Albania is a parliamentary republic, where the legislative power belongs to the Albania’s Assembly and the head of the state is the President who is elected by the Assembly for a five year mandate with the right to be re-elected. The Council of Ministers is the highest executive and commanding organ which is directed by Prime Minister.
According to Census 2011 preliminary results Albania has a population of 2,831,741 inhabitants in a surface of 28,748 sq km. Albania is located in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula. The country has a 750 km borderline with Montenegro to the North, Kosovo to the Northeast, Macedonia to the East, Greece to the South and Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea (Italy) to the West.
Albania has Mediterranean climate, which is characterized by hot summers and mild winters with abundant rainfalls. The period from June to September is hot, while from October to May is cool and wet. The average annual temperature varies from + 15oC in the north to + 16.5oC in the south. The hottest month is July with an average temperature of + 25oC and the coldest month is January with an average of +6oC, although the record temperature has been -34oC. “
For almost 45 years the communist regime, which was installed in Albania after the Second World War, left the country aside the rest of the world being part of the communist bloc of the Eastern Europe. The communist regime of Tirana even went further by isolating Albanian people totally and brought the country to collapse. With the fall of communist regimes of the Eastern Europe, Albania was the last one to join the free world. A democratic system was setup in power in 1992. Due to government’s commitment to a free market economy, the country undertook a programme of reforms and made great efforts to recover from the fall of communist regime. However, the collapse of the fraudulent pyramid schemes in 1997 and the instability that followed were a tremendous setback for Albania. But the country did pursuit its way toward its dream, to be part of the European community. Till there country has made a great progress. Two big achievements are accomplished, in June 2006, the Albanian Government signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union (EU), the first step in the EU accession process and three years later, in April 2009, Albania became a NATO member country. Now country is looking to accessing negotiations to be an EU member country. A range of reforms are progressing markedly over the last decade to Albania’s economy and administration such as reforms in infrastructure development, tax collection, property law, business administration, judiciary system.
The country was largely spared from the severe fallout of the 2008-2009 financial crisis since its economy is not heavily integrated into the Euro-Atlantic system.
Economic progress of the country has slowed but remained positive, in each year from 2009 to 2011. The government’s main task is to maintain positive economic growth while preserving macroeconomic stability. Major challenges are the difficult fiscal and budgetary environment and the crises in the Eurozone, especially in neighboring Greece and Italy (major trading partners of Albania with a large presence in the banking sector and also host to roughly one million Albanian emigrants).
In 2011, GDP was estimated to have reached close to $13 billion. Major contributors to GDP according to 2010 preliminary data were: service sector with 57.6% including trade, hotels, and restaurants (20.9%), transport (6.3%), communication (3.4%), and other services 27%; agriculture 20.3%; industry 11.3%; and construction 10.7%.
In 2011 unemployment officially stood at 13.3%. Half of the workforce is considered self-employed in the agriculture sector.
GDP per capita in 2011 is estimated to have reached $4,560. Although GDP per capita has steadily increased over the years, the country still ranks as one of the poorest countries in Europe according to major income indicators.
Albania has put in place a liberal foreign investment regime, and the government is working to improve the business climate through fiscal and legislative reforms and infrastructure improvements. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has increased significantly over the last few years and in 2010 reached $1.1 billion, up from $262 million in 2005. Since 2005, the Government of Albania has invested more than $2 billion in the country’s main road corridors, and it has pledged to continue investing heavily in improving transportation infrastructure. Electricity supply has also improved due to investments in new transmission lines and new generation sources as well as the privatization of the distribution system, which is gradually increasing efficiency.
The EU remains Albania’s main trading partner, providing 64.1% of Albania’s imports and receiving 72.5% of exports as of December 2011. Trade with Italy and Greece continues to represent the largest share of EU trade, with a combined 41.1% of imports and 58.3% of exports in 2011. Other major trading partners include Turkey, China, and Germany. The impact of CEFTA in Albania’s trade with member countries has been small.
