Charter flights bring thousands of Ukrainian, Russian-speaking tourists to Albania

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 19, 2018 20:48

Charter flights bring thousands of Ukrainian, Russian-speaking tourists to Albania

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  • Sky Up, a Ukrainian charter airline, has arranged 96 flights to Albania in partnership with an Albanian tour operator from June until the end of September, says the Tirana International Airport

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TIRANA, June 19 – Ukrainians are among the new tourists to massively visit Albania for this year, joining Nordic countries as well as some central European countries who have been discovering Albania and its emerging tourism industry in the past few years as one of Europe’s last secrets and an up-and-coming destination.

Regular charters from Ukraine have been flying to the Tirana International Airport, Albania’s sole international airport, six times a week starting early June, having already brought thousands of Ukrainian and Russian-speaking tourists.

Sky Up, a Ukrainian charter airline, has arranged 96 flights to Albania in partnership with an Albanian tour operator from June until the end of September, says TIA, the Tirana International Airport.

“Tourist numbers are growing in Albania, and the new interest is very high to see this country. I am sure that the warm hospitality of the Albanians will be very welcome, treating the new guests well and making them wish to return. TIA is happy to support these routes financially and contributing to tourism across borders,” says Rolf Castro-Vasquez, TIA’s Chief Executive Officer.

A country with a resident population of some 45 million, Ukraine is a huge potential for Albania’s emerging travel and tourism industry and sporadic visits by Ukrainian travelers until a few years ago have now become well-organized and sharply increased in numbers.

Tatyana Bajraktari, a Ukrainian lady married to an Albanian and managing a Tirana-based tour operator and several rented hotels around Albania, has had a key role in promoting Albania to her homeland and increasing the number of Ukrainian and Russian-speaking tourists to Albania.

“I have always maintained that Albania possesses a real gem which with some arrangements can become much more valuable. Mother Nature has given a lot to Albania including mountains, seas, lakes and endless historic sites. The thing is how to make use of them and bring people here,” says the Ukrainian travel manager who brings Ukrainian, Russian and Belarus tourists to the country.

Her husband Bledi Bajraktari, who serves as Ukraine’s honorary consul to Albania, says he expects the number of Russian-speaking charter tourists to double to 20,000 this year.

The central Albanian city of Durres is a favorite for family holidaymakers and children enjoying sun and sea along the Adriatic coast while young couples seeking adventures often try the southern Albanian Riviera offering a combination of sandy and rocky beaches.

Some 5,000 Albanians live in the southern Odesse region in Ukraine. The Albanian community there settled in the 18th and 19th centuries from Bulgaria, having previously escaped 15th century Ottoman occupation from the southeastern Albanian region of Korça.

Ukraine is mostly popular in Albania for its sports stars, former AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko, the current coach of Ukraine whom Albania played in a recent friendly , and the Klitschko brothers who dominated heavyweight boxing for more than a decade until the early 2010s.

NATO member and EU candidate Albania has also joined Western sanctions over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Albanian regularly lifts visas for Russian, Ukrainian and several other former Soviet Union countries for most of the year.

This year’s tourist season in Albania is being characterized by a sharp increase in charter flights, mostly bringing Nordic tourists who are massively visiting Albania, having booked up the best hotels along the Adriatic coast of Durres for most of the season.

Charter flights will regularly link Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki to Tirana from May to early October 2018. In addition, direct charter flights from Poland, Hungary and Russia as well as new regular flights with Israel and a new low-cost carrier linking Tirana to London are much promising for this season in Albania.

The travel and tourism industry was one of the key drivers of the Albanian economy in 2017 when it generated a record high of €1.7 billion in income as the country was visited by more than 5 million foreign tourists, according to central bank and INSTAT data.

Closed to tourists for about five decades under a Stalinist dictatorship, Albania has a rather later tradition in tourism compared to its regional competitors, but quality investment and service in the past decade and a mix of natural and cultural heritage dating back to ancient times have rated it as “Europe’s last secret” and a destination worth being visited.

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 19, 2018 20:48