Cultural tourism strategy and action plan english 2005

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Cultural tourism strategy and action plan english 2005

  1. 1. Albania Strategy and Action Plan for the Development of the Albanian Tourism Sector Based on Cultural and Environmental Tourism December 2005Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 1
  2. 2. Strategy and Action Plan for the Development of the Albanian Tourism Sector Based on Cultural and Environmental Tourism Incorporating Stakeholder Positions Based on Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports Position and Vision Paper Report to the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports December 2005 Process Facilitated by: Lawrence Pratt UNDP External ConsultantTourism Strategy and Action Plan page 2
  3. 3. EXECUTIVE SUMMARYI. Background and ProcessThe Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports has prepared a position paper titled “Towarda Strategy for Culture Tourism and Ecotourism Development.” The key elements put forth are:“Challenges for the preservation of the biodiversity and culture heritage as well as theeconomic growth based on: • Promotion of the importance of the nature and culture heritage and culture tourism and ecotourism development as a base for the new possible development; • …… • Providing sustainable management of tourism’s impact on nature and culture heritage sites.Linkages and advantages for involved sectors: • Income for the tourism industry through sustainable tourism, extension of the tourism season, growth of the tourism market with high expenditure tourists, • Improvement of the image of Albania in the world, • Better conservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage sites, • New employment and income generation from cultural tourism and ecotourism in the local communities; • Local residents will perceive benefits from local products”The consultant directed a process to review this vision within the overall framework of the 1993Tourism Law and the directions and structure established by the 2002 Tourism Strategy. Theobjective was to establish a clear direction for a national tourism strategy oriented toward natureand culture-based tourism. The process and the resulting document present a synthesis andrecapitulation of the Ministry’s position, as informed by meetings with a broad range ofstakeholders.II. Tourism Strategy Framework A. The Objective of Tourism is to Advance Development GoalsThe overall goal of tourism development for Albania is to increase the quality of life of asignificant and increasing number of Albanians. Tourism development should be measured andevaluated in the medium to long term on its ability to advance the well-being of the Albanianpeople.More tourism does not mean necessarily more development or more income for Albanians. Thetype of tourism a country chooses to develop is the primary determinant of the contribution to thewellbeing of its people.An emphasis on nature and cultural tourism in Albania will maintain an important focus onbenefiting rural and provincial communities that currently face limited economic opportunitiesand risk becoming unviable.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 3
  4. 4. B. General Assessment1Albania is a beautiful and fascinating country. It has a wide range of historic, cultural andnatural attractions that are of great interest to international tourists. The country is safe, and itspeople are welcoming and friendly. Most importantly, the country is still “authentic.” It remainslargely unspoiled by foreign influence.Albania is not an easy tourism destination for international markets to understand. It offers thepotential for dozens of distinct tourism activities in dozens of destinations. Individually, all areinteresting, but few are unique or sufficiently compelling by themselves to draw internationaltourists.The understanding and appreciation – through the “discovery” of Albania – is how the countryrealizes its maximum tourism potential. Experiences that unlock new discoveries for visitors arethe most valuable tourism products in the world.“Discovery” is of interest primarily to educated, relatively affluent international tourists2. Thisdemographic segment spends considerably more for tourism products and their spending patternsare highly favorable for development, as they prefer to interact directly in the communities theyvisit (shops, restaurants, and other local businesses).This segment does not make a strong distinction between cultural, natural and other tourismproducts. Visitors in this segment tend to combine many different activities during their visit, andusually see the various natural and cultural activities as part of the process of discovering thedestination.Albania’s core (primary) tourism product must be a general one that encourages visitors todiscover the many facets of Albania’s culture and nature. Specialized tourism products canand should be developed under the general umbrella, broadening the diversity of products for thecore tourism market and specialty markets. Graphic one presents a simple schematic. C. Strategic Positioning of Albania’s Tourism Sector “Albania is a safe, high-value tourism destination featuring an unparalleled variety of world-class natural and cultural attractions in a small geographic area, managed in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, easily accessible to European tourism markets.”Albania will seek to position itself as an attractive destination for tourists seeking a uniqueexperience featuring high quality cultural sites and nature destinations presented in a truly“authentic” way.Albania’s central product will be the “discovery” of Albania. The product is a presentation of abroad cross-section of Albania’s history, nature, archaeology, living culture, cuisine and1 Based on the review of existing tour books, extensive documentation provided by the Ministry, UNDP, NGOs and anumber of other stakeholders, and site visits to Durres, Vlora, Llogaraja, Himara, Saranda, Butrint, Gyrokaster, andBerat.2 In most countries, but particularly in wealthy western countries and Japan, there is a direct correlation between levelof education and income.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 4
  5. 5. hospitality. Visitors participating in this discovery will leave with a lasting impression of thediversity, complexity and beauty of the culture and the land.Albania will specialize in attracting educated, independent travelers and specialized grouptravelers. The principal target markets will be upper-middle income individuals from Europe(primarily northern Europe and the United Kingdom) and North America. This segmentrepresents the demographic segment with the highest willingness to pay for Albania’s uniqueproducts, and whose spending patterns will most contribute to advancing development goals.Albania´s strength will be in creating value for tourists in a wide variety of geographic locations.This approach opens more of the country to “discovery”, which: - creates spaces for the diverse local culture to express itself, in particular the particular customs and traditions of the various regions of the country. - allows more provincial and rural communities to participate in, and benefit from, tourism visitation and development. - permits the development of complementary specialty tourism markets (such as trekking, climbing, diving, agriculture, hunting and fishing, archaeology, culinary, festivals, among others), within the existing infrastructure and proposed central tourism product.In keeping with the concept of authenticity, lodging, dining and other hospitality elements will bedeveloped wherever possible in small to medium-scale, locally-owned businesses. This approachreinforces visitor connections with the cities and sites and creates greater income generation inthe communities.Ensuring repeat visits and achieving “word of mouth” recommendations will be the key tosustainable tourism development. This ultimately will depend on the long-term quality ofcultural sites and nature destinations and the overall experience of visitors based on theknowledge and interpretation of their guides. D. JustificationCulture, adventure and “ecotourism”3 are considered to be the fastest growing tourism marketsworldwide – 15 to 20% per year, and respresenting more than 25% of the market.Traditional “sun and sand” tourism (large-scale, undifferentiated packages) is losing ground toecotourism, cultural tourism and adventure tourism. While sun and sand tourism remains thelargest tourism segment in international tourism, it is experiencing growth rates of no more than 2to 4 percent per year.4Neighboring countries, such as Greece, Turkey and Croatia are focusing their efforts on sun andsand tourism, further crowding an already very crowded tourism market (which also includesNorth Africa, Coastal Spain, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean islands, and many others). Albania hasa unique opportunity to differentiate itself from neighbors and avoid a crowded market withdecreasing revenues and profits.3 The International Ecotourism Society (TIES, at www.ecotourism.org) defined ecotourism as “responsible travel tonatural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”4 World Tourism OrganizationTourism Strategy and Action Plan page 5
  6. 6. Tourism focused on independent tourists visiting local communities and participating actively innature and culture activities has been shown to yield 5 to 10 times more development benefit thanlarge-scale sun and sand tourism per dollar of tourist spending.Unfortunately, for Albania there are no real alternative positions. While the unique marketposition is born primarily of necessity, it is a powerful position in the international market place.Albania appears to be ideally situated to meet the shifting demands of an increasingly nature andculture oriented tourism market.III. ChallengesThe development of Albania’s tourism sector presents a number of challenges. There are generaltourism development that all countries face as they enter international markets, and specificchallenges related to establishing a successful nature and culture-based destination. (described inmore detail in the full document). Three however, are particularly critical. • Large-scale sun and sand tourism presented in all-inclusive packages in isolated tourism complexes will likely do great harm to the country’s efforts to build a high-value sector. The massive sun and sand tourism is a highly competitive segment that attracts primarily discount-oriented travelers. The arrival of large numbers of this tourism segment tends to make destinations much less attractive to higher-end tourists. A similar effect has been observed with the arrival of large cruise ships. • Tourism growth can be slow in the early years. If successful, the sector will begin small, but grow rapidly as it gains a positive international reputation. While it will be possible to observe progress and measure advances with meaningful indicators, the tangible benefits critical for ongoing political support and commitment will be observed in the medium term. • The concept of sustainability is built into the strategic position by necessity. Without aggressive efforts to ensure the sustainability of the natural and cultural resources, Albania cannot reasonably expect to maintain a market position capable of attracting international tourists. Without involving the local communities and providing real opportunities to participate in and benefit from the development process, the attractions will continue to be degraded, or converted to other economic uses – nearly all of which offer much less long-term development potential than tourism. • Investment must be planned in the short, medium and long term. The nation as a whole cannot enter this commitment lightly. Success in international markets requires consistency in message and market presence year after year. It requires investment of political capital across branches of government and between the private, public and civil society sectors.IV. Action PlanIn operational terms, the country is ready to move forward with its tourism sector. The country has the capacity today to receive substantially more overnight international tourists than it is currently receiving. Although the country is not ready for aggressive marketing to broad international markets, it is absolutelyTourism Strategy and Action Plan page 6