2.1.2 Tourism in Albania
The Potentials for Tourism Development in Albania
Albania is a small country but a beautiful and fascinating country with substantial tourism development potential. Albania has an attractive coastline and a rich cultural and natural heritage. As Tourism Strategy on Culture and Environment  has highlighted, country “has a wide range of historic, cultural and natural attractions that are of great interest to international tourists”. The same assessment is made to the country’s very rich culture and heritage by Culture Marketing Strategy  document, too, stressing that “Albania has a very rich, distractive, and authentic culture and heritage – from the Greco-Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and other historic periods up to the modern day”. This assessment is mentioned also to verbatim comments from interviews with western tour operators and travel writers  , where one of them have citied that “Albania is an archaeological site from tip to toe, going back to Illyrian settlements, Greek colonies, Roman occupation, not to mention the invasions from Goths, Bulgars, Byzantines, Crusaders of the Holy Roman Empire and Ottomans who all but stopped time in tracks. Evidence of these civilizations are everywhere in Albania, and it’s time to let the world see the great and wondrous sitesâ€¦..”. Albania has 3 World Heritage Sites – Butrint, Gjirokaster and Berat. Beaches are long and sandy with hot sunny summers with about 250 sunny days. The mountain areas offer opportunities for niche tourism activities like hiking, biking, canoeing etc. Plenty of National Parks and other natural reserves offer ecological experiences. Country offers beautiful and diverse landscapes and abundant and varied flora and fauna.
Current tourism markets
Since the late 1990s, after the 97′ instability in the country and 99′ war in Kosovo, tourism activities are increasing. As figures  show there is a considerable increasing number of international visitors after the year 2000, due to the improvement of regional and inner country political climate and enhance of the security in the country. A big impact to the increase of the flux of tourists from Kosovo has show the new highway linking Albania with Kosovo. Even this increasing numbers are impressive, the tourism sector in Albania cannot be regarded as being well developed. Infrastructure has been till late a major limitation. The government in power has evaluated the development of infrastructure as very important and is investing heavily in improvements  .
Data from the table below shows that:
Total foreign visitor traffic increased by 18.4% in 2010 compared to 2009 to 3,612,000 visits. Taking into consideration the crisis time this is an excellent performance for Albanian tourism. 33% were non-resident Albanians and 66.1% were foreign staying visitors in 2010. Much of the increase came from Kosovo. This is evident to see the impact that the new highway with brought to Albanian tourism, a clear indicator of strong growth created by improvements in infrastructure.
According to MoTCYS data, for the year 2011 a total of some four million visitors entered in Albania. They included 2,734,000 foreign tourists and 1,267,000 non-resident Albanian nationality visitors.
The figures demonstrate that the biggest increase of foreign tourists in 2010 was coming from Kosovo with 48.79% followed by Macedonia with 11.43% compared to 2009. The foreign tourists from western countries haven’t made such a big progress. Also, as can be seen, the number of non-resident Albanians has been increasing in 2008 and 2009, while in 2010 the figure has faced a decrease.
From the table below can be seen the increasing number of visitors in July and August. Such a phenomenon is shaping drastically the seasonality of tourism in Albania. In 2010 the number of tourist that visited Albania in these two months was 55.44% compared to the number of all visitors. Also, another problem related to these figures is the high dependency in Balkan region tourist flow. This demonstrates that the tourists in July-August are coming only for sea and sand and populating only the coastal areas.
Strategic directions for tourism at national level
According to National Strategy for Tourism Development in Albania 2002 – 2012, developed with the assistance of GTZ, the main tourism products for Albanian tourism are defined sun and sea, business and special interest tourism  .
While the Strategy and Action Plan for the Development of the Albanian Tourism Sector Based on Cultural and Environmental Tourism was developed within the directions and structure established by the 2002 “Tourism Development Strategy 2002-2012 for Albania”.
This document provides a new orientation for the government to position Albania as an attractive destination for tourists seeking a unique experience which encourage them to discover Albania’s culture and nature. “Discovery of Albania” is a presentation of a broad cross-section of Albania’s history, nature, archaeology, living culture, cuisine and hospitality. The graphic below presents a simple schematic.
