As the summer season kicks off, the town is getting ready to welcome tourists.
By Jonilda Koçi for Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 11/06/12
Himara is a popular tourist spot in Albania. [Jonilda Koci/SETimes]
Albanian tourism officials have begun creating a national strategy that would coordinate tourism issues for the rest of the decade, capitalizing on an industry that accounts for 11% of the nation's GDP.
Minister of Tourism Aldo Bumci said the plan should provide for the sustainable long-term development of tourism, instead of hastily-built concrete construction. The plan also covers strategies for the development of mountain tourism, improving services, as well as the promotion of Albania as a tourist destination.
Tourism earned 1.2 billion euros in profit last year and employs more than 138,000, accounting for 6% of the labour force in Albania.
Statistics from the state shows that the number of foreign tourists to Albania has been steadily increasing since at least 2007, rising from just over 1 million six years ago to more than 2.7 million in 2011, the last year that statistics are available.
The town of Himara, located about 220km from Tirana on the Ionian Sea, is the first municipality to win approval for its urban plan focusing on sustainable development of tourism.
"Himara has extraordinary tourism potential, and according to this plan, this area's capacities can triple," Prime Minister Sali Berisha said.
The number of foreign tourists to Albania has been steadily increasing in recent years. [SETimes]
Mayor Jorgo Goro told SETimes that Himara in September will be issued its first development permits, crucial for the advancement of the area.
Ahead of the vote, new construction was springing up, largely involving the addition of one or more floors to existing structures to accommodate more tourists.
Remittances from emigrants, mainly working in Greece, had strongly supported this expansion and development. But with the Greek crisis, remittances have been drying up.
"Government financing is still low, but we hope bigger projects will be approved since tourism is one of government's priorities," Goro told SETimes. "We also aim to further develop and preserve cultural sites in Himara, mainly very valuable old castles and churches."
Goro said that to implement the urban plan, urgent investments are needed in water supply, energy and infrastructure.
Llukë Qirici and his brother own Llamani Bay, just south of Himara. "Since the road to Llamani Bay was built three years ago, a lot of tourists visit. They are Albanians and foreigners from all over the world," Qirici told SETimes.