The Libyan government has launched a large-scale tourism strategy that will add an estimated 2,000 hotel rooms in the country by September 2012.   

Speaking at MEED’s Libya Briefing Day conference on 27 April, Chiheb Ben Mahmoud, senior vice-president of Mena for US-based Jones Lang LaSalle, said that while the oil-rich country’s gross domestic product (GDP) does not rely too heavily on the tourism, revenue from the sector is expected to increase to $22bn by 2019 from $7.7bn in 2009. Construction, oil and housing account for more than 80 per cent of the country’s GDP.

The locations for the planned hotels are Tripoli’s Central Business District, Tripoli East and Tripoli West. The government is in the process of issuing banking and building licenses to build and finance the projects.

The hotels are necessary because accommodation for tourists in the country is currently at critical levels. According to a source in the capital, the government estimates there 14,000 hotel rooms in the country – a figure that has remained unchanged between 1989 and 2003.  

In 2001, Libya hosted 1.1 million foreign tourists and this rose 34 per cent to 1.5 million in 2009. Independent statistics suggest that figure could increase to 2.5 million by 2015.   

Hoteliers have reported an inability to handle the rise in visitors during events and conventions, and officials in Tripoli have admitted tourism development is the first step to opening up the economy to foreign investment.