Core and Specialised Tourism Products
Source: Strategy for the Development of the Albanian Tourism Sector Based on Cultural and Environmental Tourism. Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports, UNDP December 2005
According to strategy document, “Albania’s core (primary) tourism product must be a general one that encourages visitors to discover the many facets of Albania’s culture and nature. Albania’s central product will be the “discovery” of Albania. The product is a presentation of a broad cross-section of Albania’s history, nature, archaeology living culture, cuisine and hospitality. Visitors participating in this discovery will leave with a lasting impression of the diversity, complexity and beauty of culture and the land. This segment does not make a strong distinction between cultural, natural and other tourism products. Visitors in this segment tend to combine many different activities during their visits, and usually see the various natural and cultural activities as part of the process of discovering the destination.”
Referring to the major market segments mentioned above, the tourism resources in Albania are in favor and support the types of community-based tourism, i.e. nature-based tourism, adventure tourism and cultural tourism. Considering these tourism resources, the following types of activities can be developed:
Visiting national parks and protected areas
Seeing rare species
Education and learning
Participation in local events; and
River and lake exploring.
Visiting cultural and heritage-related attractions
Visiting museums and art centres
Meeting with artists
Meeting people from various ethnic nationalities
Seeing local handicrafts and the process of making them
Visiting scenic landmarks and religious sites
Trying local food
Participating in local traditional ceremonies and festivals
Buying traditional crafts and local specialties.
Potential to development
Albania offers infinite potential to investors to take advantage of unexplored opportunities in tourism, and helping to develop this industry into a key strategic sector in the country’s economy.
Albania has a young population, with a high level of instruction and able to communicate with foregners in defferent languagies.
Albanian is located at short distances from the main European capital cities and albanians are friendly and very hospitable people. The improved Rinas international airport, and different ports from the north to the south easy the access to the country. The continuing improvement and development of the infrastructure in the country, is facilitating moving inside the country.
Continuing improvements are being made to encourage investors to develop the infrastructure for tourism in Albania.
Just like other countries in the Western Balkans, Albania has put into place legislation and investment initiatives designed to support the economic growth of the country compatible with European policies and working principles. The Albanian Government has made support of the current and future expansion of tourism a priority, with the goal of transforming the country into a Mediterranean tourist destination and placing it on the world map of tourism.
In an effort to support the continuing development of the tourism industry in Albania and to make this country a tourist destination, the importance of the active engagement of the local and international Business Community and strong Partnerships between community based organizations, government and regional development agencies is a must.
Internal transport is likely to remain a major limitation for tourism in the foreseeable future except perhaps for road transport along key highways where upgrading / reconstruction is already planned or committed. In the WEF Travel and Tourism
Competitiveness Report, Albania’s tourism infrastructure is rated in the bottom two in the region
(See Table 2.2).
In recent years there has been an increasing interest from incoming foreign tourists, especially with significant increasing numbers of international tourist groups generated from Croatia and Montenegro, organised in one or two days tours to Albania.
Also Business and Trade tourism accounts a considerable number of foreign visitors. Neighbour countries, such as Italy, Greece especially are related to trade and business purpose of visit of their nationals.
From the western tourists visiting Albania in 2006, are identified those arriving from Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Greece, USA, Canada, France, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Switzerland, the neighbouring countries and regions (Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonian, Bulgaria), East Europe (Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia).
Diaspora is another source for the inbound tourism, where the ethnic Albanians from Kosovo do count considerable numbers. The new road under construction from Milot (the crossroad to the highway Tirane-Shkoder) to Morini (the boarder-crossing point with Kosovo) will influence to increase the numbers of Kosovo’s citizens to access the Albanian coastal area.
The market profile of visitors who enter to Albania by road from Muriqani and Hani i Hotit (the boarder-crossing points with Montenegro) with interest for Shkodra region for the year 2006 is as below:
Foreigners who are living and working in Albania have also recently started to create an internal tourism demand. While there is no official record on domestic tourism in Albania, domestic tourism is the dominating form of tourism. This is mainly focussed on beach centred holidays.
1.3.2 National context for Tourism Development
Albania has a great potential for tourism development based on its natural, cultural and human resources. The country has an attractive coastline, rich biodiversity with lagoons, lakes and the mountain areas each with unique flora and fauna, unspoiled nature and attractive scenery, cultural and historical sites and interesting traditional life-styles. The country therefore has the potential to develop the types of tourism products that are in demand from the international market in the Mediterranean region.
