Albania Focusing On Alternative High-End Eco-Tourism

Albania is becoming one of the go-to European travel destinations. Last year the country experienced 7.5 million tourists, more than half of its population. Now, officials are working to rebrand the nation as a “high end quality” destination to cater to a wider range of tourist markets. 

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Albania is one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations as of late. Now, according to their tourism sector, the nation will be focusing on alternative “high end quality” tourism as a means of attracting even more travelers to the country.

“It’s another country compared to 10 years ago, the nation has more than made up for losses incurred since the outbreak of Covid-19. Things are changing so quickly … the Albania of 2023 is full of positive energy,” says the Albanian minister of tourism and environment, Mirela Kumbaro, to the Guardian

The return of international travel after the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly helped Albania’s tourism rates, fueling the desire for officials to rebrand and rework the ways in which they advertise Albania as a travel hot spot.

“Beaches aren’t unique. What’s unique about Albania is virgin, untouched, and undiscovered.” 

Kumbaro went on to explain how Albania has learned from past mistakes regarding tourism in the 1990’s when the nation transitioned into a democracy. “We made some mistakes in the 1990s. You cannot learn without making mistakes: they are part of the process.”

During the aftermath of the communist ways in which Albania was previously run, many industrial hotels and buildings appeared along with the unregulated development of resorts. “As minister of tourism and environment there is a kind of check and balance [to my role]. I may be proud that we have 7.5 million tourists but, to be sincere, I am not asking for more. I am asking for quality, for people to stay longer than the average three to four nights, and to come all year round. Beaches aren’t unique. What’s unique [about the country] is virgin, untouched, undiscovered,” Kumbaro explained. 

She went on to discuss how Albania is now focusing on promoting agritourism and ecotourism values, emphasizing the vast and diverse natural landscapes that make the country so unique.

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“What we want is tourism that is friendly to the environment, responsible and sustainable. We want tourism that focuses on cultural heritage, gastronomy, hiking, rafting, nature … there are so many little farms that people can go to and enjoy all of this.”

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Kumbaro also broke down how before Albania’s shift in political ideology, tourism was strictly controlled by Albturist; the state tourist agency. “Only about 200 people on very well organized bus tours visited every year. They belonged to communist ‘friendship associations,’ but even then, Albturist was controlled by the Sigurimi secret police.” 

Back then, cameras were forbidden and men who entered Albania had to shave their chins at the border and cut their hair if it was deemed to be too long. Tours often only went as far as the capital of Tirana, where tourists would stay in run down Soviet-era hotels, according to Kumbaro. 

“Everything was forbidden, even religion, I recall my grandmother had been too frightened to speak openly about her faith. For me, tourism is about emancipation.”