  7. 7. ready to receive tens of thousands of additional adventurous, “pioneering” tourists who are willing to be flexible and “forgiving” in exchange for being among the first to experience a unique new destination.The numerous challenges that Albania faces must be addressed, but most need not be solved priorto beginning tourism promotion. However, due to the interrelated nature of the identifiedchallenges, the country must begin work immediately in a number of areas in order for tourism togrow effectively.The specific items of the Action Plan are presented as priorities in nine different areas. • Awareness and Marketing • Product Development • Investments in Nature Areas to Strengthen the Tourism Sector • Investments in Culture to Strengthen the Tourism Sector • Human Resources • Infrastructure • Business Climate • Enhancement of Tourist Experience • Data and Information ManagementTourism Strategy and Action Plan page 7
  8. 8. STRATEGY AND ACTION PLANI. Background and ProcessThis document was prepared as part of a short-term consulting process supported by the UnitedNations Development Program’s Albania Office. The goal of the effort is to facilitate the processof strategy design and implementation directed by the Albanian Ministry of Tourism, Culture,Youth and Sports. This process takes as its basis the existing legal and policy framework(including the 1993 Tourism Law and the 2002 National Tourism Strategy), and position papersdeveloped by the Ministry as presented by Minister Leskay on November 23, 2005 to a broadgroup of stakeholders. A. Ministry Position Paper and VisionThe Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports has prepared a position paper titled “Towarda Strategy for Culture Tourism and Ecotourism Development.” The key elements put forth by theMinister of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports in the above document are:Challenges for the preservation of the biodiversity and culture heritage as well as theeconomic growth based on: • Promotion of the importance of the nature and culture heritage and culture tourism and ecotourism development as a base for the new possible development; • Coordination of the strategic interest and activities among sectors; • Establishing the processes that provide for the involvement and engagement of all stakeholders; • The design of a regulatory framework on cultural tourism and ecotourism development, as well as for management and development processes over time; and, • Providing sustainable management of tourism’s impact on nature and culture heritage sites.Linkages and advantages for involved sectors: • Income for the tourism industry through sustainable tourism, extension of the tourism season, growth of the tourism market with high expenditure tourists, • Improvement of the image of Albania in the world, • Better conservation of biodiversity and cultural heritage sites, • New employment and income generation from cultural tourism and ecotourism in the local communities; • Local residents will perceive benefits from local products, • Increasing the sponsorship and financial support for the tourism activities, B. The Tourism Law of 1993The Tourism Law No. 7665 of January 21, 1993 “Concerning the development of tourism priorityareas” and its amendments provides the overarching legal framework under which the country’stourism strategies have been developed. The most critical relevant points for this law and by-lawswere those issues the country faced at that point in its history. It is not clear that the existing lawcan provide the necessary structure moving forward. Among the areas of concern:Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 8
  9. 9. a. The existing law is not a modern and comprehensive law for the tourism development, but rather an appropriate response to the priority issues the country faced in 1993; b. There is a shortage of additional clarifying regulations for tourism development; c. The responsibilities for the department of tourism within the Ministry and all other ministries and institutions touching the field of tourism are not clearly defined,Under the “Tourism Development Strategy in Albania” there is a specific objective to update theexisting laws and regulations as a specific and comprehensive legal and regulatory framework,which provides common guidance to all partners in the tourism industry. C. Tourism Development Strategy in Albania (2002)The Ministry of Territory Adjustment and Tourism presented in 2002 the “Tourism DevelopmentStrategy in Albania”. This strategy was the first concerted effort by the country to bring forth aconcrete plan and objectives for the development of the nascent tourism sector. The main macro-economic objectives of the long-term tourism strategy of the tourism sector development are to: • generate jobs and income, • accelerate economic and social development throughout the country, • improve living conditions in Albania, • initiate economic activities, • create a positive image of the country internationally as a tourism destination, • increase the revenue of foreign currency and tax income for the government, and • develop sustainable and environmentally friendly tourism.Among the most relevant aspects of this strategy are: • Pre-conditions for Tourism Development; • Policy statement and vision for 2012, with market related objectives, and strategic directions for the long-term tourism strategy; • Alignment of the Tourism Sector among ministries and central institutions, local government, private sector operators and tourism industry associations and other related NGOs; • Objectives, tourism products, distribution, communication, source markets and target markets for Sun and Beach Tourism, Special Interest Tourism, and Urban Tourism/Business and Congress Tourism in the framework of strategies for the tourism products. • Development directions for the institutions in the tourism area, for education and training, and for legislation and regulations in the frame of the institutional support, and • Tourism development strategy implementation and the Action Plan for the period 2003- 2006The present document is presented within the overall framework of the 1993 Tourism Law andthe directions and structure established by the 2002 Strategy. The objective is to establish a cleardirection for a national tourism strategy oriented toward nature and culture-based tourism. Itprovides an operational and action-oriented strategy for establishing Albania in internationaltourism markets.This document presents a synthesis and recapitulation of the Ministry’s position, as informed bymeetings with a broad range of stakeholders, including:Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 9
  10. 10. 1) The Ministry’s Working Group 2) Additional staff of the Ministry 3) Staff of other Ministries 4) NGO representatives in environmental protection and local government development 5) Tourism industry participants (Tirana based, as well as Saranda, Gjirokaster and Berat, individual business people and associations) 6) Multilateral and bilateral assistance programs and agencies, and their implementing organizations.Appendix I presents a list of organizations and individuals contacted during the mission.The various positions, recommendations and concerns were taken into consideration and analyzedin the context of the Ministry’s position paper, and based on the consultants’ experience ontourism development and mechanisms to support long-term development of nature and culture-based tourism.The document is presented in four parts. The first is the institutional background. The second is aconcise articulation of Albania’s strategic framework for achieving success in internationalmarkets. The third is a discussion of the challenges that Albania faces in developing tourism, andthe fourth is an Action Plan to address priority areas.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 10
  11. 11. II. Tourism Strategy Framework A. The Objective of Tourism is to Advance Development GoalsThe overall goal of tourism development for Albania is to increase the quality of life of asignificant and increasing number of Albanians. Tourism development should be measured andevaluated in the medium to long term on its ability to advance the well-being of the Albanianpeople. In this regard, it can (and should be) a piece of the country’s strategy toward meeting itspressing development priorities, such as the country’s commitment to the MilleniumDevelopment Goals.The vision established by the Ministry articulates this commitment: • “Cultural tourism and ecotourism are the most important part of the Albania tourism product and successful elements of the national economy • Ecotourism is a real alternative for the improvement of incomes within rural communities.”More tourism does not mean necessarily more development or more income for Albanians. Thetype of tourism a country chooses to develop is the primary determinant of the contribution to thewellbeing of its people. Even within geographic regions, the development impact of tourism canvary enormously. For example, in Central America, tourism focused on independent touristsvisiting local communities and participating actively in nature and culture activities has beenshown to yield 5 to 10 times more development per dollar of tourist spending than large-scalepackage-based tourism oriented sun and sand.5An emphasis on nature and cultural tourism in Albania will maintain an important focus onbenefiting rural and provincial communities that currently face limited economic opportunitiesand risk becoming unviable.The desired tangible benefits from a successful tourism strategy will be increased employment,additional income for households (primary or supplementary), improved infrastructure, andenhanced tax revenue to contribute to improved health care, education, and other humandevelopment objectives.Less tangible benefits include the validation of local culture and traditions, opportunities to keepyounger generations interested in staying in (or returning to) their home towns, and contact andinterchange with people from other cultures. B. General Assessment6Albania is a beautiful and fascinating country. It has a wide range of historic, cultural and naturalattractions that are of great interest to international tourists. The country is safe, and its people arewelcoming and friendly. Most importantly, the country is still “authentic.” It remains largely5 Inman et al 1999.6 Based on the review of existing tour books, extensive documentation provided by the Ministry, UNDP, NGOs and anumber of other stakeholders, and site visits to Durres, Vlora, Llogaraja, Himara, Saranda, Butrint, Gyrokaster, andBerat.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 11
