Albania Seeks to Develop Tourism

26/10/2004

Representatives of Albania's burgeoning tourist industry held a special event intended to showcase the country's potential as a holiday destination. Many believe that tourism, once developed, could become an important part of the economy.

By Ardi Pulaj for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 26/10/04

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Albania offers tourists a wealth of attractions, including cultural and historical sites. [File]

Albania marked World Day of Tourism last month with a special event intended to showcase the country's potential as a holiday destination. A total of 250 visitors from Albania and abroad attended the Albanian Travel Night at the Rogner Hotel in Tirana.

The event was organised by members of Albania's Tourism Industry Cluster -- with support from the USAID-funded Albanian Entreprise Development and Export Market Services Project -- and was hosted by travel agencies, tour operators and hotels.

Visitors attending Travel Night received information about a variety of getaway options, including package and individually-tailored tours; expeditions to cities, historical and cultural sites; outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, biking, skiing, fishing and hunting; or simple relaxation at a comfortable spa or hotel.

With an eye to shaping Albania's international image, organisers also invited a group of foreign journalists.

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Activities included a roundtable discussion on tourism and public administration. Speaking at the event, Albanian Tourism Minister Bashkim Fino said the number of visitors to Albania increased by 15 per cent during 2004.

"The number of tourists entering Albania this summer was 355,000. There have been 43,000 more tourists compared with last year. Tourists mainly have been from Kosovo and European countries," Fino said.

Tourism in Albania is still in its infancy. For decades, the country was ruled by a communist regime that did not allow the industry to become established. However, the country offers a wealth of attractions, including Mediterranean beaches, mountains, natural monuments, and remote, pristine areas. Ruins and archaeological treasures reflect a rich history dating back to the Illyrians.

Many believe the industry could become one of the Albania's main sources of revenue, once it is fully developed. As part of that effort, an internship programme has been launched at the University of Tirana, with 18 students enrolled so far. In addition, a digital postcard campaign, titled "Greetings from Albania!" is under way, with the support of US Peace Corps volunteers. The tourism ministry, meanwhile, has helped organise a photo exhibition, featuring sites all over the country.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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