Albanian Riviera becomes second home destination for Norwegian, Russian tourists

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 17, 2018 11:31

Albanian Riviera becomes second home destination for Norwegian, Russian tourists

Story Highlights

  • Having recently made it as one of the top off-the-radar destinations that deserve holidaymakers' attention in a rating by prestigious Business Insider, Saranda has turned a popular destination for Norwegian tourists and more than 300 have already invested in second homes

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TIRANA, July 17 – Albania’s coastline is gradually turning into a second home destination for European holidaymakers and it’s mostly the southern Albania Riviera that is becoming a magnet.

A combination of Mediterranean weather with plenty of sunshine, sandy and rocky beaches as well as cultural heritage dating back to Illyrian, Roman and ancient Greece times play a key role in European holidaymakers’ decision-making to invest in second homes in Albania, an emerging travel destination.

But above all, it’s the rather cheap and easily affordable prices starting at €400m2 for sea view apartments and the traditional hospitality Albanians shows toward foreigners that are the decisive factors.

The Albanian Riviera and its pearl, the southernmost Albanian city of Saranda, has been the prime destination for hundreds of European holidaymakers who have decided to make Albania their second home.

Having recently made it as one of the top off-the-radar destinations that deserve holidaymakers’ attention in a rating by prestigious Business Insider, Saranda has turned a popular destination for Norwegian tourists and more than 300 have already invested in second homes.

Arben Cipa, who runs a travel agency there, says there are some 500 foreign-owned apartments in Saranda.

The Norwegians dominate with some 316 apartments, followed by Russians with 32, but there rising interest by Poles and nationals of former Soviet Union countries.

In Saranda, an apartment block in the city and a nearby small beach is now known as “Norvegjezet,” the Albanian name for Norwegians.

Stig Nyhus and Mari Aaboen are among the first Norwegians to have invested in a second home in Saranda which they first visited 12 years ago.

“It wasn’t something planned. We came with some friends. We liked the city and the people and of course it was the normal and affordable prices that enabled even a normal Norwegian worker to buy an apartment,” they tell a local Albanian TV.

The Sigbjons have also had their summer home at the same apartment block since 2012.

“We visited Saranda in 2008 when we were on holiday in Corfu. We spent a few days here and we decided to have our home in Saranda. We travelled to several other countries but we liked Saranda. The prices were really nice and that was the main reason, but we also liked the climate, the people and the position,” they say.

A once long-isolated country under communism until the early 1990s and with poor reputation during the transition period until the early 2000s, things have changed a lot during the past decade as Albania gradually develops and tourism emerges as one of the key sectors of the Albanian economy.

Skepticism by central and north European tourists is gradually fading as word spreads about Albania’s destinations and affordable prices compared to more overcrowded attractions with a longer tradition in the industry such as Greece, Croatia or even Montenegro.

Real estate agents also report a rising interest by foreigners to buy apartments in the central Albania Adriatic coastline of Durres which this year has turned into a magnet for Nordic tourists.

Charter flights have been regularly linking Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm and Helsinki as well as Moscow, Warsaw and Budapest to Albania this summer when tourism looks much more promising despite a rather fresh and rainy June producing a lukewarm start.


Rising Russian interest

Interest from Russian tourists to spend holidays and invest in Saranda apartments is also rising.

Natalia Ivanova, a Russian tour guide who lives in Saranda together with her Albanian husband, is focused on Russian and former Soviet Union holidaymakers who are the prime target of their travel agency.

“I have been living here for four years and I want to spend a lot of other years as I love this country and I love Albanians, the landscape and everything else. I am married to an Albanian and we have two children,” she says.

“Russians and Ukrainians almost know nothing at all about Albania and they get surprised when they come here. When on holiday here in Saranda, many of them ask about apartments here. I know Russians, Ukrainians, Kazakhs, Belarusians who have purchased homes here,” adds the Russian tour guide.

Some 15,000 Russians a year visit Albania, but it’s mostly for short stays while on holiday in the Balkan region.

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

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.


Albania’s pearl

Known as the pearl of Albanian Riviera, the southernmost Albanian district is a top destination in Albania during summer, offering tourists a combination of rocky and sandy beaches as well as cultural heritage attractions such as the Butrint UNESCO World Heritage site and the Blue Eye spring. Situated just next to the Greek island of Corfu with regular ferry lines, Saranda remains one of Albania’s top destinations despite the boom of uncontrolled constructions somehow spoiling the beauty of Albania’s southernmost coastal town.

However, reaching Saranda from Tirana and the country’s sole international airport is a 290 km five-hour drive and authorities are planning new airports in Vlora and Saranda to ease access to two of southern Albania’s tourism gems.

Saranda is the only Balkan town to make it to the 40 underrated destinations around the world which the Business Insider says deserve more attention compared to popular destinations at the top of tourists’ travel bucket list.

“Saranda, a resort in the Albanian Riviera, is equally known for its archaeological ruins and its beaches. While you’ll find the remains of a 5th-century synagogue in the town itself, a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates to prehistoric times is located about 12 miles outside Sarandë. The site, Butrint, has in the course of its storied history functioned as a Greek colony, a Roman city, and a bishopric,” writes the Business Insider portal.

Saranda is also famous for its four Ksamil islands which remained covered in lush, green vegetation throughout the year and can be easily accessed by small boats.

The travel and tourism industry was one of the key drivers of the Albanian economy in 2017 when authorities say it generated a record high of €1.7 billion in income, up about 12 percent compared to a year ago as the country was visited by more than 5 million foreign tourists.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 17, 2018 11:31