  12. 12. unspoiled by foreign influence, people live and work in traditional ways in much of the country,and local culture expresses itself in every possible way on a regional basis – even town to town.7The combination of these factors makes the country unique, and its potential value tointernational tourism markets very high.Albania is not an easy tourism destination for international markets to understand. It offers thepotential for dozens of distinct tourism activities in dozens of destinations. Individually, all areinteresting, but few are unique or sufficiently compelling by themselves to draw internationaltourists. It is precisely the combination of activities and destinations within the country thatoffers the best possibility of building a successful tourism sector.The country is complex. Its culture, history, geography and archeology are fascinating, butcomplicated and not easily accessible, even to well-educated tourists. For a non-Albanian, it isvirtually impossible to understand and fully appreciate the country without substantial assistance.However, it is this understanding and appreciation – through the “discovery” of Albania – thatthe country realizes its maximum tourism potential. Experiences that unlock new discoveries forvisitors are the most valuable tourism products in the world, because of who they attract, andhow they spend their money in a country.The discovery of Albania through its natural and cultural attractions is of interest primarily toeducated, relatively affluent international tourists8. This demographic segment spendsconsiderably more for tourism products that include new experiences such as education,adventure and culture. In addition, their spending patterns are highly favorable for development,as they prefer to interact directly in the communities they visit (shops, restaurants, and other localbusinesses) and tend to purchase a great deal of locally provided products and services, inparticular excursions, guided cultural and nature tours, adventure experiences, and handicrafts.This segment does not make a strong distinction between cultural, natural and other tourismproducts. Visitors in this segment tend to combine many different activities during their visit, andusually see the various natural and cultural activities as part of the process of discovering thedestination.Typical vacation periods for this segment are from 8 to 14 days. During this period, visitorsprefer to visit several destinations, usually in 2 to 3-day blocks centered around a central location.Albania’s geography and cultural are ideally suited to this approach. There are already greatadvances in tourism product development in a number of cities, with several possessing strategiesand plans for multi-day itineraries based on their culture, history and nature.9Discovery of Albania will depend on detailed explanations and interpretation that open theculture and its history to understanding by outsiders.7 For example, wines, white cheese, olives and lamb have distinct flavors village to village. Attitudes, historyethnography and cultural traditions are substantially different across very small geographic areas.8 In most countries, but particularly in wealthy western countries and Japan, there is a direct correlation between levelof education and income.9 The Tirana, Saranda, Gjirokaster, Berat, Vlora, Shkodra, Korçe and Kruja regions are ready with interestingitineraries. For example in the Vlora regionm, the MEDWET organization has produced an outstanding guidebookdetailing the cultural and natural monuments, and the AULEDA organization is working with local communities forsmall town bed and breakfast lodging focused on small towns with interesting nature and culture. With minimaladditional effort, a number of itineraries could be designed to offer tourists guided tours of many combinations.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 12
  13. 13. Albania must be sold on international markets as Albania. Albania does not have strong enoughassets for its central marketing position to be either geographically-based (South versus Northversus coast) or thematically-based alone (eco-tourism, cultural monuments, etc).Albania’s core (primary) tourism product must be a general one that encourages visitors todiscover the many facets of Albania’s culture and nature. Specialized tourism products canand should be developed under the general umbrella, broadening the diversity of products for thecore tourism market and specialty markets. Graphic one presents a simple schematic.Graphic 1: Core and Specialized Tourism Products C. Strategic Positioning of Albania’s Tourism SectorBased on the Ministry’s established direction and a clear validation of this position by a broadbase of stakeholders, Albania’s proposed strategic position can be articulated as: “Albania is a safe, high-value tourism destination featuring an unparalleled variety of world-class natural and cultural attractions in a small geographic area, managed in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, easily accessible to European tourism markets.”Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 13
  14. 14. D. General StrategyAlbania will seek to position itself as an attractive destination for tourists seeking a uniqueexperience featuring high quality cultural sites and nature destinations presented in a truly“authentic” way.Albania’s central product will be the “discovery” of Albania. The product is a presentation of abroad cross-section of Albania’s history, nature, archaeology, living culture, cuisine andhospitality. Visitors participating in this discovery will leave with a lasting impression of thediversity, complexity and beauty of the culture and the land.Albania will specialize in attracting educated, independent travelers and specialized grouptravelers. The principal target markets will be upper-middle income individuals from Europe(primarily northern Europe and the United Kingdom) and North America. This segmentrepresents the demographic segment with the highest willingness to pay for Albania’s uniqueproducts, and whose spending patterns will most contribute to advancing development goals.Albania´s strength will be in creating value for tourists in a wide variety of geographic locations.This approach opens more of the country to “discovery”, which: - broadens the products offered, strengthening the range and diversity available to visitors. - creates spaces for the diverse local culture to express itself, in particular the particular customs and traditions of the various regions of the country. - allows more provincial and rural communities to participate in, and benefit from, tourism visitation and development. - creates the basis for geographic linking of tourism with neighboring countries-- increasing visibility and permitting tourism to develop in provincial and rural areas, bringing development opportunities to a broader section of the population. - permits the development of complementary specialty tourism markets (such as trekking, climbing, diving, agriculture, hunting and fishing, archaeology, culinary, festivals, among others), within the existing infrastructure and proposed central tourism product.Albanian tourism will grow “organically” as an authentic destination, true to its culture, historyand natural environment. International best practices in nature and culture tourism, hospitalityand logistics will be studied and adapted to Albania’s specific needs and cultural context.In keeping with the concept of authenticity, lodging, dining and other hospitality elements will bedeveloped wherever possible in small to medium-scale, locally-owned businesses. This approachreinforces visitor connections with the cities and sites and creates greater income generation inthe communities.Tourism growth will be driven and supported by conscientious marketing, creative design ofproducts, appropriate infrastructure, high quality human resources, and a tourism “businessclimate” with clear rules of the game and appropriate structures to ensure its long-term economicviability.Ensuring repeat visits and achieving “word of mouth” recommendations will be the key tosustainable tourism development. This ultimately will depend on the long-term quality ofcultural sites and nature destinations and the overall experience of visitors based on theknowledge and interpretation of their guides.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 14
  15. 15. To create a virtuous cycle of sustainable development based on tourism, the Government ofAlbania (GoA) must, together with municipalities, tourism operators, and NGOs, protect andenhance the sites, parks, cities and protected areas that are the core assets of its tourism sector. E. JustificationAlbania has excellent tourism development potential. Many cultural and natural resourceattractions are of very high quality and would likely receive high levels of visitation if they weremore widely publicized within target populations.Albania can position itself successfully upon its impressive comparative advantages of highquality sites in a close geographic area, and create an identifiable position in the internationalmarket place based on the discovery of the country.More important for Albania, however, are the trends in tourism preferences. Culture, adventureand “ecotourism”10 are considered to be the fastest growing tourism markets worldwide. Theirpopularity points to a switch away from “passive” resort-based vacations, which havecharacterized the development of mass tourism since the 1970s. “Theme” travels centered onspecial-interest activities such as discovery and adventure, sports, and education are increasinglypopular.Traditional “sun and sand” tourism (large-scale, undifferentiated packages) is losing ground toecotourism, cultural tourism and adventure tourism. While sun and sand tourism remains thelargest tourism segment in international tourism, it is experiencing growth rates of no more than 2to 4 percent per year.11 Meanwhile, markets for cultural tourism are currently believed torepresent more than 60 million tourists per year, with annual growth rates of 15% projectedthrough 2010.12 Adventure tourism is another small but rapidly growing segment, with nearly 5million annual tourists, and growth rates in the 20% range.13 Depending on the definition, the fullrange of nature-oriented tourism could represent as much as half of all tourism, and has shownspectacular growth rates for more than a decade.Neighboring countries, such as Greece, Turkey and Croatia are focusing their efforts on sun andsand tourism, further crowding an already very crowded tourism market (which also includesNorth Africa, Coastal Spain, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean islands, and many others). Albania hasa unique opportunity to differentiate itself from neighbors and avoid a crowded market withdecreasing revenues and profits.Tourists now evaluate a country’s environmental responsibility and conservation efforts.Consumers from developed countries may change their buying decisions based on the perceptionof negative environmental impacts or performance.Tourism focused on independent tourists visiting local communities and participating actively innature and culture activities has been shown to yield 5 to 10 times more development benefit thanlarge-scale sun and sand tourism per dollar of tourist spending. Studies conducted by INCAE(Inman 1999) and others have shown that Costa Rica’s nature-based sector keeps nearly 50% of10 The International Ecotourism Society (TIES, at www.ecotourism.org) defined ecotourism as “responsible travel tonatural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”11 World Tourism Organization12 WTO, Travel and Tourism Analyst, No. 4, 2001 by Travel and Tourism Intelligence13 Travel and Tourism Intelligence (TTI)Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 15
