September 8 (SeeNews) – Albania’s priority in tourism is to transform itself into a high-end tourist destination, rather than to further increase the number of tourists, as it seeks to exploit its unspoilt nature and vast cultural heritage, said Minister of Tourism and Environment Mirela Kumbaro. , said.
“We are aiming for sustainable tourism, elite tourism, tourists who stay longer and spend more, tourists who come to Albania not only for the beaches, but also for nature, protected areas, culture, cuisine and it is the vision that is reflected. in the new tourism strategy that we are developing,” Kumbaro told SeeNews in a recent interview.
According to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism contributed 22% to the country’s GDP in 2022.
As soaring prices have pushed European households to cut spending in recent months, Albania has emerged as a more affordable alternative to other Mediterranean countries, including neighboring Italy. In the first seven months of the year, the number of tourists increased by 31%. In 2022, no less than 7.5 million foreign tourists visited the country, an increase of one third compared to the previous year. Citizens of Kosovo, Italy, Greece, North Macedonia and Montenegro make up the largest group.
However, the number of tourists from Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania increased by 40-60% in 2023 compared to the same period in 2022, according to Kumbaro. In addition, the number of tourists from Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Turkey and China more than doubled, she added.
The increase in tourist numbers has translated into record revenues. In 2022, foreign visitors spent 2.8 billion euros ($3 billion) in the country, Kumbaro said, citing Bank of Albania data.
“(It’s) a record number, which I think we will surpass this year,” she continued.
To achieve its goals, Albania is now seeking to move away from the low-end tourism product and attract luxury accommodation brands through various regulatory incentives, such as exemption from income tax and the infrastructure tax for a period of ten years.
“Of course, everything has to start with the legal framework – without proper regulation, we cannot attract investment,” Kumbaro commented.
The American companies Marriott International, Radisson, Hilton and Hyatt, the Spanish hotel group Melia Hotels International, the German company Maritim and the British group InterContinental Hotels Group reacted quickly and opened hotels, or are in the process of doing so. Until five years ago, none of these brands operated in Albania, the minister stressed.
Investments in infrastructure have also been a priority for the government. Albania is currently building an international airport, its third, near the city of Vlora, providing tourists with immediate access to the Albanian Riviera. Investments are also underway in the marinas of Durres and Vlora, and the port of Durres is set to undergo a complete overhaul.
“Tourism is a sector that needs to be developed by private initiative, while the government creates a welcoming environment for investors, a clear and simple legal framework and improves public infrastructure, as it has been doing for all these years. “, Kumbaro said.
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