UNWTO official Zurab Pololikashvili urged the Balkan countries to join together an form a single tourism destination in order to more effectively compete with large markets such as China, the United States or the Gulf countries.
“We are not rivals. We are complimentary to each other,” said Albanian Tourism Minister Mirela Kumbaro.
With 450 kilometers (280 miles) of coastline and 300 days of sunshine per year Albania offers a diverse range of attractions ranging from beaches to mountain resorts, as well as great food and culture. .
“What’s new beyond the sea and the beaches is nature, the protected areas, the adventurous, mountainous, natural tourism and agro-tourism,” said Kumbaro, adding that the aim is to attract tourists year-round.
Tourism and agriculture are two main revenue resources for post-communist Albania, one of Europe’s poorest countries. Tourism generated 17% of GDP in 2021, with arrivals increasing 33% last year to 7.5 million people. Kumbaro said 59% more tourists have come in the first quarter this year compared to last year.
Albanian officials say environmental protection goes hand-in-hand with tourism promotion. Last month, Tirana declared the Vjosa River – the last wild river in Europe – a national park meaning that any development is prohibited. More than a fifth of the country is protected.
Mohamed Ali Alabbar of the Eagle Hills Group of Companies, an Abu Dhabi-based private real estate investment and development company, is to invest $2.5 billion to build the Durres Yachts & Marina port and residence area.
Like many others, Albania’s tourism industry is grappling with a worker shortage as many young Albanians have emigrated to western European countries in search of a better life.
Dorin Sema, a chief waiter at Lalezi Bay tourist resort, says it’s not easy to keep young workers when higher salaries beckon abroad.