  16. 16. total tourist expenditure (excluding airfare) in the country, where Cancun, Mexico’s sun and sandsector (based on massive all-inclusive resorts) keeps slightly more than 10% in the country. Inaddition, overall spending and the multiplier effect of Costa Rican expenditures (guides, tours,equipment, crafts) tend to be greater.Data on Central American tourism visitation shows that tourists who come to experience a mix ofnatural and cultural attractions (including beaches) spend 25% more per stay than their exclusive“sun and sand” counterparts.14The experience tourists seek is increasingly valued not only on the quality of destinations oractivities, but also on the conformity of the lodging facilities and management practices withenvironmental guidelines.Unfortunately, for Albania there are no real alternative positions. Its individual destinations areattractive, but not unique. Ancient ruins of better quality for international tourists can be found inGreece, Italy and Turkey. Sun and sand tourism competes with very many countries, and presentschallenges due to declining prices and little contribution to the local economy. Nature and culturetourism presents fewer alternative destinations, but still compete with a wide variety ofdestinations. What makes Albania unique is the close proximity of a rich variety of attractions,and the relative proximity of those attractions, in a unique cultural context, to a large number ofdomestic and international tourists.While the unique market position is born primarily of necessity, it is a powerful position in theinternational market place. Trends in tourism visitation worldwide clearly identify nature andculture tourism as the fastest growing segment and with very large numbers of potential tourists.Albania appears to be ideally situated to meet the shifting demands of an increasingly nature andculture oriented tourism market.14 Deshazo, George. This was an inference drawn by the author from several studies conducted in Central Americaconducted by the Harvard Institute for International Development, 1997.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 16
  17. 17. III. ChallengesThe development of Albania’s tourism sector presents a number of challenges. There are generaltourism development that all countries face as they enter international markets, and specificchallenges related to establishing a successful nature and culture-based destination. A. General challenges for Albania in tourism development • Establishing a clear market position in a crowded marketplace. There are many products and countries competing for the attention of travelers, travel agencies and publications. • Overcoming previous conceptions of and associations with Albania. Initial research points to a “non-image” among tourism professionals. There is interest in new destinations, and increasing interest in the type of experience Albania has to offer, but it will require a coordinated effort. In certain target markets, the general associations with Albania range from neutral to negative due to recent history. • Investment must be planned in the short, medium and long term. The nation as a whole cannot enter this commitment lightly. Success in international markets requires consistency in message and market presence year after year. It requires investment of political capital across branches of government and between the private, public and civil society sectors. Further, success also requires a number of new or adapted mechanisms to ensure consistency and coordination, but also to avoid conflict and provide reliability in investment and decision-making. • Infrastructure. One of the advantages of an emphasis in natural and cultural tourism is that the requirements for specialized infrastructure are minimal. However, the basic capacity to safely move tourists (in cars, mini-buses, buses and airplanes) is a necessary condition. Telecommunications and internet are an important and increasingly necessary component for tourism sector promotion and communication (by operators and local tourism offices) and for visitors. Albania faces significant challenges in all these areas. • Coordination among a large number of governmental institutions. A successful tourism sector for Albania will require the effort of number of ministries, local governments, institutes, as well as NGOs, academia, international agencies, and bilateral assistance programs. • Market Intelligence. Without detailed knowledge of tourism markets and the expectations of the target segments’ expectations and desires, Albania risks wasting substantial investment and precious time. The country will need to invest in market information and knowledge to pinpoint opportunities and fine-tune products and services. • Internal data. Albania will need to invest substantially in domestic data collection and management systems to monitor and analyze tourism visitation, spending, behavior, tourist profiles and other characteristics. Without this data, tourism planning is virtually impossible and scarce resources will be wasted.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 17
  18. 18. B. Specific Challenges for Nature and Culture TourismA strategy focusing on nature and culture tourism presents a variety of additional challengesbeyond the general ones. • The concept of sustainability is built into the strategic position by necessity. Without aggressive efforts to ensure the sustainability of the natural and cultural resources, Albania cannot reasonably expect to maintain a market position capable of attracting international tourists. Without involving the local communities and providing real opportunities to participate in and benefit from the development process, the attractions will continue to be degraded, or converted to other economic uses – nearly all of which offer much less long-term development potential than tourism. • Developing a successful sector requires substantial levels of investment in infrastructure, marketing, human resources, natural area management, historic preservation and living culture. Without a serious investment commitment, the country will not be successful. • There are no “recipes.” Albania’s tourism products must be authentic, while meeting the general expectations of international tourists. International experience, knowledge and best practices should be sought aggressively to inform decisions and plans for the country. However, the products themselves must represent, to the maximum extent possible, an authentic Albanian approach. The most likely outcome will be the adoption and adaptation of strategies and mechanisms from a number of countries’ best practices in different regions of the world. • Local-national issues. Nature and culture tourism require substantial involvement of local governments in tourism planning, urban planning, infrastructure development, cultural preservation, environmental protection, among others. While there is considerable local capacity in the larger cities and identified cultural centers, many cities and towns will require substantial amounts of additional support from the central government, Tirana- based institutions and international experts. • The nature and culture tourism segment is highly dependent on very specialized human resources. Very high-quality tour guides are perhaps the most critical success factor for Albanian tourism, and will need to be aggressively recruited and trained. The country will need qualified managers for natural and cultural sites. In addition, there is an identified shortage of qualified hospitality personnel at all levels and in all regions. Limited language skills (English in particular) across these categories, and in provincial areas in particular will also present challenges. • A number of alternative tourism strategies have proven to be non-complementary, and potentially harmful to building high-value tourism. Large-scale sun and sand tourism presented in all-inclusive packages in isolated touirsm complexes will likely do great harm to the country’s efforts to build a high-value sector based on nature and culture. The massive sun and sand tourism is a highly competitive segment that attracts primarily discount-oriented travelers. The arrival of large numbers of this tourism segment tends to make destinations much less attractive to higher-end tourists. A similar effect has been observed with the arrival of large cruise ships.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 18
  19. 19. • Tourism growth can be slow in the early years. If successful, the sector will begin small, but grow rapidly as it gains a positive international reputation. While it will be possible to observe progress and measure advances with meaningful indicators, the tangible benefits critical for ongoing political support and commitment will be observed in the medium term.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 19
  20. 20. IV. Action PlanThis section presents a plan for the country to advance its tourism sector and tackle its principlechallenges within the context of the strategy presented above and the existing policy, legal andinstitutional structure.In operational terms, the country is ready to move forward with its tourism sector. The country has the capacity today to receive substantially more overnight international tourists than it is currently receiving. Although the country is not ready for aggressive marketing to broad international markets, it is absolutely ready to receive tens of thousands of additional adventurous, “pioneering” tourists who are willing to be flexible and “forgiving” in exchange for being among the first to experience a unique new destination.The numerous challenges that Albania faces must be addressed, but most need not be solved priorto beginning tourism promotion. However, due to the interrelated nature of the identifiedchallenges, the country must begin work immediately in a number of areas in order for tourism togrow effectively.The specific items of the Action Plan are presented as priorities in nine different areas. • Awareness and Marketing • Product Development • Investments in Nature Areas to Strengthen the Tourism Sector • Investments in Culture to Strengthen the Tourism Sector • Human Resources • Infrastructure • Business Climate • Enhancement of Tourist Experience • Data and Information Management 1. Awareness and MarketingAlbania must work at multiple levels to: increase awareness of the country, increase positiveassociations with Albania, consolidate a unifying theme to link the country’s tourism productwith international markets, convince market opinion-leaders that the country is worth visiting,increase contact between specialized outbound travel companies in target markets and localtourism companies (inbound operators, outfitters, hotels, etc), establish a credible internet-basedpresence, and establish a sustainable structure for continued marketing efforts. a) Awareness and positive associationThis must be a diplomatic and political effort. Coverage in the international press continues to beneutral to negative. Albania has not managed this aspect of its public image very successfully.Tourism, nature and culture provide excellent opportunities for senior officials to communicateTourism Strategy and Action Plan page 20
