Korça Regional Council
January 6, 2014
Tourism in the Korça Region
Whilst the Korça Region has a very long history, distinctive traditions and an exceptional
environment, tourism in most of the region is emerging as an economic sector (with to a certain
Tourism in the Korca Region
extent the exception of Pogradec on Ohrid Lake where leisure vacations have been established
over a longer period). Figures for tourist arrivals have not been collected or compiled but
according to local stakeholders, there has been a significant increase of visitors in recent years.
The region has an excellent mix of soft and hard cultural assets as well as outstanding natural
assets. These are described in greater detail in the following section as are the markets that are
currently visiting the Korça Region. The next few paragraphs provide an impression of the
richness of the Korça Region but do not attempt to present the totality of the tourism products
Tourism Products in the Korça Region
The region has a wide range of products based on its history, culture and traditions, its villages
and its lakes and mountains.
The Villages of the Korça Region
These constitute a major tourism asset and are located throughout the region. Several villages are
located near Korça City including Voskopoja, Boboshtica, Dardha and Vithkuq.
Voskopoja is the best known and features on most tours that pass through the South East of
Albania. Founded in the 16th
century, Voskopoja by the 18th century was a major urban
settlement housing the Academy, a centre dedicated to the development of culture and education.
Today, five Byzantine churches and a monastery from the original twenty-two that were built
when Voskopoja was a major settlement are testimony to this grand period. St Nicholas Church
is the best preserved and contains priceless artwork. A forest much visited by locals is located
near the village. There are several small hotels and guesthouses available to tourists and a new
relatively large hotel has been built in the centre of the village but is not open yet. A little outside
Voskopoja, the Academia Hotel has 50 rooms and 11 villas. Its market is mainly school groups
but also conferences and business meetings as well as leisure tourists attracted to the pure, clear
air in natural surroundings. The property is very attractive and could be converted into a high
quality conference centre. There are several activities for guests to enjoy including horses
available for hire.
The village is very attractive and deserves it reputation in the area. However, certain obstacles
need to be overcome, especially problems associated with long electricity power cuts and water
shortages. The new hotel in the centre of the village is delaying its launch until these hindrances
are resolved. It plans to offer a ‘farm’ experience with homemade traditional foods and horses
will be kept on the grounds of the hotel which will be available to its clients. In general, and this
is a general comment about all the villages in the region, there is a need to organize activities for
visitors such as guided tours, walks and cycling or horse rides in the surrounding countryside.
Akademia Hotel in Voskopoja
There are five surviving churches in
Voskopoja from twenty-two in its heyday
Boboshitica is a historic village located on the
plain close to Korça City. Several old houses and
churches still exist in the village which is now
especially famous for its mulberry trees. These
are an integral ingredient of the famed local
alcoholic drink, mulberry raki, which gives it a
distinctive taste and green tint sought out by
visitors. The restaurants of the village are well
known, especially to residents of Korça City, but
also to visitors who are aware of the excellent
cuisine and they are a primary destination of any
organised tour to the Korça area.
Dardha is a mountain village, 20 km from
Korça at 1344 m in altitude. It has distinctive stone and slate-roofed architecture, unique in
Albania. The local inhabitants of Dardha are reputed for their hospitality, generosity and their
traditional folkloric dance, music and costumes. There are a number of churches in the village
that can be visited. Activities for visitors include skiing at nearby fields which have fairly basic
equipment at the present time but do attract the domestic market.
Several small hotels, guesthouses and home stays are available to tourists in and around Dardha.
The construction of a new high quality hotel is nearly completed and it should open in 2009. This
will be a property aimed at the high-end tourist and the owners are planning to install a well-
known management company to run the facility.
Vithkuq village is located in a very picturesque hilly environment 26 km from Korça. It is rich
in fauna and flora, in particular a large variety of medicinal plants such as mountain tea, wild
rose and linden flowers amongst others. The village is split into three areas and boasts a number
of historical monuments. The first church was built in the 12th
century and the village grew to a
population of 343 families in the 16th
century. However by the 19th
century the village had been
destroyed three times. Today it has recovered although many of the inhabitants have emigrated
over the years. There are several traditional churches, eight of which have been reconstructed or
rebuilt. In particular the church at the Monastery of St Peter has magnificent frescos.
The village has distinctive customs, traditions and folklore such as the ‘dado’ dance as well as
excellent traditional cuisine. A number of well known Albanian figures originated from Vithkuq
including the painter Vangjush Mio, the ‘people’s painter’ who was inspired by the landscapes of
the Korça Region. A museum dedicated to him is located in Korça City utilizing the 200-year-
old home that he lived in.
Accommodation at the village is mainly at
guesthouses offering a few rooms and at
homestays offered by local residents. To ensure
good occupancy, more effective marketing is vital. There is also a need for some environmental
clear up in the village to present an attractive environment to visitors.
The Mulberry tree are cultivated to provide
a special ingredient of the Boboshitica raki
Paintings adorning St Peter’s Church
The villages on and around Prespa Lake offer visitors a different tourism experience in the
Korça Region. The commune of Prespa comprises nine villages in total, seven of which are on
the lake shore and two in the mountains, offering a range of landscapes and activities to tourists.
The villages are mostly inhabited by a Macedonian minority which constitutes an added
attraction for tourists from other countries who can discover the cultural heritage of a distinctly
different community in the Korça region.
Tourism is starting to become established in the
area, especially in the last year and there are a
number of small hotels and guesthouses to
accommodate visitors. There have been features
on TV about the area which have resulted in
increased number of tourist arrivals. It boasts 10
kms of coastline, partly rocky and partly sandy
that is still undeveloped. There is an Italian
project underway to prepare the beaches for
tourism. The area was declared a tourist zone in
1994 stating that and no new buildings can be
constructed within 200 metres of the lake shore.
There has been interest in developing tourist
facilities from investors from as far as the
The villages offer a distinctive culture,
wonderful scenery and opportunities to enjoy
the surrounding nature and a special cuisine
that attract visitors from all over. The cultural
heritage of the area includes 8 churches built inside caves, the most famous of which is located
on the island of Mali Grad, the 14th C St Mary church. Other historical assets include Byzantine
churches, roman roads and bridges. There are plans for a pre-historical museum going back to
7,000 BC, the development of which will be supported by the UNDP. Visitors can hire boats and
go fishing but they would need to know someone of the area, there is no equipment to rent (boats
and fishing tackle) so this aspect of tourism is not properly developed and exploited.
At` the moment, there is no border with Macedonia but a new road is being built which will
provide access to the area from Macedonia. An MOU has been signed with the Greek and
Macedonian authorities to open the borders and the Prespa Park Committee meets every month.
The villages near Ohrid Lake include Lin which is located on the mid-western shore of the lake.
Lin houses an important archaeological find, a 6th and 7th century mosaic created during the rule
of Emperor Justinian of Byzantine. However, it cannot be seen as it is covered up for protection.
The village has a problem of potable water which is hampering tourism development.
A tourism map of the Prespa area at the
entrance of the national park
The village of Liqenas in Prespa Commune
Along Ohrid Lake shore, there is a 25 km beach from Lin to Tushemisht, past Pogradec. The
village of Tushemisht, just 5 km from the Macedonian border, comprises 300 houses and a 19C
church. Tourism is relatively well developed with several hotels and guest houses on the lake.
