Monday, 1 May 2017

ALGERIA: Attracting Tourists Again

Algeria's Tourism Minister Smail Mimoune announces the construction of modern tourist facilities in the old Sahara desert destination Tassili. Tassili was a popular destination before the 1992 war.

Minister Mimoune yesterday told the Algiers parliament that the development of tourism in the Saharan region of Tassili was at the top of priorities in his Ministry. A development plan for the important destination had been developed.

The national tourism plan was especially focusing on the Sahara region of Tassili and Djanet, but also on the building of coastal resorts along Algeria's long and spectacular Mediterranean coast.

The Minister said the construction of hotels in Tassili respecting the special architecture of Saharan Africa was part of the tourism development plan. The plan's implementation had already been assured through the current budget, approved of in 2009.

Developments of tourism infrastructure in Tassili and Djanet however primarily should be driven by private investments, with government giving major incentives for investments, Minister Mimoune explained. This included a reduction of 5.4 percent in interest rates applied to bank credits for realisation of tourist infrastructure projects in Tassili.

Before Algeria in 1992 drifted into a brutal civil war, which included systematic attacks on foreigners, the Tassili-Djanet-Tamanrasset area in Algeria's desert was the main tourist destination in the Sahara. Especially the Sahara region was beyond
Tourism has never been a main sector in Algeria, although the oil-rich country has a vast potential.

As safety has returned to most of Algeria, the limited tourist numbers received before 1992 has been slow to recover.

Occasional terror attacks and kidnappings maintain the country's image as an unsafe destination; tourism infrastructure has seen little investments since 1992; and massive red tape in Algeria scares off many foreign investors. The coasts of Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt meanwhile have seen massive investments.

And while Algeria still lacks quality coastal resorts, local investors have for the last five years focused on the desert region of Tassili and its UNESCO-registered World Heritage Site Tassili n'Ajjer to attract foreign visitors.

Already in 2005, some 16,000 tourists visited the Tassili province. Tourism is mostly focused on adventurers, with programmes to climb in the breathtaking Tassili and Hoggar mountain ranges or to join rough 4WD excursions into spectacular desert destinations.

The Algiers Tourism Ministry now foresees infrastructure investments to ease the access and comfort for a wider group of tourists. Eager to diversify its fossil fuel dependent economy, authorities have defined the country's tourism potential its "second oil resource."

Tourists and businessmen from India and 17 other countries can now travel to Russia’s Far East without a visa, informed Dmitry Medvedev, the Prime Minister of Russia.

In order to boost tourism and investment in the region, the nationals of these 18 countries will have simplified entry procedures into Russia through the free port of Vladivostok. According to Pavel Volkov, Deputy Minister, Development of the Far East, tourists and entrepreneurs will only be required to fill a form on the website of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Applications will be approved within four days. Electronic single entry visas will be issued directly at the Russian border and will be valid for 30 days. The 17 countries apart from India include Algeria, Bahrain, Brunei, Iran, Qatar, China, North Korea, Kuwait, Morocco, Mexico, UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Tunisia, Turkey, and Japan.

“I have recently approved the list of countries, whose nationals can take advantage of the preferential regime. We are proactively forming the modern infrastructure and creating special regimes in the far East; the law on visits to the Vladivostok free port was approved in March.

This is not because these states are situated at a closer or longer distance – we are appropriately introducing bilateral agreements on visa-free travel for those ready to use such an approach for us,” said Medvedev.

Volkov further said, “We’d like to see an increase in tourism to the region by at least 30 percent. Given the fact that every wealthy tourist spends at least $1,000 in the territory, we assume this will significantly increase the opportunities for the development of the region, trade turnover, and currency flows.”