The tourism sector can boost investment in Albania

16 Novembre 2011

Blighted by over-enthusiastic tourism development, Europe's Mediterranean coast today has just one virgin territory left on it.

The secret of Albania's Adriatic coast is about to come out, but industry figures insist that the government needs to do more to encourage development - and also to make sure it's the right kind.

In early November, travel guide publisher Frommers followed Lonely Planet in nominating Albania as its top destination for 2012, extolling the country's unspoilt coast, mountain ranges, historical offerings (three Unesco sites), cuisine and hospitality, all of which come at rock bottom prices for Europe. This has encouraged excitement in the government that the tourism sector can boost investment, GDP and employment.

It's no surprise to the state, which has raised spending on infrastructure dramatically over the last few years to create a backbone to develop the industry. Roads have led the way, with investment peaking at $1.2bn in 2008, compared with around eight times less in 2004.

Aldo Bumci, minister of tourism and culture, points out that further investment has been made in upgrading and extending the utilities networks in regions with tourism potential, all of which helped boost visitor numbers by 20% in 2010, he says.

The minister claims that the large role of the grey economy in the sector makes it difficult to put an exact figure on tourism's overall contribution to the country, estimating it at 10-15% of GDP currently. Many in the industry, such as Volker Muhle, head of Lufthansa for Albania, suggest it has the potential to constitute 30% of the economy within the next decade. They stress, however, that depends on a comprehensive strategy from the government, a component that Roger Cherubini, general manager for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts in Albania, agrees is missing.

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