  21. 21. positive messages. Every time the Prime Minister or other senior officials visit a target marketcountry (particularly Germany, UK, US and northern Italy), he or she should set aside time topromote tourism to select audiences and to the media. They must be supported by the nationalunifying theme presented in “b)” below.Action Item 1.1 Development of a national tourism press kit and stand, with printedmaterials, video, scripts and other materials to permit easy presentation of the country in anypriority location.Action Item 1.2 Increase positive media coverage in target markets. Albania must be moreaggressive in communicating positive messages in target markets. Positive news on natural andcultural issues should provide substantial benefits. Commercial officers, press officers, consulsand even ambassador’s should be briefed on the use of the prepared materials and provided withfrequent news feeds to create opportunities for advancing a positive image.Action Item 1.3 Work closely with Albanian Diaspora. It is very important that Albaniansabroad feel proud and willing to visit Albania with relatives and friends. For example Mexico hasdeveloped a campaign welcome home Paisano (Countryman). b) Consolidate a unifying theme to link the country’s tourism product with international marketsToday Albania is using a number of different themes to present itself – two can be found on theofficial tourism website, and others in different promotional materials. This takes away focus andcould eventually create confusion. The country needs professional assistance in selecting anddesigning a theme that reflects the national cultural and environmental strategy, and the image thecountry wishes to portray to the world, and connects these with a message that finds a provenresonance within the target market group that the country is seeking to attract.Action Item 1.4 Hire an international public relations firm with experience in the strategicpositioning of tourism destinations. This is imperative. There are decades of experience,knowledge, science and art behind the design of market positioning. The process includescreative design process, analysis of potential opens, testing of the concept in various targetmarkets and other steps to guarantee the strength and clarity of the message. c) Convince market opinion-leaders that the country is worth visitingSpecialized products are only successful in the tourism market if their qualities are “validated” byrespected opinion leaders. For a destination such as Albania, the most important opinion-leadersare frequently writers and publishers of articles, journals, and guidebooks oriented toward nature,culture and travel. Occasionally they are travel companies known for “discovering” newdestinations. The model of validation can be depicted as concentric circles (see Graphic 2), witheach ring looking to the next inner ring for advice and recommendations.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 21
  22. 22. Graphic 2: Concentric circles of information marketingAction Item 1.5 Engage in an aggressive effort to increase Albania’s visibility in opinion-leader publications. Sub-item 1.5.1 Albania must conduct a study, in conjunction with the public relations firm identified above, to determine which publications and information sources the desired target market uses to make decisions to travel to a destination. Since much of early-stage tourism development is by “word of mouth”, a secondary objective is to identify the decision processes of the “pioneering visitors.” Sub-item 1.5.2 Increase coverage and currency of Albania in tour guidebooks directed at independent “adventurous” travelers. Specifically, Albania should convince: • Bradt Travel Guides Ltd (UK) to expand and update its excellent travel guide; • Lonely Planet Guides (UK) to produce a dedicated guide (rather than appearing in shared Eastern Europe one); and • Rough Guides (UK) to consider including Albania in their portfolio of guide books.Action Item 1.6 Invest in presence in high quality “paid” magazine space. Marketingprofessionals argue that a good article about a product or destination in a credible publication isworth 5 to 10 times more than the same amount of paid advertising space in the same publication.Certain publications with high credibility (in particular National Geographic and NationalGeographic Traveler) decide on much of their editorial content based on paid advertising space(X pages of advertising space “entitles” the purchaser to Y pages of editorial content fromnational geographic staff and photographers). The specific selection of publications should bebased on the research conducted in 1.3.1 above. d) Increase contact between specialized outbound travel companies in target markets and local tourism companiesTourism Strategy and Action Plan page 22
  23. 23. Action Item 1.7 Increase presence at major fairs where nature, culture adventure and“alternative” tourism destinations are featured. Trade fairs are considered by most country-promoters as a “necessary evil.” Positive results can be of varying quality, but lack of presence isuniversally regarded as bad. Albania’s participation in these fairs must be coordinated under theunifying national theme to maintain focus on the message and with clear objectives to achieve asa country, not just individual organizations.Action Item 1.8 Establish an International Tourism Fair in Albania. The best place to showAlbania is Albania. The Minister of Tourism, Culture, Youth, Sports recently reiterated hissupport for a Fair in 2006. Best practices in planning suggest that Albania evaluate the bestavailable times slots on the international calendar, and allow for approximately one year to ensureproper organization and communication. The national unifying theme must be the overarchingposition presented in the show. International expertise on tourism fair organization should besecured. e) credible internet-based presence.Action Item 1.9 Strengthen Albania’s presence on the internet. The National TourismOrganization’s web site (http://www.albaniantourism.com) is a good initial effort to ensureensuring that potential visitors can find basic information on the country. And it sends a messagethat the country is “open for business.”Design of a comprehensive internet presence strategy that includes: • A second generation of the National Tourism Organization’s website to include more detailed explanations and information on routes, and contact with licensed tourism companies and the private sector portal. • A linked private sector portal to provide easy access to tourism industry participants, such as inbound operators, lodgin, restaurants, outfitters, etc. • Creation of an Albania tourism forum, attached to the national tourism website, linked to numerous sites and monitored and responded to daily by a tourism promotion program person. • Search engine placement. Information experts can assist the Ministry and the private sector in strategies to ensure the national website and other sites rank in the top of “Google searches.” f) Establish a sustainable structure for continued marketing effortsAction Item 1.10 Establish a permanent financial structure that ensures a consistentmarketing budget each year and allocation of that budget toward nationally agreed-uponmarketing priorities. Albania should implement a mechanism used by a number of countries. Adedicated tourism marketing fund is financed by a special tourism tax. All funds collected fromthe special tax (ranging from 2 to 5% applied to all hospitality businesses) are dedicated towardtourism marketing. Annual budgeting and expenditures are agreed upon by a special tourismpromotion committee (or Board) comprised of Ministry representatives and the tourism sector.Albania will need to identify seed capital for this fund, but could conceivably make it a revolvingfund in a relatively short time – replenishing the fund with dedicated tax revenuesTourism Strategy and Action Plan page 23
  24. 24. 2. Product DevelopmentThe general tourism strategy establishes the overall framework for tourism centered on thediscovery of Albania through its nature and culture. Touirsm development has evolved with aregional focus, centered around the principal cities and their surrounding areas. A continuation ofthis evolution is natural and desirable.While strategy and national planning is a “top-down” function, the development of the type oftourism sector Albania desires is predominantly “bottom-up.” Nature and culture tourismdepends, at its core, on the ability of the local areas to effectively organize themselves to converttheir natural and cultural assets into a viable tourism product, complete with recommended sitesand activities, information and interpretation, lodging, food, guide services and a variety of otherfeatures that determine the quality and value of a destination.Action Item 2.1. Establish mechanisms to support local efforts to bring culture and natureproducts to market. The first step of this process is to identify the needs of the tourism sector,local government and civil society sector in each region. The second step will be to design asupport plan to assist the local actors in whatever way resources permit.Action Item 2.2 Establish and publish recommended tourism routes and activities for eachcity-region. With the assistance of the national government, the private sector and NGOs, eachtourism center must articulate recommended tourism itineraries for visitors – designed in blocksof half days, full days, two days, etc. The routes will be presented with detailed information,photographs and other materials in electronic and printed form, and distributed on the web and inprint format to visitors. The recently published compact disk “Albania Nature Monuments,”produced by the Ministry of Environment with support from the Global Environmental Facility(GEF) Small Grants Program is an outstanding contribution to this effort.Action Item 2.3 Set up simple tour offices in each major tourist city. While these offices existon paper for some cities, they are not yet a reality. With shared funding and infrastructure, each ofthe current cities of tourism importance must have an office (even if in shared office space or inanother government office) that has at a minimum, a responsible person with up to date listings ofattractions, hotels, restaurants, stores, health facilities, tour guides, transportation companies and,if practical a telephone to help connect tourists appropriately. 3. Investments in Nature Areas to Strengthen the Tourism SectorAlbania has a long tradition in protected areas management, with substantial legislation andtechnical expertise. Budget constraints have led to institutional limitations that threaten thelegitimacy of the system, and perhaps even its viability. Nature areas (in particular protectedareas) are one of the three “jewels in the crown” of Albanian tourism. The country cannot besuccessful in the long term without significant investment in upgrading and continuedmaintenance of the core natural assets that form the underlying basis for the sector.While there are many areas and budget needs, the following priority areas are those of mostcritical importance to involve the protected areas effectively in tourism development, andgenerate the necessary conditions for effective synergies between tourism and the areas. Albaniamust begin to invest now, because the costs of remediation of damage are high, and can takelonger than tourism markets are willing to wait.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 24
