Will Gadhafi’s death reopen Libya to tourism?

October 22, 2011

By Laura Bly, USA TODAY

While President Obama acknowledged that the North African country “will travel a long and winding road to democracy” after Moammar Gadhafi’s killing on Thursday, the end to the dictator’s iron-fisted, 42-year rule could signal a revival of Libya’s on-again, off-again tourism industry.Commercial advertising is banned in Libya but multiple images of Col. Moammar Gadhafi are found in every town.
Italian, British and German tourists have been long been drawn to its well-preserved (and uncrowded) Greek and Roman ruins and Saharan landscapes, but Libya has remained “terra incognita” for most American globetrotters. After an initial flurry of interest after a U.S. travel ban was lifted in 2004, a morass of diplomatic red tape scuttled further tours until a new trade agreement took effect last May.

During my visit in 2004, the man President Reagan dubbed the “Mad Dog of the Middle East” was ubiquitous – showing up on currency, portraits in restaurants and hotels, and a forest of billboards in every town. (Ask a Libyan what he or she thought of the “Great Leader,” however, and you’d invariably be met with averted eyes and a sudden change of subject.)

Now, as Libyans celebrate his demise, at least one company is already advertising a three-day, 295-euro tour of “post-war Libya” on its website, featuring visits to Tripoli and the Roman ruins of Leptis Magna.

“The tour was very popular, actually. But not now, not yet,” Ibrahim Usta, the company’s self-described international customer assistant, admitted to Reuters. “We have many inquiries right now, but the problem is mainly security and visas,” he said. “There’s no (visa) system in place and many embassies are not functioning.”

A handful of U.S. tour operators and cruise lines that had resumed trips to Libya scuttled them when civil war broke out last winter.

San Francisco-based adventure tour operator Geographic Expeditions cancelled its April 4 departure to Libya, and now “I think it’s going to take a while to shake things out,” says spokesman John Sugnet.

A related case in point: “When president Bush declared victory in Iraq, people were clamoring to go,” recalls Sugnet. But it took until 2010 for the company to feel comfortable offering a trip to Northern Iraq/Kurdistan, a journey that was also offered this year.

Ethiopian commences direct flights from Mekele and BahirDar to Khartoum

October 14, 2011

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Ethiopian Airlines is proud to announce that effective October 13, 2011 it has commenced direct international flights from Mekele and BahirDar to Khartoum. The new direct flights will enhance tourism and business travel between Northern Ethiopia and the Sudan thereby strengthening the existing cooperation between the people and governments of the two countries.

Mr. Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian said, “Ethiopian Airlines has long been flying from Addis Ababa to Khartoum. The new direct flight services between Mekele, Khartoum and Bahir Dar will enhance the ever increasing economic, social and political ties of the two nations. Tourists, business people and all other travelers from the Sudan and other parts of the world will now have an easy and direct link to the fascinating tourist destinations of Northern Ethiopia.”

With the opening of the new direct flight services between Khartoum, Mekele and Bahir Dar, Ethiopian has developed incredible packages for tourists. Flying to Northern Ethiopia, tourists will visit the source of Blue Nile and Tisisat Falls found in Bahir Dar and the Nejashi Mosque, the first mosque in Africa built in the 7th century AD near Mekele. Tour packages developed in connection with this flight also include the breath taking Rift Valley lakes of Debre-Zeit and Awassa. 2

Ethiopian will provide the new flight services four days a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays Saturdays and Sundays using Bombardier Q-400 Aircraft.

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