Overwhelming majority of Albanian bathing waters meet EU standards, watchdog says

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 23, 2017 15:29

Overwhelming majority of Albanian bathing waters meet EU standards, watchdog says

TIRANA, May 23 – As Albania gears up for the 2017 bathing season, the overwhelming majority of its Adriatic and Ionian waters have been rated as meeting EU standards, giving a boost to the emerging tourism industry which continues to remain largely seasonal.

A newly released report by Denmark-based European Environment Agency, an EU watchdog, has rated 86 percent of Albania’s bathing water as excellent or at least of sufficient quality, a sharp improvement compared to 2015.

Albanian authorities reported on a record 92 bathing waters in 2016 and early 2017, compared to 78 in 2015 when more than a third of waters proved of insufficient quality.

The EU environment watchdog attributes the considerable improvement in quality to five wastewater treatment plants made operational in the past few years, serving about half a million residents.

The wastewater treatment plants in the Adriatic beaches of Durres, Kavaja, Shengjin and Velipoja as well as the southern Ionian waters of Saranda were made available through World Bank and EU support, considerably improving water quality along the country’s 476 km coastline.

The report shows most of Albania’s excellent water quality beaches are found along the southern Riviera in Himara and Saranda, but also Vlora where the Adriatic meets the Ionian. Excellent and good water quality beaches also dominate the more overcrowded Durres, Shengjin and Velipoja beaches. Authorities suggest avoiding sunbathing close to downtown port areas and where rivers flow into the sea.

Albania’s 2016 maximum bathing season period was from May 17 to September 30, with a maximum season span of 127 days, says the European Environment Agency.

The tourism industry has been one of the country’s fastest growing in the past few years, attracting more than 4 million tourists and generating about €1.5 billion, about 8.4 percent of the country’s GDP in 2016 alone.

The travel and tourism industry directly supported 85,000 jobs in 2016 but the sector’s total contribution to employment including wider effects from investment, the supply chain and induced income impacts in 2016 was 267,000 jobs or about 24 percent of the country’s total employment, according to a report by London-based World Travel & Tourism Council, WTTC.

While more and more international tourists are discovering what is known as “Europe’s hidden gem,”  ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro account for three-fifths of foreign tourists visiting Albania, with local experts often referring to this market as ‘patriotic tourism.’

The country boasts dozens of sandy and rocky beaches along its 476 km coastline stretching through the Adriatic and Ionian, the most famous of which are found on the Albanian Riviera, south of the country.

Three UNESCO World Heritages, the Butrint archaeological park and the historic towns of Gjirokastra and Berat, in southern Albania, also unveil the rich cultural heritage in Albania, a gateway to the Mediterranean boasting a mix of Illyrian, Roman, Greek and Ottoman civilizations.

Closed to tourists for about five decades until the early 1990s, Albania offers a miscellaneous picture of coastal and mountain tourism and has been attracting more and more foreign tourists in the past decade being nicknamed as “A new Mediterranean love” and “Europe’s last secret.”

The country is also luring tourists by opening up some of its communist era secret sites such as the tiny Sazan island, a military base in southern Albania currently managed by the defense ministry, but first used by the Italians until World War II before becoming the country’s most secretive base under communism when it was fortified with bunkers and tunnels designed to withstand a possible nuclear attack that the Albanian communist authorities feared.

Back in 2015, Albania also opened up as a tourist attraction a Cold War secret bunker outside Tirana that the former communist regime had built underground decades ago to survive a possible nuclear attack.

Albania will hold general elections on June 25 but the recent overcome of a three-month political deadlock is expected to give a boost to the tourism industry in the country, where some new tourist resorts and villages are under construction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 23, 2017 15:29