  25. 25. Action Item 3.1 Establish long-term financial mechanisms. New mechanisms and structuresmust be established to ensure increased funding for nature areas’ protection and tourismdevelopment. Sub-item 3.1.1 An aggressive search for additional external funding. Albania must explore the wide variety of funding mechanisms (traditional and non-traditional) that can be directed at natural areas. Lead time for successful proposals is typically one to two years from initial approach to approval of the project. Sub-item 3.1.2. Maintain and expand the fiscal mechanism currently used for hunting and forestry revenues, which are maintained in special accounts with 70% automatically designated for re-investment in nature areas. Sub-item 3.1.3 Environmental services payments. Eco-systems (particularly forests and wetlands) provide extremely valuable services to the economy that are not traditional market goods (e.g., they have no price). These ecosystems provide: water capture and filtration, climate control (global and local), wildlife and biodiversity hosting, scenic beauty, recreational space, among others. Many countries are beginning to establish internal markets to recognize the value and correct economic distortions that lead to sub- optimal land use.15 Sub-item 3.1.4 Establish new financial mechanisms to direct funds toward nature areas. The country needs trust funds or a foundation capable of operating outside the Ministry of Finance to channel complementary resources. The most common mechanisms used at an international level are: a) “National Parks Foundations,” --usually private foundations (with government sanction and representation), providing complementary funding such as additional investments channeled from private contributors or international donors; and b) “Nature Trust Funds” specialized funds usually managed for specific purposes such as biodiversity conservation and reforestation activities, that can be managed more simply under established rules administered by a trustee(s).Action Item 3.2 Accelerate the development and approval of tourism plans for nature areas.Traditional protected area management calls for the development of comprehensive managementplans that include tourism plans as a component. While this is the technically correct approach,management plans require very complex processes that consume large amounts of financial andhuman resources and can take years. Albania must establish an accelerated process forestablishing tourism plans in a number of identified priority nature areas with tourism relevance(due to the attraction itself and its proximity to tourism centers). The plans should beenvironmentally conservative (erring toward protection in absence of complete managementplans), and be discussed formally and informally with a broad group of stakeholders to establish aconsensus “best professional judgment” on visitor strategy, carrying capacity and infrastructureneeds.Action Item 3.3 Instill a culture of “National Park” among Albanians, beginning with Dajti.This effort will focus on three particular aspects of Dajti to begin to educate Albanians on theimportance of “enjoying and caring for parks.” De-militarization, reinvestment of entrance feesand waste management should be the program priorities.15 For example, in several countries hydroelectric generators pay land owners (including protected areas) to maintainor increase forest cover in their watersheds in order to ensure water flow, particularly in dry season when water is morescarce (or energy purchase prices are higher). In theory, park entrance fees are a type of environmental servicepayment, if the funds are used to maintain or enhance the park.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 25
  26. 26. 4. Investments in Culture to Enhance Tourism DevelopmentAlbania has a long tradition in cultural preservation, with substantial legislation and technicalexpertise. The needs for cultural preservation in a country with such a rich history will alwaysexceed its ability to protect and restore. However, the country cannot be successful in the longterm without significant investment in upgrading and continued maintenance of the core culturalassets that underlie its tourism position.While there are many areas and budget needs, the following priority areas are those of mostcritical importance generate the necessary conditions for effective synergies between tourism andthe areas. As with natural resources, Albania must increase investment now, because the costs ofremediation of damage are high, and cultural patrimony is frequently irreplaceable and representsa loss to national identity.Action Item 4.1 Establish long-term financial mechanisms. New mechanisms and structuresmust be established to ensure increased funding for cultural site protection and tourismdevelopment. Sub-item 4.1.1 An aggressive search for additional external funding. Albania must explore the wide variety of funding mechanisms (traditional and non-traditional) that can be directed at natural areas. Lead time for successful proposals is typically one to two years from initial approach to approval of the project. Sub-item 4.1.2. Charge modest to substantial admissions fees of visitors to sites to help defray the costs of operating them. Many prime cultural locations in other countries charge as much as $10 or $20 for admission for foreign visitors. Economic analysis (travel cost modeling and contingent valuation) can assist in establishing correct prices for major destinations. Sub-item 4.1.3 Establish new financial mechanisms to direct funds toward conservation areas. The country needs trust funds or a foundation capable of operating outside the Ministry of Finance to channel complementary resources. As with the protected areas mechanisms (discussed above), “foundations” and “trust funds” have proven to be successful in many countries.Action Item 4.2 Economic Mechanisms to slow destruction of historic buildings anddistricts. The high cost of maintaining the nation’s privately owned historic buildings is beyondthe economic capacity of many (if not most) owners. Properly enforced zoning and planning lawsestablish the rules and permitted behavior. However, without financial assistance or the use ofnew economic instruments, historic buildings will deteriorate (following the law) or be torn down(violating the law). As tourism continues to expand, there will be increased pressure fromentrepreneurs wishing to build cheaper structures instead of refurbishing historic ones. Insertingcultural patrimony into the tourism sector may be a viable strategy. Sub-item 4.2.1 Explore the successful (and unsuccessful) experiences of other countries in establishing economic mechanisms for historic preservation in private buildings (the U.S, UK, Switzerland, Austria, France and Spain are recognized leaders in this area, Cuba recently started a programme in old Havana). Sub-item 4.2.2 Increase the cost-share for rehabilitation of historic buildings for inns and other tourism infrastructure. The current system of sharing the costs of refurbishment of important buildings (particularly homes) appears to be functioning in Gjirokaster and Berat. In those cases where owners wish the buildings to become part of the tourismTourism Strategy and Action Plan page 26
  27. 27. infrastructure, the expenditure of additional government funds can be justified as the building will be increasing visitation, spending and revenue in the medium term. Sub item 4.2.3 Spain has had outstanding success with its system of “Paradores”, promoting the use of “castles, palaces, monasteries and other unique buildings of Spanish patrimony” in a network of “high quality” historic hotels and inns. Similarly France has been successful in promoting a national network of “Auberges” and “Chalets” with similar goals.Action Item 4.3 Improved cultural access in museums. The most common weakness cited byAlbanian and foreign visitors to the country’s museums is the lack of meaningful interpretiveinformation (in Albanian or English). There are three complementary strategies to be explored.Printed material for individual galleries, trained guides (part of museum staff, or trained andauthorized private guides for hire), and new electronic guiding systems (recorded informationunder visitor control). Sub-item 4.3.1 Begin a pilot project in the National Historical Museum to implement an electronic guiding system.Action Item 4.4 Support, enhance and publicize cultural events and folk festivals. Livingculture is a highly sought-after tourism product. A great number of tourists seek to plan theirtravels to coincide with important folk events (dance and music competitions, religious events,feast days, local town celebrations, important dance and music performances, etc). Sub-item 4.4.1 Publicize existing events. Albania has a great number of these events that should be, at a minimum, well documented and placed in an “official national calendar of cultural events.” This information should be published on the national tourism website, and include history of the event, descriptions of the activities, photographs and sound- bites, and links to tourism companies capable of providing services. Sub-item 4.4.2 Develop a long-term plan to direct government and private sector support to priority cultural events of interest to foreign visitors. 5. Human resourcesAlbania must invest in several critical human resources for the tourism sector to developeffectively.Action Item 5.1 Establishment of an “Elite” Tourism Guide Corps. Ensuring repeat visits andachieving “word of mouth” recommendations will be the key to sustainable tourism development.Because of the complexity of Albania, the knowledge and interpretation provided by thecountry’s best tour guides will be perhaps the single most important factor for successful tourismdevelopment. Educated tourists willingness to pay for high quality guides is very high. In manyhigh quality nature destinations they are among the highest paid employees in the tourism sector.An Elite Guide Corps will become the hallmark of Albanian tourism and differentiate it from thegenerally mixed quality of tour guides found across Europe. It will also provide incomegenerating opportunities for currently underemployed university graduates in relevant fields.Action Item 5.2 Train Natural and Cultural Site Managers. The increasing importance of thecountry’s natural and cultural sites will require more sophisticated management expertise. Today,park and site directors tend to be well-trained technical personnel (foresters, curators, architects)who generally lack the training (or interest) to be effective managers. Skills such as planning,Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 27