Beside to the long and sandy beaches along the Adriatic coast and these rocky ones with crystal and clean sea waters of the Ionian coast, its natural and protected areas are basic for developing niche tourism activities such as eco-tourism and nature based activities. Such an activities can be hiking, trekking, walking, horseback-riding, river rafting, paragliding, mountain biking, climbing, canoeing, sightseeing, bird watching, fishing. Rural ‘green’ and agri-tourism offers new opportunities for communities to benefit from tourism by offering visitor experiences based on traditional lifestyles. Albania also can offer cultural tourism through its archaeological sites and historic cities and villages.
Albania is a short distance destination for Europe; it is within 3 hours of flying time of most major European cities and therefore is a short haul destination for the potentially huge European market, the World tourism Organisation predict that by 2020 the Mediterranean Region which includes Albania will be a ‘hotspot’ for tourism, thus there is a great potential for Albania to develop and expand its tourism industry.
On the other side, uncontrolled development in tourism areas has harmed the potential of these areas for tourism development. Even the measures taken by the government to legalise the illegal buildings are not considering for the moment those constructed in tourism areas, it is not clear what will be the measures taken in these areas to improve the environment by the harm of illegal buildings.
Some significant measures are taken recently by the government. These measures, at the national level, encompass strategy and policy documents such as, the development of the Strategy for Cultural and Environmental Tourism in 2005 and the development of a new tourism website in 2006. A new Tourism Law (Nr.9734, dated 14.5.2007) was adopted by the parliament and a number of regulations approved by the government is thought to regulate the tourism sector development.
Tourism development is the responsibility of the MoTCYS (Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports). NTA (National Tourism Agency) is an autonomous body outside the MoTCYS, being responsible for promotion activities through the production of promotional materials and participation in the international tourism fairs. The most attended fairs, regularly from years in Berlin (ITB) and London (WTM), and to RDA (Keln) from 2007. At the regional level, six tourist information offices are approved to be established in Tirana, Shkodra, Vlora, Saranda, Korça and Durres.
At the national level there are operating two business Associations for Tourism Travel Agencies and one Association of Hotels. A GTZ’s project on “Institutional building of tourism private sector in Albania” is in the process for the time being with the aim to establish a strong representation for all the sectors involved in tourism, with the common interest providing services to the members as well as building relationship and cooperation with the public sector.
Even the figures on tourist arrivals are growing considerably year after year in Albania, the country has remained highly dependant on summer holidays. Looking on the statistical data published recently in the websites of Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports (http://www.mtkrs.gov.al/) and of National Tourism Agency (http://www.akt.gov.al/akt/text.php?id=1&lang=1), is easily evident that the number of visitors visiting Albania succeeded 2.5 million in 2008 and only for the period January – August 2009 this figure was over passing 2.1 million. As reported by MTCYS, the number of visitors in 2008 (2.578.627 visitors) is compound as international visitors 1.330.138, from which 1.247.125 were overnight visitors and 83.013 same day visitors, and 1.248.489 visitors were Albanian nationals residing abroad. While the number of visitors for the period January – August 2009 (2.111.981 visitors) is compound as 1.402.558 international visitors and 709.423 Albanian nationals residing abroad.
But does this picture speak for real success in the development of Albania’s tourism as a tourist destination visited by the western tourists? We have to bear in mind that the main reason for the development of tourism is attracting foreign visitors from countries with strong currencies. Tourism is considered a hidden export that brings money (hard currency) to the country.
Referring to the “Strategy and Action Plan for the Development of the Albanian Tourism Sector Based on Cultural and Environmental Tourism” produced by Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports with the support of UNDP in 2005, “Albania will specialize in attracting educated, independent travelers and specialized group travelers. The principal target markets will be upper-middle income individuals from Europe (primarily northern Europe and the United Kingdom) and North America. This segment represents the demographic segment with the highest willingness to pay for Albania’s unique products, and whose spending patterns will most contribute to advancing development goals.” Also, in this strategic document is specified that “Albania’s central product will be the “discovery” of Albania. The product is a presentation of a broad cross-section of Albania’s history, nature, archaeology, living culture, cuisine and hospitality. Visitors participating in this discovery will leave with a lasting impression of the diversity, complexity and beauty of the culture and the land”. The question is this: Are these kind of tourists visiting Albania contributing to this strategic direction? The answer is, NO.
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