libya attracted about 130,000 visitors in 2006, a drop in the bucket compared to the over 6,000,000 annual visitors its neighbors Egypt and Morocco get on average; this, however, hasn't stopped the development of a cult reputation among desert and water sport enthusiasts and archaeological seekers.

This status was boosted and heightened when talk show host Oprah billed Libya first choice as holiday destination last year; and, despite limited infrastructure and sometimes time-consuming visa processing, the number of visitors is skyrocketing annually.

The LEDB, which was inaugurated last month at a glitzy ceremony at the Corinthia Hotel, was keynoted by Saif Al Islam Gaddafi, son of the Libyan leader, and Michael Porter, the Harvard business guru brought in to jumpstart the LEDB along with the Monitor Group.

The message coming out is of a new Libya, cosmopolitan, business-friendly, yet proud of its heritage and unique geopolitical realities; of the creation of Free Trade Zones, like Abu Kammesh-Zwara and Madina Al Hurra, with gleaming hotels, resorts, and luxury developments; of liberal and transparent investment mechanisms a la Hong Kong and Dubai; of first world cities and a new vision for Libya in the 21st century.

That vision is shared by Ryad Sunusi, President & CEO of the privately- held Phoenicia Group, a strong supporter of the initiative, who says that vision has already started taking place in what he calls North Africa's most vibrant economy, confidently predicting Libya as 'the dynamo of the MENA region within a generation,' and touting the opportunities to international investors and developers in frequent seminars and conferences.

"The tourism sector has tremendous untapped potential - Libya's 1,100 km coastline of unspoiled beaches, its preserved historical ruins, and desert oases make it the perfect sun, sea, and sand vacation spot - thrown in with the best preserved Roman ruins outside Italy," Sunusi said.

"Build it and they will come was the Vegas mantra then, it's even more so in today's Libya, where the smart money is going, with $6 Billion already committed by local, foreign, and joint venture projects."

Sunusi, a leading Libyan consultant and analyst, whose Phoenicia Group has earned a reputation as a conduit for international businesses in accessing the Libyan market, and has taken project management roles in tourism development projects, projects sustained growth in the sector well into the future.

Libya's real estate and construction sector has witnessed an unprecedented boom, buoyed by investor confidence and rising prosperity, an outcome of an aggressive reform program the Libyan government is spearheading to encourage and create a sustainable private sector to jumpstart growth and attract FDI in a Libyan economic engine stalled since the eighties.

"We've got stretches of beaches rivaling anything out of the French Riviera, and none of the haggling and unpleasantness you get in neighboring countries," Sunusi said.

"Libya is the place to be, it's still emerging, but if you're looking for a challenge and reward, this is it."
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