Drilon is located near Tushemisht was the holiday resort for Enver Hoxha until 1990 (the
building is now a hotel). It is a hot water spring amongst lavish vegetation in very relaxing
The villages of Kolonja include Rehova near Erseka and Borova. Rehova is a traditional Kolonje
village located at the base of Gramoz Mountains with stone made houses and cobble stone streets
and a church, originally built in the 17C. It comprises 120 homes and 300 residents. The
traditions, music and handicrafts of the village are distinctive but not yet presented for tourism.
Although there is a desire to develop tourism in the village, a recent assessment by an expert
concluded that there is a need to develop many services and this will take some time.
Borova is an attractive village located 10 minutes south of Erseka. There is a World War II
monument cemetery to commemorate the massacre of 106 village residents by German soldiers
as a retribution for a partisan attack on a German military convoy near Barmash. A museum is
planned to further commemorate this event. An early 19 century stone bridge built across a
canyon is still perfectly preserved.
Cultural and Historical Products
The Korça region is renowned in Albania for its history and its cultural heritage.
Churches and Mosques
There are churches and mosques throughout the region. Here is just a small selection of buildings
that can be enjoyed by tourists.
The cathedral in Korça City, largest Orthodox church in Albania
The churches of Voskopoja (St Mary’s, 18C; St Nicholas, 18C; Monastery of St Joan;
The monasteries in Vithkuq and Voskopoja
St Mary’s church on Mali Grad island, Prespa Lake
The mosque in Korça City – the oldest building in Korça City and oldest mosque in
St Peter’s church and St Thanas Church in Darhda
Lin village on Ohrid Lake The memorial at Borova
Poets, Writers and Painters
The intellectual, literary and artistic heritage of the Korça Region is renowned around the world.
Famous poets and writers include among others:
Theofan Noli (Fan), a son of Erseka, served as prime minister of Albania as well as
regent in the 1920s. He was an ordained priest and founded the Albanian Orthodox
Church. He was a noted writer and poet. The Fan Stilian Noli Centre in Erseka city
presents a number of artistic and cultural programmes round the year. Its main auditorium
has a capacity to seat 400 spectators.
Sterjo Spase was a poet from Prespa and a well known Albanian writer of Macedonian
origin. His son Ilinden is also a well known author who writes in both Albanian and
There are several writers from Pogradec which is known as the ‘City of Poets’. These
include the poet Lasgush Poradeci and the writer Mitrush Kuteli.
The celebrated painter Vangjush Mio was born in the village of Vithkuq in 1891. He
specialised in landscapes of the Korça Region and became known as the ‘People’s
There are five museums in Korça City: the Medieval Art Museum with 7,000 icons, of which
only 250 are presently displayed, the largest icon museum in the Balkans; the Archaeological
Museum (prehistoric life of the region); the Education Museum located on the second floor of
the first Albanian Language School; the house of the landscape painter, Vangjush Mio and the
Oriental Art museum ‘Bratko’. The Erseka ethnographic museum, presents history of the region
with; but no information in English. Attached to the Tumulus of Kamenica, is a very interesting
interpretation centre describing the findings at the site and presenting the life of the Illyrians.
Archaeological sites and Castles
A number of archaeological sites can be found in the region including:
The Tumulus of Kamenica, a recently
excavated funerary structure at an Illyrian settlement. The museum documents the rituals
and lives of a community that lived between the end of the 13th
C and the 6th
The cathedral in Korça City,
largest Orthodox church in
The monastery at Vithkuq
The Tumulus of Kamenica
Settlements since Neolithic times (6 C BC)
C cemetery of Selca
The Roman road, the ‘Via Egnatia’
The Bridge of Goliku – Apostle Paul walked the bridge on the way to Constantinople
Archaeological excavations above the City of Pogradec uncovered a 5th C Illyrian
The mosaic at Lin, 5th
The remains of a Castle walls first built in the 5th
Century and 11th
century is located on
the hill above Pogradec.
Festivals and Events
The region is gaining a reputation as one of festivals and events – especially Korça City which is
now known as the ‘City of Celebrations’. Other areas of the region are developing fairs and
festivals. These include:
Voskopoja (24 June Saint Prodhrom)
Celebration Day of Church of Mborje (40 days after Easter)
Vithkuq Saint Peter. Fair (29 June)
Dardha Saint Maria (16 August)
Prespa (Christmas, January 7-9) New Year (14 of January)
Prespa Folk Festival (11 October)
Prespa, Cultural Summer Week (2-10 August)
Prespa, Wine Day, December
Pogradec “Xinxifilo” European Festival of Marionettes (17-25 January)
Pogradec, Lake Ohrid Day (June 21st)
Pogradec, Poetic Night (June 21st)
Pogradec, Autumn Poetic Night: October
Pogradec, Festival of Wine (December 11 – 12)
Pogradec, The most successful people of the year (December 29)
Pogradec, Opening of the tourist season (June 20)
Kolonja, Festival of Saint Nicolas and Vodica village. December 6 and May 20
Kolonja Festival of Saint Peter in Rehova village. June 29
Kolonja Day of Honour for the Borova Martyrs. July 6
Kolonja High School Graduation. July, date changes
Korça City events (some of the events and dates are not established yet for 2014)
“Pranvera” – painting exhibition - Cultural Centre Vangjush Mio
June 1st Celebrating together – children day - Rinia Park
Book fair, Thimi Mitko library
June 21 Korça Carnivals, City Centre
Symposium “Park sculpture”, Rinia Park
August Beer festival
September 7 Pie festival
September 22 to 29 Cultural week
September 29 Cultural heritage day - free visit in the museums and galleries of the city
October 25-28 The international colony of figurative artists, Cultural Centre Vangjush
November 28 Independence Day
November 29 Liberation Day
December 1 Commencement of the End year/Christmas Fair
December 20 National Competition of Figurative Artists, Cultural Centre Vangjush Mio
The cuisine of the region is reputed throughout Albania for its freshness and organic qualities.
The villages by the lakes offer unique fish dishes such as the Koran trout from Ohrid Lake, the
Silvery Belushka fish and Carp and Marenë only found in Prespa Lake. The villages offer dishes
based on their agricultural heritage and local resources. These include fire-baked pies; Bacori
(pie made of corn flower); Byrek; winter Pasta; Dromka (homemade pasta); Petka; Pastërma (dry
meat); fried snails; mushrooms; Tërhana (a type of sweet and sour cream soup); dry fruit; honey
and different kinds of jam, apple dishes from Erseka and Kulaç (scone).
The wine and raki of the region is also well known, in particular the wineries of Leskovik.
However, these are not prepared to receive tourists although this would be an excellent tourist
product for the future
Music, Dance and Folklore
The Korça Region and Korça City in particular, is associated with the famous Serenades and
with people coming from all over Albania to hear the music – especially as played at the Skena
Park club. There is a proposal to brand Korça City with the mandolin with a large monument
representing a mandolin is planned for one of the central squares of the city. Each area has its
own music, dance and folklore with distinctive costumes.
There are excellent handicrafts and local specialities like the handmade carpets and blankets,
knitting and embroidery of Pogradec and the felt processing and traditional folk dancing
costumes of Dardha, the table clothes, wine and raki of Kolonja as well as earthenware and
carvings. However, the sector is not organised at all and there are few opportunities for tourists
to buy the crafts and specialities of the area.
Nature-based Tourism Products
The Korça Region has exceptional nature assets including world famous lakes and spectacular
mountains. There are national parks like the Prespa National Park, Drenova National Park and
the Germenj National Park.
Ohrid Lake is one of the oldest lakes in Europe with Lake Baikal in Siberia possessing a unique
ecosystem with 200 endemic species. It is also one of the deepest lake in Europe at 288 m in
depth. The lake was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. It has a surface area of
, and 87,53 km of shoreline, 31.54 km of which are in Albania, the rest in Macedonia.
