Posted by: ANSA MED

(ANSAmed) – ALGIERS, MARCH 15 – Algeria seeks to develop tourism in the Sahara to re-launch an ailing economic sector.

Tourism was badly hit by the black decade of terrorism in the 1990s and is now heavily threatened by Islamic extremists and groups close to al Qaeda.

Nevertheless, the Algerian government wants to make a fresh start by investing in this unique desert. ‘The locomotive of the entire tourism sector in Algeria is the Sahara’, Algerian Tourism Minister Mohamed Benmeradi told ANSAmed. ‘This is a place no other country in the world can boast and has great potential for growth’.

The government wants to build up a tourism industry by investing in this area of the country to boost an economy which still relies mainly on hydrocarbons. This choice has been made in spite of the fact that neighbouring countries like Mauritania, Libya, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad have seen the mobilization of jihadist groups with the fall of the regime in Libya and the conflict in Mali.

‘It is not possible at this time to give a 100% guarantee that attacks will not take place, neither in Algeria nor elsewhere in the world’, said Benmeradi. He also reiterated a message stressed by Algerian authorities which some western countries do not believe: ‘The state has won over terrorism’.

In Sahara, he said, ‘we need hotels, in particular with two and three stars, to develop new tourism packages, and Algeria offers many other opportunities which still need to be discovered and exploited in terms of investments’.

A plan considered to attract tourists in the area is an itinerary, almost 2.000-km-long unifying fortifications built by French colonists from El Golea until Fort Lami, in Chad, said Benmeradi, a former investments minister. There are 100 ‘and we are considering how to exploit this heritage which is currently abandoned and owned by the military’, he said.

Also being considered for investments and to attract foreign capitals are the ‘approximately 1500 km of virgin coast to be developed near Roman archaeological sites where investments can be made in hotels and to make the area more welcome to visitors’.

Many projects have already turned the country in a real construction site, said the minister. ‘There are some 750 projects for a total value of 2,5 billion euros sponsored by the private sector and slated to create 45,000 sleeping accommodations by 2015’. By the end of 2013 in Algiers alone 1,200 luxury accommodations will be available. (ANSAmed)

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