Albania diversifies map of European tourist arrivals

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 4, 2016 10:06

Albania diversifies map of European tourist arrivals

Story Highlights

  • While patriotic tourism from ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro still accounts for more than half of tourist arrivals, the geographical location of tourists has also extended to Greece, Italy, Germany, the UK, France and Switzerland although a considerable number of foreign tourists coming from these countries are believed to be Albanians holding dual citizenship

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TIRANA, Nov. 2 – Albania is diversifying its map of European tourist arrivals as the country emerges as an under-the-radar destination and tourism gains momentum as a much promising sector for the developing Albanian economy.

While patriotic tourism from ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro still accounts for more than half of tourist arrivals, the geographical location of tourists has also extended to Greece, Italy, Germany, the UK, France and Switzerland although a considerable number of foreign tourists coming from these countries are believed to be Albanians holding dual citizenship.

Tourists from Serbia and central European countries such as Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic have also considerably in the past few years.

Data shows some 1.7 million Kosovo tourists visited Albania in 2015 accounting for 40 percent of total foreign tourists. Tourists from neighboring Macedonia and Montenegro where Albanian minorities account for 25 percent and 5 percent of the local populations also slightly rose to a total 756,000 in 2015, according to INSTAT, the state statistical office.

The resumption of Belgrade-Tirana direct flights in 2014 by Air Serbia carrier has also increased the number of Serbian tourists with an estimated more than 50,000 visiting the country in the past couple of years.

Poland is surprise entry in the map of tourists coming to Albania in the past few years with their number peaking at about 59,000 in 2014 and estimated to have further increased for 2016.

An annual survey conducted by the Polish Tour Operators Association, PZOT, ranked Albania’s as the Poles’ ninth favourite destination for 2015-2016, sandwiched between Portugal and Cyprus.

Albania has been recommended as an under-the-radar destination by several prestigious media and travel portals this year.

In late 2015, prestigious French newspaper Le Figaro placed Albania as one of the top five global destinations for 2016. Featuring a picture of the ancient Rozafa castle in the northern city of Shkodra, Le Fiagaro said Albania will surprise everybody just like it did with its first-ever qualification in a major football competition such as France 2016.

Albania offers a combination of rocky and sandy beaches, the most famous of which along the southern Riviera, and some emerging mountain tourism destinations in the country’s northern area such as Theth, Valbona and Kelmend which are on track to make Albania’s tourism a year-round industry.

Last year’s opening of the Sazan Island, a former military base some 20 kilometers from the coastal town of Vlora, to local and foreign tourists for the first time in 70 years, and a Cold War secret bunker outside Tirana that the former communist regime had built underground decades ago to survive a possible nuclear attack, also attracted a lot of interest among international media and visitors.

Albania’s travel income slightly rose to a historic high of €1.35 billion in 2015 when the Balkan country was visited by 4.1 million foreign tourists, according to Bank of Albania and INSTAT data.

London-based World Travel & Tourism Council says the direct contribution of travel and tourism to the Albanian economy was 87.6 billion lek (€625 mln) or 6 percent of the GDP in 2015. The sector directly supported 51,000 jobs in 2015.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times November 4, 2016 10:06