The famous Prespa dish of Carp fish
The wineries of Leskovik are not yet ready
for tourism but produce excellent wine
Singing the serenades The folkloric costumes of Vithkuq
Pogradec (and its surroundings) is the main resort destination in the Korça Region has been
attracting leisure visitors for a long time.
Unfortunately there has been some environmental damage and a project is underway financed by
the German Bank, KfW to reverse the problems and clean up the pollution in the lake.
Prespa Lake has a surface area of 285 sq Km, 49.5 sq km of which are in Albania. There are in
fact two lakes in the Prespa area (one larger lake and a smaller one, Micro Prespa), which is
shared by Greece, Macedonia and Albania. It is the highest lakes eco-system in the Balkans at
853 m in altitude. It has several islands, including Mali Grad opposite the village of Liqenas.
There are 39 endemic species associated with the Prespa Lakes. Micro Prespa Lake in particular
has been recognised as an important wetland ecosystems favouring breeding and feeding of rare
water bird species. The flora in the region is abundant with more than 1500 plant species.
Although some environmental damage is starting to show, not least because two villages as
ejecting their sewages directly into the lake, a Local Development Plan financed through the
KfW German Bank is being introduced and a solid waste management programme is now
employing 3 people at two centres in the Liqenas commune. A water treatment project is planned
for an investment of €500,000.
It is possible to rent boats and fish but there is no equipment for hire. Fishing out of season is a
The Germenj National Park and nature reserve has a surface area of 7,300 ha and is rich in
fauna including bears, wolves and deer. It is located in Kolonja Area in the south of the region. A
management and tourism plan has been proposed for the park which recommends the planning
and development of hiking trails and the opening up of the park for tourism in conjunction with
the Gremenj Forest Association.
The Prespa National Park was established in 1999 for the rehabilitation and sustainable
protection of critical terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the Prespa Lakes. It has an area of
27,750 ha and is largest park in the country. The village of Gorica is the centre where park
employees live and a park information centre is located. The park accommodates several
ecosystems. It is located in a mountainous area with caves and forests to explore and a very rich
flora of 1,500 types of plants which are exploited for a variety of uses (medicinal, aromatic, as
colouring for textiles …). One of the rare species of birds that live in the park is the Dalmatian
pelican. However, some of the animal species are disappearing – bears (not hunted), wolves
(hunted), and wild boars (disappearing). There are several interesting caves to explore such as
Mali Grad Island on Prespa Lake where
the14C St Mary Church is located
Ohrid Lake has spectacular views
the Zaver cave with a network of underground waterways and the Tren cave which was inhabited
in Neolithic times as well as numerous cultural and historic sites previously listed.
Drenova National Park is rich in fauna (bears, wild boars and pheasant) in its forest. It is
known for its hazelnut trees, fir trees, beech and black pine.
Mountains, Rivers, Hiking and Skiing
The Gramozi Mountain, the third highest mountain in Albania is located in Kolonja in the
South of the region. It is possible to hike four and a half hour from Erseka to the top of the
mountain to see a glacier lake and 2 hours from Erseka to reach a spectacular waterfall. The
Osum River, a tributary of the Upper Devoli River, offers activities such as swimming and
fresh farmed fish are served at local restaurants.
Located near Korça City, the Morova Mountain range offers possibilities for skiing. A project
for a ski resort has been proposed which will include two hotels. Organised skiing areas are at an
early developmental stage in the region with possibilities of enjoying the sport at a few locations
including Akademia in Voskopoja and at a new hotel at Dardha which is still being built.
Presently no tow-ropes or chairlifts exist at any of these locations.
A few service providers organised activities in nature for their clients. Akademia in Voskopoja
offers activities mostly for school groups which include horse riding and skiing. Crossroads
Camp and Conference Centre in the Erseka area offers summer camps for young people.
Activities include rock climbing, canoeing, archery, arts and crafts, and team building. The
Taverna Peshku, offering three villas, located between Erseka and Leskovik has horses and
tourists can explore the Germenj National Park with a guide from the taverna.
Built on a former Illyrian settlement, Korça City is located in the foothills of the Morava
Mountains at an altitude of 896 meters. With a population of approximately 70,000, the city lies
on a fertile plain which is the basis of its economy. It is one of the main wheat-growing areas of
Albania. It also specialises in light industries such as textiles and rug manufacturing, flour-
milling, brewing (the famous Korça beer), construction block manufacturing and sugar refining.
Mining of lignite coal takes place in the surrounding mountains.
Several occupations throughout history have
left their mark on the city. Its architecture
reflects different periods of its past. Under
The Gramozi mountain range in
Excursions in the Germenj
National Park set out from
The cobblestones alleys of Korça City
the Ottomans until the 19th
century, houses with balconies characterised the architecture of the
city; the city became an important trading centre and the urban system was developed and the
bazaar reconstructed; a subsequent period brought shops, administrative buildings, yards and
orchards, iron fences and marble to the city. At the beginning of the 20th
century the town was
occupied by the Greeks as well as the French. The four year occupation of the city by France
between 1916 and 1920 during the First World War influenced the architecture of the buildings
with the association with France continues today – a French school is still operating in the city
and there are cultural exchanges with French institutions. A French cemetery where 640 French
soldiers were laid to rest is also located in the city. In fact the city was labelled the ‘little Paris’.
Korça City is associated with sophistication, history and culture which are well represented by its
five museums, the churches including the largest cathedral in Albania and the oldest cultural
building in town, the Mirahori Mosque.
The city has a distinctive feel about it, from the cosmopolitan boulevards in the centre, in
particular the Republika Boulevard, to the cobbled stoned alleyways. Korça is well known in
Albania as a city which has kept its character despite the damages caused during the communist
period and the recent construction of buildings which do not fit in with the historical and quaint
appeal of the city.
Whilst its attractions have great potential for tourism, currently the city is not ‘tourist friendly’.
There is no directional signage to attractions, some are closed during official opening hours,
restaurants are difficult to find and do not display what they offer or indeed few have menus in
another language other than Albanian.
Pogradec, the capital of the Pogradec Area has a population of over 30,000. It is the second
largest city in the region, located on the south shore of Orhid Lake. Because of it beautiful
setting, every year it receives the greatest number of tourist arrivals in the region. Enver Hoxha
the communist leader, used to spend his leisure time in the area. The city has a long history going
back to 6,000 BC and has been settled by a number of different tribes and different cultures
throughout its history having left their mark. The city is overlooked by the remains of a fifth
century castle. It is known as a city of art and culture and is referred to as the ‘City of Poets’.
A paved, semi-pedestrian area has
recently been added to the city near the
banks of the lake and the shoreline is
being cleared and landscaped to offer a park area along the sandy beach. The city has the greatest
number of hotel beds in the region and lately tourists can enjoy entertainment at restaurants and
bars. The cuisine of the area is particularly well known, especially the Koran trout found only in
the Ohrid and Baikal Lakes in Siberia.
