Albania, the Country of Eagles, is opening up to cultural tourism in a bid to boost another one of the industry’s assets beyond the seaside resorts of the Ionian coast, whose landscape has been ravaged by years of misstatement and savage exploitation.
From Tirana – with its Fascist-epoch architecture, to Berat “the city of a thousand windows”, with its narrow windy alleys, red-roofed white houses, ancient mosques and Orthodox churches decorated with frescoes, from the south, boasting the ancient town of Argirocastro with its stone roofs and facades covered with roses and hundred-year old vines, up to the archaeological park of Butrint, a few kilometers from the border with Greece, Albania is ready to welcome tourists and investors.
The path is slow and complicated by the fact that infrastructure – both in terms of accommodation and transport – still needs to be developed in order to make internal travel easier, but things are getting better, Albanian Minister of Tourism, Arben Ahmetaj told ANSAmed. “Two years ago we were still chasing numbers” he said.
Tourists visiting Albania are mainly Kosovars (38% of arrivals), Macedonians (14%); Greeks (10%), Montenegrins, (6%) and Italians (5%), but we are starting to see visitors from Eastern and Northern Europe as well”. Albania is not targeting any specific type of tourist yet.
”We cannot afford to pick the kind of tourists we’d like” admitted Ahmetaj. “What is certain is that we need to improve our infrastructures”. There is “a budget of almost 300 million dollars. We are evaluating different projects for the development of port infrastructures, the road system as well as airports”.
The only airport available to tourists, at the moment, is the one in Tirana, but there is a plan to build another one in Saranda, in the south. “We are also thinking about another airport in Valona” together with the option of reactivating the one in Kukes in the north of the country, added Ahmetaj. As of date, the number of hotels in Albania is approximately 728 with a capacity of 29.700 beds, but with regard to sleeping accommodations, categories are not particularly clear cut.
A few weeks ago, a foreign company with expertise in the tourism sector was asked to evaluate, classify and valid Albanian hotel establishments. Italian investors are welcome, stressed the minister. The sector has so far attracted, for the most part, Greek, Austrian, Turkish and Arab ventures.
**This is not an original article of invest-in-albania.org. The article was first published at ANSAmed.
Photo credits: Images by Gina / Wikimedia