  28. 28. budgeting, accounting, project management, human resource planning, and others are criticalskills. There are two priorities in this area: 1) identify appropriate mechanism to train currentmanagers in the required skills, and 2) investigate strategies for recruiting and educating futuremanagers to assume the new challenges.Action Item 5.3 Train hospitality professionals and staff. Albania will require many morewell-trained individuals in order to support an international tourism sector. The tourism sectorand a number of supporting programs cite this aspect as one of Albania’s weakest. Sub-item 5.3.1 Ensure that the tourism faculties at the Albanian universities are preparing managers for the type of tourism Albania seeks to develop. This should include course work on Albanian history and traditions, nature and culture preservations in addition to traditional hotel and management training. Sub-item 5.3.2 Vocational training for young people. The tourism sector will require trained individuals in areas such as plumbing, electricity, carpentry, maintenance, cooking, hotel service, restaurant service, driving, among others. Sub-item 5.3.3 “Continuing Education.” Many adults currently in the sector or wishing to enter the sector need and desire the opportunity to improve skills or acquire new ones.Action Item 5.4 Enhance language skills. Albania is a remarkably multilingual society.Additional effort needs to be directed at ensuring that tourism industry personnel, particularlythose in provincial and rural areas possess the basic foreign language skills to needed toeffectively conduct their jobs. English and German are top priorities. 6. InfrastructureOne of the advantages of an emphasis in natural and cultural tourism is that the requirements forspecialized infrastructure are minimal. However, the basic capacity to safely move tourists (incars, mini-buses, buses and airplanes) is a necessary condition. Telecommunications and internetare an important and increasingly necessary component for tourism sector promotion andcommunication (by operators and local tourism offices) and for visitors. Albania faces significantchallenges in all these areas. The following are the priority areas of action.Action Item 6.1 Improvements to two critical roads in the North. 1) Improvement ofapproximately 19km of road connecting Lura National Park with the National road to permitpassage of vehicles other than 4-wheel-drive during summer tourist months. 2) Completion ofroad from Shkodra to Thethi to connect the extreme northern region with the rest of the countryfor tourism and trade.Action Item 6.2 Maintenance of secondary national roads. Natural and cultural touristexperiences are greatly enhanced by moving visitors (by bus, taxi, rental car) on secondary roads.It is the secondary roads that provide the opportunities to see Albanian towns, culture, people, andway of life. Highways are culturally “sterile” and are not valuable for purposes other than rapiddelivery of tourists. Travel on these secondary routes permits tour guides to take advantage ofnumerous opportunities to explain Albanian culture and history. Further, these routes createopportunities for tourists to spend money in villages that are not their destinations. Secondaryroads of touristic importance (for example, Kelcure to Berat) should be made passable to regularvehicles in the most economic manner possible .Action Item 6.3 Connect the South. Current road conditions and lack of alternativetransportation make the southern region unnecessarily far from the rest of the country. In theTourism Strategy and Action Plan page 28
  29. 29. short-term, continued improvements of the highway between Vlora and Saranda will help.However, it is imperative to provide additional means to access the south. Sub-item 6.3.1. The country must move to provide domestic airplane service. The priority is to conduct rapid feasibility studies for simple airstrips and related buildings and equipment in Saranda, Gjirokaster, Berat and Korça, and for the financial viability of private airplane service.16 Sub-item 6.3.2 Study the feasibility and financial viability of sea routes connecting Durres, Vlora and Saranda. In addition to providing an additional connection mode, travel by sea is an attractive alternative for many tourists and would likely be popular among a large number of tourists and locals.Action Item 6.4 Increase rural and provincial connectivity. Internet and telephony areextraordinarily important for tourism development. High quality access permits local businessesto market their products directly and maintain more direct and fluid contact with their customersand suppliers. Internet access is also an important and valued service for international guests.The specific action item is to explore ways of collaborating with the Ministry of Education andScience’s new “Internet to Schools Project” to connect all schools in the country to internet.Increased usage of the systems by local tourism business could help defray the costs of operatingthe networks.Action Item 6.5 Improve Signage. There is a shortage of road signs indicating the direction totowns, cultural monuments and natural sites. The lack of signage makes navigation complicatedfor local professionals and nearly impossible for visitors. 7. Business ClimateA successful tourism sector requires a stable and rather sophisticated business climate. Businesssectors grow more successfully with a regulatory framework that is clear and ensures that allactors are playing by the same set of “rules of the game.” Albania’s tourism business climate isunclear at this time. Several priority items will make positive advances toward building s healthybusiness climate.Action Item 7.1 Formalization of the tourism sector. Albania must establish clear and simplemechanisms for informal actors in the tourism sector to formalize. Low-cost incentives, such asinclusion in the national website and a voice in how tourism promotion funds (to which thecontribute) will be spent have proven effective in many countries. It will be incumbent on theprivate sector (particularly its associations) to push formalization as a necessary and importantpart of the associations’ work. The government needs to ensure that licensing and otherrequirements are appropriate, and do not unnecessarily impede formalization. The tourism sectoris stronger. There should be clear but simple incentives to encourage the tourismAction Item 7.2 Calibrate to international tourism standards. Albania must encourage itstourism companies to compete at the highest levels of quality. One of the most convenientmechanisms to encourage this is the active promotion (by government and the private sector) of16 Conversations in Gyrokaster suggested that there is likely ecconomic justification for airplane service based solely onbusiness travelers alone. Locals estimate that dozens of business people are currently paying $120 for taxi service toTirana each week. Cutting the trip from more than five hours to less than one hour would be valuable for businesspeople and visitors.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 29
  30. 30. adherence to international standards. Among the most relevant are the international “stars”system for lodging classification, “Blue Flag” certification for beaches (coasts and lakes), GreenGlobe 21 for sustainable tourism practices, and various EU standards for transportation, organicagriculture, and food safety. Widespread use of these standards raises quality, and makes it moreobvious which companies are lagging behind.Action Item 7.3 Design and establish a National Tourism Quality program. Achieving highlevels of quality in all tourism services (lodging, food, nature sites, culture sites, transport andlogistics, guides) will be an important characteristic differentiating Albania from its competitors.Countries with diverse tourism sectors such as Peru are currently embarking on strategies toensure customer satisfaction within the context of nature and culture tourism. Albania shouldbegin an initiative to incorporate quality principles in parallel with the growth of the sector. It iseasier to establish good practices with a small sector and replicate them.Action Item 7.4 Update the tourism taxation system. Albania must review its system andadjust it to meet the current position of its tourism sector and revenue generation needs. An initialreview suggests that 1) the system is not collecting enough tax overall relative to prices and othercountries, 2) the tax is too highly concentrated on hotels (which artificially inflates a visible factorin tourist decisions to visit the country, and encourages avoidance), 3) none of the funds collectedfrom tourists directed to strengthening the sector, which is out of step with current bestinternational practice.Action Item 7.5 Provide strict enforcement of urban plans in coastal areas and historicdistricts. The mostly costly evasions of rules for Albania are those that lead to destruction ofcultural patrimony or deterioration of visitor quality. Local governments require resources,knowledge and political will to maintain control over land use. The national government and thetourism sector must assist them in these areas. and national authorities 8. Enhancement of Tourist ExperienceAction Item 8.1 Prevent Physical Risk to Visitors.Albania must avoid the death or severe illness of tourists at all costs. While tourists understandthat there is some risk in all travel, they expect a country (particularly a European one) to takereasonable provisions for their safety. The death of a tourist or group of tourists could virtuallyshut-down the country´s newly developing sector.The four greatest concerns identified by international visitors, tour guidebook authors and anumber of local experts are: Sub-item 8.1.1 Improve safety on roads. While poor quality roads are surmountable, the combination of poor roads, undisciplined drivers and high speed is of great concern. Sub-item 8.1.2 Increase disease prevention awareness. Water-borne and insect-borne (mosquito and tick) disease currently present significant health threats. Long-term solutions are needed for drinking water and irrigation water integrity, as well as wastewater management. In the short to medium term, tourists need to be advised of health risks and basic measures to avoid them. At a minimum the country and the tourism sector need to advise visitors on sanitation precautions -- avoid tap water, ice and street food, and to bring appropriate clothing and repellent to avoid mosquitoes and ticks. These advisories are normal in many parts of the world and are considered valuable information rather than deterrents to tourism.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 30
  31. 31. Sub-item 8.1.3 Improve food safety practices through education campaigns in the hospitality sector and vocational schools. Priority areas should include 1) personal hygiene, 2) application of best practices in the handling of meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, 3) water temperature and cleaning techniques. Sub-item 8.1.4 Emergency medical attention. Albania must put in place a national system for treating visitors who become seriously ill or injured. The lack of infrastructure and language skills in the country’s health sector is weak, particularly in provincial and rural areas where the country seeks to develop tourism. While substantial investment in equipment in personnel is not viable at this time, the country should employ systems and protocols for attending to sick and injured tourists through existing mechanisms. A system of doctors and translators on-call in tourism areas should be complemented with protocols for deciding when and where tourists will be moved, to where, and logistical mechanisms. Given the somewhat elevated risks to tourists in Albania, this system would inspire confidence and be seen as a highly attractive feature.Action Item 8.2 De-militarization of tourism destinations. The heavy police presence on roads,in coastal areas and mountain destinations is a strongly negative factor. This presence sends amessage of insecurity to foreign visitors (European and North American, in particular) in acountry that is remarkably free of crime ,violence, or political problems. This is particularlynoticeable in the form of roadblocks, in coastal tourism destinations, and certain mountaindestinations.It is very common in developing and transition economy countries for the prevailing attitude to bethat more police and military presence implies more security for locals and visitors.Unfortunately, while this may be true in certain cases and certain situations, it is not true fortourism in a very safe, peaceful country like Albania.This is not a recommendation for the military to cease its functions for providing security, it is arecommendation that certain practices and policies be reconsidered as they relate to tourismdevelopment in a number of critical areas. Other countries have established tourism developmentas an economic priority of vital national importance, placing it on an even footing with othernational security priorities.Action Item 8.3 Reduce rubbish in tourism areas. Local attitudes toward trash are troubling.The tourism towns, rivers roads, and lakeshores are embarrassingly covered. The levels of trashare shocking to most foreigners, and the message received by visitors is that the Albanians do notlove or respect their towns or their culture. Solutions to this problem must include improvedmunicipal waste collection service (public or private), campaigns to make locals aware of theimpact of the problem, and massive community-organized clean up campaigns.Action Item 8.4 Wastewater management. Effective management of wastewater must be anintegral part of the development of locations. In coastal, river and lake destinations visitors andlocals literally participate in activities in their own sewage (and that of the town they are visiting).Inappropriately managed sewage is of great health concern, projects a very negative image, anddeteriorates the quality of the tourism product that the country is selling to international markets.Sound management is critical for the long-term viability of the tourism sector, and could becomean attractive feature showing how responsible Albania is being with its core tourism resources.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 31
  32. 32. 9. Data and Information ManagementData on international tourism markets and comprehensive data on the Albanian sector areabsolutely essential to tourism planning, marketing and monitoring.Action Item 9.1 Ministry Data Department. Establish an office within the Ministry responsiblefor collecting, analyzing, and distributing timely data to the tourism industry and other relevantstakeholders.Action Item 9.2 Maintain and Analyze International Tourism Data. World TourismOrganization (WTO) and Menlo Consulting Group, Inc are the most widely used tourism datasources. The Ministry’s WTO repository status allows the Ministry to receive large amounts ofhigh quality market intelligence and data on international tourism. This data should be sharedwith collaborating university and NGO researchers to increase analytical capacity.Item 9.3 Implement the Tourism Satellite Accounts (TSA) data system. The WTO haspromoted a comprehensive, internationally-developed methodology for systematically collectingand presenting domestic tourism information. This approach permits countries to collectmeaningful data and track impact at various levels within the economy and compare the datadomestically and internationally. The Ministry will make this data available to researchers toassist in its analysis, further informing tourism planning and development. Included in thissystem is the comprehensive collection of survey data from international visitors. B. Institutional IssuesSuccess for Albania in international tourism markets will require a higher level of cooperationand fluidity among government ministries, between local and national government, and amongprivate, public and civil society organizations. 1. High Level SupportIt is imperative that nature and culture tourism development be made, seen, and believed to be apriority at the highest level of the Albanian government. Without this visible level ofcommitment, it is unlikely that sufficient focus or cooperation among the various instances ofgovernment will be possible. Based on the various meetings in which the consultantsparticipated, the technical staff of the various ministries and institutes understand the importanceof this effort, were willing and able to contribute their knowledge and institutional expertise, butwere clearly in need of instructions and formal direction from their management. 2. Ministerial Level CoordinationThe implementation of the Strategy will require a comprehensive and strong leadership processfrom the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports, as well as a very close collaboration ofother line ministries and central institutions. The main responsibilities of the involved ministriesinclude: 1) The Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports is the lead Ministry for the overall process, and is responsible for the set-up, implementation and monitoring of the National Tourism Strategy, the comprehensive legal framework for tourism development, related planning and development process, support for regional administration and tourism organization at the national, regional and local level.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 32
  33. 33. 2) The Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communication is a supporting ministry responsible for urban planning, road maintenance or investment for new tourism roads, development of the sea transport and civil aviation transport in the priority heritage areas. 3) The Ministry of Interior is a supporting ministry, which will assist and support with grants to the municipalities and communes included in the itineraries for culture and nature tourism. 4) The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Water Administration, is responsible for environment policies and sustainable management of nature resources that will offer the opportunity for the development of tourism in protected areas, sustainable use of resources, access rules, payback schemes as well as for the environment impact assessment of tourism. 5) The Ministry of Agriculture and Consumers’ Protection is responsible for the development and implementation of strategies for rural development, including development of tourism in rural areas, as well as for the issues related to quality and safety of food and beverages. 6) The Ministry of Education and Science provides education and training for qualified tourism workers, guides and others, and could develop specific curricula for local tourism guides and operators in the regions with high tourism potential. 7) The Ministry of Finance is a key ministry for tourism development, particularly in the area of taxation policy and related frameworks. 8) The Archeology Institute and the Culture Monument Institute (under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports) are critical for providing the needed information for the handouts, handbooks, websites for cultural tourism sites, and materials for educational programs for tourism professionals. 3. Local GovernmentThe local governments will require varying degrees of assistance and support in procedural issuesand subject matter expertise. The highest priority for the Ministry and other ministries is tobecome allies, supporters and facilitators of local government processes to develop tourism.Most of the cities and regions of tourism interest have substantial human resources on culture andnature issues, and a very clear understanding of the tourism destinations and products in theirareas. They tend to be very unclear on how to proceed administratively and institutionally forreceiving appropriate authorizations and approvals, and accessing complementary human andfinancial resources. The first priorities for the national government are to: 1) Establish a clear “road map” for local governments on how to develop tourism in their towns. Steps, information requirements, procedures, assistance available – and seek to assist them through this process. 2) Find ways to streamline the process to ensure that all rules are followed and requirements fulfilled, but in the smoothest most expedient way without unnecessary steps or hurdles. 3) Channel available assistance funds to local government directly (project-based) and through NGO programs that assist these governments. 4. Public-Private- Civil CoordinationThe successful implementation of the cultural tourism and ecotourism strategy will require theinvolvement of public, private sector and NGOs, as well as coordination of activities amongthem.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 33
  34. 34. Private sector operators will take the lead on product development. The sector is responsible fordeveloping accommodations, hospitality facilities, tour and travel operations, on-siteinfrastructure, marketing activities, logistics and others. They also have a lot to contribute todestination management based on their knowledge of tourist expectations and market.Albania’s tourism associations are key institutions in the development of the tourism industry.Albanian Tourism Agencies Association (ATAA), Albanian Tourism Operators Union (ATOU),Albanian Hotels Association and other tourism related NGOs provide services of value to theirmembers and provide legitimate voices for the sector in discussions with government. Prioritiesfor future efforts identified by association include: relationship with the Government,collaboration in attracting foreign tourisst, and training management and staff.At this time, environmental and governance NGOs appear to have the greatest level of experienceand knowledge in cultural and nature sites in many regions. They also possess specific skills inplanning and processes of local government development. They are important allies in thetourism development process that should be included wherever possible in planning andoperations programs to improve regional destinations.Tourism Strategy and Action Plan page 34
  35. 35. Annex I List of Meetings and Participants MEETING WITH STAKEHOLDER GROUP FROM PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS Tirana, November 24, 20051. Mrs. Franka PALOKA Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports, Director of Tourism Development Directorate2. Mrs. Arlinda KONDIMinistry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports3. Mr. Gezim HALILI Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports4. Mrs. Edlira BARDULLA Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports, Director of National Entity of Tourism 5. Mr. Genc METOHU Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports, National Entity of Tourism6. Mrs. Dezdemona LAME Ministry of Finance7. Mrs. Arjana KOCA Ministry of Environment, Forests and Water Administration, Directorate of Nature Protection8. Mr. Albert DUBALI Ministry of Agriculture and Consumers’ Protection, Directorate of Rural Development9. Mrs. Erida MUKA Ministry of Agriculture and Consumers’ Protection, Directorate of Rural Development10. Mr. Nuri XEPA Ministry of Education and Sciences11. Mr. Sulejman DASHI Institute of Culture Monuments12. Mr. Lawrence PRATT UNDP Consultant for the Cultural Tourism and Ecotourism Development13. Mr. Thimaq LAKO UNDP National Consultant14. Aleksandra HAXHI Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports MEETING WITH STAKEHOLDER GROUP FROM PRIVATE SECTOR Tirana, November 24, 20051. Mrs. Franka PALOKA Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports, Director of Tourism Development Directorate 2. Mr. Genc METOHU Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports, National Entity of Tourism3. Mr. Ismail HOXHA Director of ALBANTOURS Travel Agency, Tirana4. Mr. Aben CICO Head of Hotels’ Association, Tirana5. Mr. Sadik MALAJ Head of Albania Tourist Operators Union, Tirana6. Mr. Enver MEHMETI Head of Albania Traveling Agents Association, Tirana7. Mr. Lawrence PRATT UNDP Consultant for the Cultural Tourism and Ecotourism Development8. Mr. Thimaq LAKO UNDP National Consultant9. Aleksandra HAXHI Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and SportsTourism Strategy and Action Plan page 35

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