The paved area of Pogradec
Erseka is the third city in the Korça
Region and the capital of the Kolonja
Area. Located in the Gramozi
Mountains at over 1,000 m in altitude, it is the highest city in Albania. Its economy is based on
agriculture and it is particularly well known for its apples and honey. Erseka has a proud history
and many famous patriots and intellectuals originate from the city, including Fan Noli and Jani
Vreto amongst many others. It has its own music, dance, and traditional dresses. The Fan Stilian
Noli centre presents artistic and cultural events throughout the year
The city today is relaxed with a friendly community and serves as a base to visit the beautiful
The centre of Erseka
Tourism Facilities in the Korça Region
Until recently, tourism was a secondary industry in the Korça Region, except in Pogradec. No
survey has been carried out to analyse the commercial structure of the sector. However, it is
estimated that the following facilities exist for tourists:
Korça City: 9 hotels, 600 beds
Pogradec: 27 hotels, 900 beds; 10 guesthouses and rented apartments
Erseka Area: 3 hotels, 57 beds; 7 guesthouses
Prespa Area: 2 hotels, 25-30 beds, 30 guesthouses
Voskopoja: 4 hotels, 400 beds; 20 guesthouses
Dardha: 3 hotels, 100 beds and 10 guesthouses
Vithkuq: 2 hotels, 30 beds; a number of guesthouses and home stays
Boboshtica: 5 guesthouses
The region is well endowed with excellent restaurants and several villages offer unique local
cuisine. There are only a few outbound travel agents in Korça City and Pogradec and a few tour
guides. There is only one tour operator located in Korça City.
As tourism develops in the region, the number of service providers will increase.
Current Tourist Markets Visiting the Korça Region
Little research has been carried out on tourism market segments visiting the Korça Region. Some
figures are provided in the GTZ-sponsored strategy but it also warns that these, limited to the
data collected from hotel registration in Pogradec and Korça City, do not reflect reality.
Therefore the range and size of the tourism markets visiting the Korça Region at this time can
only be estimated by interviewing key informants such as tour operators, hoteliers, travel
agents… and compiling their views to produce a realistic segmentation. Some information
pertaining to the region’s markets was provided through the development of Market Profiles by
the TACs contained in the four TAPs. However, these profiles were developed based upon the
‘perceptions’ of the TAC members and not based on hard data. It is imperative that a solid
statistical system is introduced to understand where visitors to the region are coming from, their
profile and behaviour as well as the performance of the sector if it is going to be suitably
managed in the future. Fortunately a SNV UNWTO-sponsored ‘Regional Tourism Data Base’
project is currently underway through the ST-EP Korça Region Tourism Destination
Development / Management Programme and a system is in place by May 2009.
The Domestic Market (including Albanian Communities living in Kosovo, Macedonia and
Albanians living in Greece)
This is by far the largest existing market to the Korça Region which is attracted for a number of
motives. Leisure tourism is focused around the Ohrid Lake and Pogradec is the destination for
these tourists, particularly in the summer. Increasingly the domestic market from the main
centres of Albania like Tirana and Elbasan are discovering villages of Prespa Lake and the other
traditional villages of the region to enjoy the reputed local cuisine offered in tavernas, the good
climate and fresh air and nature activities such as enjoying the snow and skiing in winter.
Festivals and fairs, particularly those organised in Korça City in the last couple of years but also
in other centres such as Pogradec, are gaining a reputation throughout the country and attracting
domestic tourists from all over.
The tourism department at the municipality in Pogradec estimated that there were 150,000
visitors in 2013 staying at its 27 hotels for weekends and in summer for 5 to 10 days. Foreigners
only accounted for 10000 visitors but a growing number of tourists were from Kosovo and
It is impossible to estimate the size of this market as no survey for the whole region has ever
been carried out. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that there has been a considerable
growth in arrivals from the domestic market, mainly due to the varied events and festivals
organised in the region over the last year.
There are a number of sub-segments within the domestic market, from families choosing to
spend time in the area, to young people, school groups, middle aged and elderly visitors on
organised outings, people visiting their friends and relatives, visitors on business as well as local
tourists from the Korça Region enjoying weekends and day excursions in other parts of the
region and visitors from other parts of the country like Tirana. Therefore there are a range of
markets which will enjoy different combinations of the region’s tourism assets.
There are certain markets that are not strictly domestic but can be reached through domestic
channels. These include the large Albanian communities of Kosovo and of Macedonia as well as
Albanians now living in Greece where they have moved for work – many of which have bought
second homes in Albania. It is estimated by the Watson Institute that there are 600,000 Greeks of
. These populations watch the same TV stations than the domestic market –
especially satellite TV -, read the same newspapers and listen to the same radio stations. MTCYS
figure show Kosovo is the greater tourist generating market for Albania followed by Macedonia.
There has been a large increase from these markets in recent years due to increased stability in
Kosovo and to deteriorating relations between Greece and Macedonia. It is noted that there is an
increase of Slav Macedonian tourists who are starting to discover the tourism attributes of
Albania and its advantageous prices. During the war, many people from Kosovo were hosted in
Albania and have got to know the country and what it has to offer. Before the 1990s, these
markets tended to go to Montenegro for their vacations. Today, they predominantly visit the
Mediterranean coast in Albania, although stakeholders in the Korça Region report that they have
noted an increased number of Macedonians in particular in the last couple of years. There are
also Albanian communities in other Balkan countries. It is estimated that in total there are 7
million Albanians in the Balkans, only half of which live in Albania.
According to key informants interviewed for this study, emigrants who have left Albania since
the change of regime now return home for the following reasons:
to Visit Friends and Relatives
inner motivation – socialising with people; sense of belonging to a community
self esteem – to show their elevated social position
for medical reasons – treatment tends to be cheaper in Albania
to combine vacations with visiting friends and relatives
It is important that these markets are researched, from a national perspective but also as future
markets for the Korça Region.
Ethnic Albanians living in Other Countries
These include the Albanian communities in the United States, Canada, Germany, the UK, Italy,
France, Australia and the Middle East. It is estimated that there are 1.8 million people of
Albanian extraction living abroad2
. However, no research has been undertaken to obtain an
These fall into two main market segments:
those that emigrated prior to the establishment of the communist regime. They emigrated
in the 1930s and the 1940s and now this market segment comprises several generations.
Many cannot speak Albanian, may never have been to Albania and may only know about
the country through recollections of relatives;
those that emigrated after the fall of the communist regime; this wave started in the early
1990s and is continuing today. There may be two or three generations, the younger
members of this segment will probably have been born in their country of residence. This
market segment still has family and friends in Albania and this is a main motivation for
returning to the country. This is also the market segment that is most likely to buy second
homes in Albania, usually in the area they originate from. Within this market segment
there are also sub-segments. Whilst they mainly emigrated for economic reasons, they
came from different walks of life – many taking low paid jobs, sometimes not using
qualifications and skills that they acquired at home but trying to achieve a better quality
of life for themselves and their families. Through emigration, Albania has suffered a
great loss of its intellectual capital – a brain drain. According to a UNDP project3
between 1990 and 2003, 45% of university professors and researchers and 65% of PhDs
in Albania emigrated.
Brain Gain – Engaging Diaspora in Albania’s Development; UNDP, 2007.
Both segments behave differently as they have had diverse and differing life experiences.
American and Canadian Albanians
This is a large market which is easily reached through:
associations and organisations (i.e. National Albanian American Council, the Albanian
American Civic League, the Frosina Information Network, Albanian American Womans
Organization, Massachusetts Albanian American Society… A list of Albanian American
organisations can be found on the following web page http://www.naac.org/partner.php),
international media in Albanian (i.e. TV – Albanian Culture TV -, newspapers, the radio
– Radio Alba - and the Internet),
Albanian Language Schools like the one in Boston and
specialist tour operators.
The size of this market is difficult to estimate as there is little information about this. The biggest
concentration of Albanian Americans is in the New York and Boston areas in the US. It is
estimated that there are 200,000 Albanian Americans in the New York area4
Massachusetts Albanian American Society states that there are currently approximately 30,000
people of Albanian decent residing in Massachusetts. The majority of Canadians from Albanian
descent live in Toronto or Montreal.
