Tourism: Libya’s way forward?



By Sami Zaptia.

Washington DC, 8 October 2013:

A new World Bank study entitled “Tourism in Africa: Harnessing Tourism for Growth and Improved Livelihoods” looks at tourism as a possible vehicle for future economic growth and job creation in the continent.

And although the study was focused on Sub-Saharan Africa, it used numerous case studies from Libya’s neighbours Egypt and Tunisia as well as Morocco, Jordan and Dubai – which gave it direct relevance to Libya’s desire to activate a tourism sector.

Hard facts

The study reveals some interesting facts. It informs us that the tourism sector is directly and indirectly responsible for 8.8 percent (258 million) of the world’s jobs, 9.1 percent of the world’s GDP (US$6 trillion), 5.8 percent of the world’s exports (US$1.1 trillion), and 4.5 percent of the world’s investment (US$652 billion).

Moreover, the World Travel and Tourism Council estimates that 3.8 million jobs – including 2.4 million indirect jobs – could be created by the tourism industry in Sub-Saharan Africa. The study informs that from a small base of just 6.7 million visitors in 1990, Sub-Saharan Africa attracted 33.8 million visitors by 2012 – or 500 percent in 22 years.

These figures definitely give food for thought to Libya and its desire to diversify its economy, reduce its dependency on hydrocarbons and hence the vulnerability to international crude oil prices, and the creation of jobs for Libya’s unemployed youth.

The statistics show that there is potentially a lot of room for Libya’s tourism sector to expand to, and starting from a very low base, especially relative to neighbours Tunisia and Egypt, short term growth should be attainable – all other things been equal.

It will be recalled that whilst hydrocarbons are enormous earners, they are low employers and do not provide a direct solution to Libya’s unemployment problem.


However, the World Bank study says that to achieve its tourism potential, Sub-Saharan Africa will have to address a number of existing constraints such as land availability, investor access to finance, taxes on tourism investments, low levels of tourism skills, lack of security, safety and high crime, public health, visa requirements and red tape and bureaucracy.

Certainly on the face of it, many of these constraints ring true in the case of Libya. The issue of land title, for example, cuts across all sectors in post Qaddafi Libya, whilst the IMF has been advising Libya persistently about reforming its banking sector in order to make credit readily available to investors.

Whilst the issues of the process of obtaining Libyan visas for potential tourists and red tape and bureaucracy are a legacy from the former regime, the lack of security is a direct byproduct of Libya’s February 17th Revolution. Libya’s low levels of tourism skills reflects the lack of a prominent tourism sector historically as well as cultural and social impediments to working in the tourism industry.

The study goes on to say that “fortunately, individual countries can provide successful examples of policies and actions that have resolved these issues”. It further says that “most depend on the political will of governments for their resolution”.


A World Bank study by Iain Christie, Eneida Fernandes, Hannah Messerli and Louise Twining-Ward

Read more: