Albania sees unprecedented tourism boom ahead of high season  

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 1, 2023 21:24

Albania sees unprecedented tourism boom ahead of high season  

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  • But with the welcome increase in tourism, problems are arising in finding enough qualified workers to fill positions.

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TIRANA, May 29, 2023 - If you are noticing a far larger number of foreign visitors around Tirana these days, you are not alone: Albania is seeing a record number this spring and is set to have the busiest tourism year ever, according to official state data and hospitality industry representatives. 

About 1.7 million foreign visitors entered Albania in the January-April period, overturning the previous trend of tourist numbers being usually low until the end of May, peaking in July-August, according to figures from Albania’s Institute of Statistics, better known as INSTAT. 

In April 2023 alone 614,256 foreign visitors arrived, an increase of 52.8 percent compared to April 2022. For the first four months, the number was 1,684,820 -- a 57 percent increase compared to the same period in 2022, according to INSTAT. 

The data shows the lion’s share of visitors come from Europe, followed by North America and Asia in much smaller numbers. 

In addition to the thousands of tourists roaming around Tirana, seaside resorts in Durres report opening the season earlier, thousands of central Europeans descending on Albanian beaches. The latter are typically on package holidays and the trend is likely to continue all summer as hotels and resorts have contracts in place to be at capacity. 

A combination of factors are behind Albania’s recent tourism boom: post-pandemic pent-up demand in Europe, relative affordability compared to other parts of southern Europe, positive word-of-mouth and media coverage from people who visited during the pandemic as well as changes in Albania’s main airport that led to low cost airline access, which has made flying into the country considerably cheaper. 

-Troubles finding staff continue- 

But with the welcome boom in tourism, problems are arising in finding enough qualified workers to fill positions.

Tourists like Albania’s natural beauty, relative affordability and the growing numbers of new hotels, but they are unhappy with the service they get from the hospitality staff, several recent media reports indicate.

"Restaurants and hotels are really good, but the staff has a lot of issues with communicating with foreign tourists. Road infrastructure was also a problem. But we did like being in Albania and will be back,” an Austrian tourist tells Albanian media. 

Another tourist referred to her hotel staff as “disorganized” and “a little aggressive.”

Domestic Albanian tourists have complained for years that improper service was the worst part of vacationing in Albania’s otherwise wonderful tourist areas.

Feriolt Ozuni, a tourism expert and head of a tourist agency, said that finding qualified or semi-qualified staff is a big challenge.

"The tourism industry needs at least 35 percent more staff, as this type of industry needs a seasonal guarantee period. We are forced to hire untrained staff, which affects the quality of services, but we have no other choice for some services,” Mr. Ozuni says.

The tourism sector in Albania is increasingly recognizing the need for employees due to the high rates of young people emigrating, but also challenges with staff qualification.

Vocational education in the tourism field, although it has been evaluated as a priority by the authorities, is seeing a decrease in the number of students year after year, according to official data.

Experts note that attention in tourism should be focused on the preparation of human resources just as much as the massive investment in building new multi-million euro hotels and resorts. 

-Off-season growth a welcome change-

The off-season growth in 2023 is welcome news for authorities and tourism businesses, but Albania remains a highly-seasonal destination, something the government has tried to change in recent years. 

Croatia, Greece, Bulgaria, Albania and Montenegro have been ranked by Eurostat among the countries with the highest tourist seasonality in Europe.

In total, about a third of tourist nights in Europe are spent in July and August, according to Eurostat. While in Albania, this share reached about 46 percent, according to a report by Monitor magazine, based on Eurostat statistics, placing Albania third after Croatia (59 percent) and Bulgaria (48 percent), leaving behind Greece (43 percent).

About 3.83 million overnight stays were recorded in Albania in 2022, with an increase of 20 percent compared to the previous year. The improvement took place in the first part of the year, while in August overnight stays fell by 2.5 percent. After an improvement in September and October, again November and December had a downward trend.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 1, 2023 21:24