Albanians in the US and Canada are well represented in all echelons of society. Famous
Albanian Americans include the Belushi Brothers, Jim and John, whose family were originally
from the Korça Region (and Jim Belushi is now investing in the region); Joseph Dio Guardi, a
past US Congressman, his wife Shirley a co-founder of the American Albanian civic league and
his daughter Kara, a song writer, record producer, singer and judge on the American Idol show;
Emina Cunmulaj, a top model; as well several famous up and coming writers such as Agim
Bacelli who was born and raised in Korça City, a poet and writer who emigrated to the States in
1995; Merita Bajraktari McCormack – born in Korça City, grew up in Cangonj village (her lyrics
have been turned into songs – the famous serenades of Korça); Albana Melyshi Lifschin – a
writer living in New York since 1992; and Rozi Theohari – poet and author who emigrated in
1994. A list of notable Albanian Americans can be found at this web page:
People of Albanian descent in other Countries of the World
Through the waves of emigration before and after the communist era, Albanians have settled in
countries around the world. These communities have in common a sense of kinship and there are
associations and organisations in most countries where there are Albanian communities
It is estimated that there are around 1 million Albanians living in various European countries
such as the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Austria and France. The majority of
which have arrived since 1991). As with the Greek Albanians, these will return home to visit
friends and relatives as well as for holidays.
There is an Albanian community in Egypt numbering around 18,0005
as well as communities
located throughout the Middle East. The Albanian Association in Middle East is located in Dubai
(see http://www.aa-me.org/EN/home.html ).
By 1920, there were 1,000 Albanians settled in Australia. In the 2006 census, there were 2,000
Australians born in Albania and over 11,000 Australians of Albanian descent mostly in Northern
Queensland, Western Australia and Shepparton in Victoria. SBS Radio has an Albanian channel.
There are a number of associations in the different Australian States. A list can be found at this
These markets can be an important source of future visitors for the Korça Region. However,
Albania has an image problem that needs to be overcome. Older emigrants remember the days
when Albania was closed to the world and have lost touch with today’s improving reality and
more recent emigrants remember the chaos following the return to democracy, the financial
turmoil caused by the failure of the pyramid schemes in 1997 and many imagine that Albania is
still in this state. Awareness has to be built and promoted pertaining to current much-improved
situation in Albania. Therefore image building must be a vital step in the marketing strategy.
Foreign Tour Group Market
According to key informants interviewed for this study, there are approximately 50,000 foreign
tourists that come to Albania on organised tours using tour operators, of these just 5% to 10%
include the Korça Region in their travels. Therefore, the number of foreign tourists on organised
tours that annually visit the Korça Region is 3,000 to 5,000.
In recent years, the greatest number of tourists visiting Albania on tours came from Eastern
Europe, in particular Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, from Western Europe, Germany,
Scandinavia and from the Mediterranean, specifically Israeli tourists.
Tours include the Grand Albanian Tour which is a comprehensive itinerary visiting all the main
cities and sites in Albania. Unfortunately the Korça Region is not always featured on the
Albania is also included in some multi-country itineraries, for instance along the Croatian coast
via Slovenia, Bosnia Herzegovina through Montenegro. These will usually visit Tirana and some
of the historic sites of Albania (for an example see The Balkan Mosaic classical tour at
http://www.bestway.com/itineraries/t054.php). These rarely include the Korça Region although
they may pass through it (The Balkan Mosaic tour visits Ohrid Lake but stays in Macedonia and
travels straight to Tirana on the next leg of the journey).
This can be an important market which would be reached through tour operators. Therefore it is
essential to concentrate the marketing effort on encouraging tour operators to feature the Korça
Region in their itineraries, particularly those operators presently travelling through the region.
This means inviting them to see the area for themselves and preparing packages of activities that
they can offer their clients. This will also keep tourists longer in the area. There will be a need
for some image building to acquaint potential tourists with what there is to enjoy in the Korça
Region. This is best done by generating media interest and inviting journalists to discover the
area and write about it.
Independent Traveller Market
These come to the Korça Region for a variety of reasons, from visiting friends and relatives, for
business or work or simply for leisure. As they are difficult to classify they are also difficult to
market to. There are no figures for the number of arrivals from independent travellers although in
the analysis carried out for the TAPs there is an indication of visitor profiles which includes
different types of independent travellers. This broad market will use a range of accommodation
and will enjoy many of the region’s tourism products if it has time.
The best way of influencing this market is by providing it with plenty of information, local tour
guides, good directional as well as informational signage, maps, and inclusion of information on
the area in guide books as well as on the internet. It is important that articles about the region
regularly feature in major publications with details of how to visit the destination, what to do
there, where to stay, the best restaurants, etc… PR is one of the best marketing channels for this
Cross Border Market
As the Korça Region borders both Macedonia and Greece, inevitably there is a significant
amount of cross border movement for business, shopping and for leisure. Mostly these are
independent travellers. There is evidence that tour operators are now organising excursions in
neighbouring countries, for instance tour buses visiting Korça City with tourists enjoying lunch
at a local hotel after visiting the museums. However, the visits tend to be ad hoc with no regular
schedule. According to key informants interviewed for this study, tour operators in Greece and to
a lesser extent in Macedonia are keen to develop business partnerships with service providers
from the Korça Region. There is also interest in developing three country itineraries which can
be offered to the larger market although there are a number of issues to smooth out such as visas.
Currently this market is limited but may be successful in the future if linkages can be fostered
between operators in each country.
Business Tourism Market
Travellers on business are catered for in the three main cities of the region. There are a several
locations which provide services for business meeting and seminars in the main cities, at hotels
by Ohrid Lake and at the Academia Hotel in Voskopoja. Larger gatherings such as conferences
and conventions can be hosted in Korça City and in Pogradec. There are no figures for the
number of business travellers to the region, however anecdotal evidence and hotel occupancy
data would suggest that there is a substantial business market to the main centres of the region.
The Product / Market Fit
The Product / Market Fit is a technique which is used to analyse the products that tourists
visiting a destination enjoy. The Korça Marketing and Product Development Strategy Working
Group, convened to consider issues arising during the project, went through a Product / Market
Fit exercise to reflect on the link between markets attracted to the region and products that they
consume during their visit.
This method provides a simple grading system to assess markets and products at a destination. A
matrix is developed listing all the markets visiting the region in columns and the products
available in the region in rows. Two points are allocated to products which are of particular
interest to a specific market; one point to products which the market is somewhat interested in;
and no point if the market has no interest in the product. The scores across the markets for each
product are totalled (column on the right of the matrix). This indicates the products that are of
most interest to the greater number of markets. The scores for each market are totalled (last row).
This indicated the markets that enjoy the greatest number of products in the region.
The results of the approach allow us to make a number of inferences about products and markets
in the Korça Region which are discussed below.
It is clear that both soft culture (i.e. intangible culture such as arts, crafts, folklore and society)
and hard culture (i.e. historical and contemporary monuments) are the greatest pull factors to the
Korça Region. ‘Cuisine and Drinks’ and ‘Music and Events’ score the highest amongst the
majority of markets closely followed by more tangible culture including ‘Churches and
Museums’ and Villages. In fact there is a close link between Villages, ‘Cuisine and drinks’ and
‘Music and events’. History also scores very highly and historical attractions are popular with
many of the market segments.
Nature is a strong pull factor to the Korça Region with ‘Mountains and Lakes’ scoring high.
However, it is also apparent that currently visitors do not participate in many activities in nature
surroundings such as cycling and horse riding. Hiking is the activity that is enjoyed the most, but
that is still fairly limited. The lack of organised activities, information on what is possible to do
in the area and the few opportunities to rent equipment and facilities to actively enjoy Korça’s
natural environment is hindering the development of nature tourism and ecotourism. According
to anecdotal evidence from the volunteer Tourist Information Office in Korça, 80% of enquires
last year were from visitors wanting to know about cycling possibilities in the area. This would
indicate that new products could be developed in the region. It is clear that nature is an important
tourism asset for the region but its potential is not being realised.
According to the analysis of the Korça Marketing and Product Development Strategy Working
Group, independent foreign visitors enjoy most products in the Korça Region. Although this is a
broad category, it can be presumed that the independent traveller is under less time pressure than
other market segments and will take time to explore the region and participate in as many
activities as possible, enjoying all the experiences that are on offer. However, the number of
visitors is estimated to be currently fairly small (although data is not readily available yet) and
targeting the marketing effort to this segment is harder than to well defined segments like tour
groups which can be reached through tour operators and geographically demarcated segments
such as Albanian Americans and Canadians.
Foreign residents with Albanian background fall into 3 main categories: Albanian that emigrated
in the 1930s and 1940s – a substantial number are located in the US; Albanians that emigrated in
the 1990s after the change of regime; and ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and Macedonia.
Albanian Americans and Canadians are potentially a strong market segments and, according to
the brainstorming, enjoy a variety of products in the Korça Region. The advantage of marketing
to this group is that they are fairly easily located through the various associations that exist in the
United States and Canada, and can be reached through well defined marketing channels such as
associations, newspapers and newsletters as well as Albanian television in the US. Products in
the region can be tailored to their needs.
The domestic market is strong; particularly the domestic middle aged visitors, the domestic
youth and school groups. They enjoy the regions soft culture as well as its nature. The youth and
school groups enjoy the opportunities for active tourism such as sports. However, this is still not
well developed in the region. Tour groups are also a good market to target. The potential of
combining tours with neighbouring countries (cross-border products) must be explored so that
the Korça region can offer a product that is distinct from those in the other countries and
represents the diversity of Albania in the package.
Independent visitors from neighbouring countries will include Albanian immigrants returning
home to visit friends and relatives, those that have invested in property in the Korça Region but
also tourists visiting Albania for a change of scenery and culture (i.e. weekend visit) or for
shopping. These are more difficult to market to buy products should be made available to them
and well publicised so that they are aware of them and can find them easily.
4.3 Planned Developments in the Korça Region which Affect Tourism
As with the rest of Albania, the Korça Region is currently going through a period of
development and transformation. The following projects are underway which ultimately
improved tourism in the project area:
Project Location Description of the Project
areas in Korça
A large part of the city centre around the cathedral
and down one of the main boulevards is
pedrestrianised, beautifying the city centre and
offering shops, restaurants and bars for residents and
tourists to enjoy. This has passed through public
consultation and has been approved.
The Old Bazaar is one of the most important
attractions in Korça Region seeped in history and
tradition. Its reconstruction will contribute to tourism
development and will be an important attraction for the
city. A US$10 million project has been proposed
through the Ministry and the Council of Europe.
the road to
Voskopoja is a tourist village, well known in Albania
and abroad. It is visited throughout the year,
especially from other areas of Albania. Better road
infrastructure will increase the number of tourists to
Voskopoja, facilitating access to the village.
the road from
Korça City to
Morava Mountain is very close of Korça City. An
urban study was completed and approved. The road
construction will attract investors (national and
international) to implement the plan. Road is improvet
but is still ongoing the new Resort Centre.
This is a very important investment for the region, and
a big contribution to infrastructure development and to
the improvement of the quality of life of the
community. This project will be link with the upgrading
of roads in the cities, therefore improving the internal
roads infrastructure and the image of the cities and
Land Use Plan
The new urban land use plan of the city will attract
entrepreneurs and investors, and provide a new ‘face’
for the city.
d in 2008
of the national
road to Prespa
This road links the Albanian side with the Macedonian
side upgrading the border route, thus improving tourist
links between the countries.
Project Location Description of the Project
These are crucial for the Korça region as to date there
is no official TIC except from a private initiative in
Korça City. This will coincide with the implementation
of the main objectives of the local TAPs in Korça
a new Medieval
This museum will be one of the biggest and most
important in Balkans
This centre will cater for national and international
sports activities, providing high standards and a new
dimension the city. Government support is still sought
for this plan. This is a US$40 million dollar project
Restoration is ongoing or planned at several churches
and mosques which will greatly add to the tourism
attraction of the Korça Region.
study for an
Korça City Funds are being sought for a feasibility study
These developments will improve the prospects for tourism in the Korça Region over the next
few years and the marketing and product development strategy must take them into account.
5.1 The Tour Operator Survey
The tour operator survey was carried out in 2013 with the main tour operators in Tirana that
feature the Korça Region in their product offer. Some 15 surveys were returned, and whilst not
all tour operators currently feature the Korça Region, they all gave their perceptions of the region
as a tourism destination for their clients.
The operators that include the Korça Region in their packages tend to spend 1 or 2 nights in the
area with just one spending 3 nights. The greatest attractions visited are the museums in Korça
City, in particular the Museum of Medieval Art and the churches of Voskopoja. Indeed, the
longer the stay, the more attractions are visited, especially Dardha village and Tumulus of
Kamenica. This suggests that it is important to encourage operators to stay longer in the region.
Some operators specialise in nature tours and include the Prespa Lake in their offer. It should be
noted that none of the operators interviewed featured Kolonja.
Asked whether they expected that the market to the Korça Region would grow in the next three
years, all operators that offer tours to the area as well as some that presently do not yet
overwhelmingly thought it would (except for one who thought it would remain the same).
Reasons quoted included the fact that it is a relatively new destination for tour operators,
increased promotion and awareness about the area and the attraction of a rich cultural
The clients they bring to the area tended to mostly fall in the middle class category and are of
varying ages and group composition (i.e. visiting with families, individuals, friends etc…). All
operators catered to the foreign market except for one who would be interested in bringing
domestic groups if packages were offered to accommodate them.
All the respondents felt that ‘culture’ was the image mostly associated with the Korça Region
with several also mentioning the hospitable people, the climate and the architecture of the
houses. This is reflected in their perception that culture and climate are the main strengths of the
The weaknesses of the destinations and the biggest restrictions to their operation included
difficult access and bad roads, no airport, lack of information and promotion on the Korça
region, limited range of activities, poor services, weak infrastructure and average quality and
lack of higher quality accommodation. The main difficulties encountered by the operators to
work and operate in the Korça Region were lack of prepared packages for them to include in
their offer and no partners to collaborate with. It is only Go Albania that operates in the Korca
Region as an incoming tour operator.
The operators were asked to make recommendations that will help stimulate tourism to the Korça
Region and a number of suggestions were made including improving marketing of the region
(information and packages), improving the quality of services, offering more activities and
products for tourists to enjoy, opening higher category accommodations, improving the access
road from Gjirokastra to Korça and building a strong clear image of the region.
Value Chain Analysis of the Tourism Sector in the Korça Region
Value chain analysis is a technique used to examine the supply chain that makes up a finished
product. A value chain is normally defined as ‘all the firms that buy and sell to each other in
order to supply a particular set of products and services to final consumers’. However, the value
chain that makes up the tourism experience does not fit well into this definition as the most
important links in the value chain do not have to purchase goods or services from each other to
operate their business, and therefore act independently, albeit in an interdependent manner, in the
overall tourism experience.
Intermediaries purchase services from several links in the value chain to create packages that
they sell onto the final consumer. In this scenario, the tour operator buys transport,
accommodation and additional services from the various service providers which he packages
and sells directly or through another intermediary, the travel agent, to the final consumer, the
tourist. However, tourists also buy services directly from the providers thus bypassing the
intermediaries. They may also use their own transport, bypassing another link in the chain.
Furthermore, service providers may serve other markets unrelated to tourism; for instance, a
transport operator like a coach owner will carry local people (which may generate a greater
revenue stream) as well as tourists; and hotels supply services to business (conferences,
meetings, trade fairs…) and well as to the leisure market (weddings, graduations and other
events) which have little to do with the movement of people from one economy to another for
business or leisure, the basic definition of tourism. Therefore the links in the chain are not as
solid as those in other sectors and this has implications for SMEs and local communities wanting
to become successful service providers in the sector.
For the ‘tourism experience’ to be successful, there has to be involvement of both the private
sector as entrepreneurs and operators and the public sector as providers of public services and
infrastructure, regulators to ensure safety and business compliance and facilitators to provide a
solid framework within which the private sector can thrive sometimes referred to as creating the
‘enabling environment’. Public private sector partnerships (PPP) are vital to the success of the
Therefore, the value chain analysis must take the distinctiveness of the tourism sector into
account. An important difference in applying value chain methodology to tourism compared with
other sectors such are agriculture is that the ‘tourist’ rather than a ‘good or product’ being
produced travels along the chain and this has implication on quality. When a good is purchased
by the final consumer at the end of the chain, he/she does not see the different phases in its
design, production and distribution, whereas the tourist, which is the final consumer, is present at
most stages of the chain – consuming the product as it being produced – and therefore witnesses
and evaluates the efficiency and quality throughout the process. Therefore achieving total quality
in the tourism sector poses great challenges and more intensive application than in other sectors,
especially those producing goods rather than services.
The value chain analysis process adopted for the marketing and product development strategy for
the Korça Region identifies the actors and activities that are involved at each stage of the chain,
the constraints and obstacles that are impeding the smooth operation and development of tourism
and the interventions that can be recommended to improve, expand and/or develop the situation
or product. Based on the analysis, a decision is made on whether this value chain will be focused
on in the short-term strategy.
In this chapter an example of the analysis is presented for one of the value chains: Domestic
Tourism. The detailed analyses of the other value chains are presented in Appendix 3. This
chapter summarises the conclusions of these analyses.
Value Chains focused on Markets
The value chain technique allows us to examine tourism in a destination from the perspective of
the market as well as from the perspective of the product. This section focuses on the markets
that visit the Korça Region.
The Domestic Market
The domestic market analysed here includes Albanians and Albanian communities living in
Kosovo, Fyrom Macedonia and Greece; their common culture would suggest that they will have
similar needs and desires and because they can be generally reached through the same media
The first stage of the analysis of this value chain is to understand the different stages that
comprise the chain, the businesses that are involved at each stage of the chain and the activities
that these are involved in. This is laid out graphically as illustrated in Figure 1.
• Reach them
• Possible tour
VALUE CHAIN LINK OVERVIEW MAP: DOMESTIC TOURISM
• By road
• Private car
in the area
Mainly from Tirana/Durres
and Elbasan but also from
Albanians from Kosovo, Macedonia
and Greece are considered
domestic market here
• Bus, through
• Taxi service
• Independent or
• Some stay with
• Looking for a
• Visiting villages
• Lake and
• Mountains (snow)
• Participating in
• Looking for
• Visit museums,
• By road
• Private car
The second stage is to assess the obstacles and constraints that are impeding the success of this
value chain. These are also laid out graphically as depicted in Figures 2 and 3
• National road under construction from
Progradec to Korça City
• Lack or insufficient signage
• Rented car only in Tirana
• Roads in the region need improvement
• Narrow roads for buses
in the area
• Marketing only of events (newspapers, posters, local
TV); relies on word-of-mouth rather than promotion
• Only local TV used – not national TV, especially to
reach Albanians in Macedonia, Kosovo and Greece
but also in Tirana etc…
• Local characteristics such as clement climate in
summer and snow in winter not sufficiently promoted if
at all (people just seem to know about it)
• Limited collaterals and often out of date – collaterals
usually developed with assistance of NGOs and are
‘one time’ initiatives
• Lack of knowledge of marketing at local level
• Lack of research on market needs
CONSTRAINTS AND OBSTACLES
• No high category hotels (4 and 5 star) for tourists
looking for this service
• Lack of training for hospitality services in hotels and
restaurants resulting in non-professional provision
• Small number of restaurants in the centre of the city
(Korça and Erseka in particular) or at tourist
attractions – lack of signage to indicate the location
• Lack of variety in many of the restaurants (often the
local speciality is the only thing available)
• Often lack of menus on the table to consult
• Without tour operators and guides it is difficult to
find tourist attractions in the Korça Region, even
for the domestic market
• Lack of opportunities to enjoy activities such as
horse riding, cycling, hiking (lack of trails, maps,
and equipment to hire)
• Small number of organised activities
• Few informational and directional signage to
• Attractions often closed and require knowledge
of the person to approach which the tourist does
• Few maps to locate attractions
• Some attractions such as the lakes and the
villages need environmental treatment and
• Waste management systems needed at hotels,
guesthouses and restaurants
CONSTRAINTS AND OBSTACLES
Interventions to solve the problems caused by the constraints and obstacles are recommended as
shown in Figures 4 and 5. They provide the basis for the elaboration of action plans.
AREAS OF POTENTIAL INTERVENTION
• Marketing strategy should focus strongly on domestic tourism,
especially Albanians in neighbouring countries by promoting
events and festivals not only on local TV but also on national
TV and in national newspapers
• Also promote the opportunities to enjoy tourism in the region
• Seek endorsement of famous personalities originating from
Korça i.e. Korça (Prifti) Brothers who have a growing
reputation in Albania and with Albanians abroad
• Invite journalists and tour operators to see the tourism
attractions of the Korça Region (fam trips)
• Market research to uncover their needs in order to adapt the
product in Korça
• Capacity building in tourism, especially in marketing
• Attend relevant trade fairs in Albania and in areas with
Albanian populations reside to promote the Korça Region
• Lobby local and central government to
improve roads to attractions
• Review and develop appropriate signage
• Encourage local business to establish a
rented-a-car service in Korça City or
• Develop and distribute a Korça Region
map with attractions and tourism services
clearly indicated (encourage private sector
in the area
AREAS OF POTENTIAL INTERVENTION
• Encourage upgrading and establishment of higher category
• Organise training with owners and managers of
accommodation and restaurants, particularly on the required
level of service needed for the increasingly sophisticated
• Encourage internet booking facilities for accommodation
• Organise training in Albanian of service staff using trainers
from respected institutions
• Develop ‘Train the Trainers’ courses to ensure continuous
training – select local trainers
• Planning control by local government units to ensure that
bars and restaurants suitable for tourists are available at
areas where tourists congregate
• Encourage ‘no smoking areas’ in bars and restaurants and
enforce ‘no smoking’ regulation
• List accommodation available in tourist guides and at
specially established information centres at villages
• Establish regional information centre in Korça City or/and
Pogradec and information points at tourist area –
• Develop map of attractions and widely distribute it
through the TICs, hotels and travel agencies
• Encourage local entrepreneurs to develop horse riding
and cycling activities, rent equipment, and develop trails
• Organise and promote a range of activities that can be
enjoyed in the village in Korça Region
• Create or improve directional signage to attractions
• Ensure that opening time of attractions are respected and
that tourists are able to visit these without looking for a
person to open them
• Develop and/or implement where this exists Local
Environmental Action Plans (LEAPS)
• Build awareness of the need for waste management
systems at hotels, guesthouses and restaurants
Based on the analysis of the value chain, it is possible to draw conclusions about the viability of
the market or the product. The selection of the markets to focus on in the short terms must satisfy
1. The destination and its products have a particular attraction for the market.
2. The market is large enough for the marketing investment to be worthwhile so an
appropriate return-on-investment (ROI) can be achieved.
3. There are clear and affordable channels to target the market and communicate with it.
4. Interventions designed to improve the prospects of attracting the market are achievable
In conclusion, the domestic market is currently the main market to the region which has the
choice of other areas to visit if they are not satisfied with the attractions and services available in
the Korça Region. It is a large market that comes to the area for day excursion, weekends as well
as longer holidays. It can be generally reached through the national media and trade fairs, for
specific groups such as schools and trade unions as well as for special interest groups through
their associations. Tour operators can be encouraged to target this market if appropriate products
are developed. This market enjoys many of the region’s products, including experiencing nature
and events. However, promotion to this market needs to be improved and should be stronger and
Foreign Coach Tour Market
This value chain is important to the Korça region as it brings foreign tourists to the region, who
if satisfied will promote the region through word of mouth to their friends and families. Tours
tend to be lucrative for the area with the organisers including several products and activities and
using facilities and services of local businesses and operators. There is adequate accommodation
capacity in Korça City and Pogradec – and growing capacity in some villages (i.e. Dardha).
Increasing the number of bus tours through the region will encourage service standards to
improve. To expand this market, a range of itineraries and activities needs to be developed and
this will encourage tour operators to design their tours to spend longer in the region.
However, the number of foreign tourists on tours through the area is currently relatively small
but the potential is high. When this market grows, there is a need for additional accommodation
capacity in some parts of the region (i.e. Erseka).
Cross Border Tour Market
This market has great potential and brings foreign tourists to the region, thus promoting through
word-of-mouth. The Korça Region can benefit from tourists visiting neighbouring countries by
inviting them to get to know Albania during their stay. This can involve day excursions but also
longer stays in the area. Developing a range of itineraries and activities will encourage tour
operators in neighbouring countries to include tours to the Korça Region and spend time in the
area. This would add value to their product offer. Increasing the number of bus tours from
neighbouring countries to the areas will encourage service standards to improve so that they are
on par with the standards offered in the other countries. In addition, itineraries can be specifically
designed to include the Korça Region of Albania and the bordering regions in Greece and in
Fyrom Macedonia as one package to be sold through foreign tour operators in the wider market.
However, this market is not yet properly developed although it presents undeniable potential. In
the first instance, linkages between tour operators in the three countries should be developed.
Independent Traveller Market
This has the potential of becoming a strong market for the Korça Region as it is strategically
placed near generating markets and on the route to tourist areas in other countries. The market is
relatively large but currently no numbers are known. There are several sub-markets from
Albanians living in neighbouring countries and the Diaspora to foreign visitors from
neighbouring countries on short excursions and those from further afield. It is comprised of
different types of tourists, from those looking for high end accommodation to others preferring
homestays and guesthouses. In fact this is the main market for this type of accommodation.
Independent travellers enjoy many of the region’s products because they usually have time to
explore and experience the destination.
However, this market is difficult to target specifically so the marketing channels must be chosen
carefully. It is very important to ensure that there is information readily available such as guide
books, signposting, maps, TICs etc… A good internet presence where attractions and facilities
are described in detail as well as logistical information such as access routes, transport facilities
and timetables, prices to expect and so on…
Value Chains focused on Products
This section focuses on the products that tourists enjoy in the Korça Region.
Villages are an integral component of the Korça Region tourism product and Voskopoja in
particular is featured on most tour operator itineraries through the area. Village tourism is
already becoming well established and the domestic market in particular is increasingly aware of
Korça’s villages. The Korça villages were described by one tour operator in Tirana as the best
villages for tourism in Albania. It provides direct benefit to local communities thus improving
standards, quality of life and alleviating poverty as well as enhancing SMEs in the region. The
development of tourism in villages encourages improvement of infrastructure. Interesting
villages can be found throughout the state, each with the possibility of offering a different
experience to the visitor. If village itineraries and activities are organised, tourists would be
encouraged to stay longer in the area
However, the Village Tourism product offer needs to be upgraded to fit in with market needs and
expectations and to be strongly promoted.
City or Urban Tourism
In the Korça Region, this type of tourism exists in Korça City, Pogradec and to a lesser extent
Erseka. Cities are the arrival points in the region where tourists will start to explore other areas.
They represent the region and are the centre within their area where services can be found, used,
purchased or booked. They are also where several attractions can be found within a small and
well defined area (i.e. museums, theatres, exhibitions etc…). They cater to several markets –
leisure, business and VFR - domestic and international. If well developed for tourism with a
range of activities, they will encourage tourists to stay longer.
However, cities in the Korça Region must be made ‘tourist friendly’ and upgraded accordingly;
for instance, there is no official tourist information office in any of the cities; there is a lack of
signage to attractions and amenities that are important to tourists like museums and restaurants;
attractions are often closed, even during publicised opening times; menus are generally only in
Albanian; there are few higher category hotels for tourists who require this type of facility and
hospitality services are not professional…
Cultural and Historical Tourism
The Korça Region is famed for its historical and cultural assets. History and culture are found in
cities but also in villages, and tourists travel around the region to experience 3000-year old
Illyrian archaeological sites, medieval and Byzantine churches and buildings, Second World War
monuments and memorials as well as vestiges from the communist era.
Culture and history are of interest to the general sightseeing tourist market, to the specialist
market (domestic and international) and of particular interest of the Diaspora to see where much
of Albania’s culture and history generated (Albanian language, first school etc…). Therefore
developing culture and history for tourism will benefit a range of markets. Specialist markets are
easier to target than the general tourist market as they have their own marketing channels.
The region is rich in traditional culture with each area offering original music and dance. Korça
is famous for it ‘serenades’ which are internationally known. Many of the towns and villages in
the region claim famous poets, writers and painters, some of which are known around the world.
The culture of the Korça Region is also enriched by ethnic minorities such as the Fyrom
Macedonian community in the Prespa Area which offer tourism alternatives and unique
traditions to present to visitors.
Organising historical and cultural assets into tourism products will encourage tourists to stay
longer in the area
Festivals and Events Tourism
Festivals and events bring visitors, especially domestic tourists, to the region including during
the off-season. They increase the income of tourism stakeholders including those that provide
services to tourists but are not direct stakeholders such as taxi drivers. They promote the Korça
Region as a region of activity, entertainment, fun and dynamism – somewhere there ‘is always
something going on’ – a positive brand image for the region therefore increase visibility of the
region in tourist markets. Festivals and events create a good environment for local residents who
also enjoy the entertainment. They involve public private partnerships in organisation and
marketing creating a bond, unity and partnership among participating stakeholders working in
close collaboration. Festivals and events have been very successful for the Korça Region in the
last couple of years which is now gaining a reputation in Albania and in the neighbouring
Beach and Lake Tourism
The Ohrid and Prespa Lakes are outstanding tourism assets with international recognition. They
attract the domestic market for day excursions, weekends as well as longer stays during the
summer and the international market for relatively short periods of time to see the lakes.
Distinctive cuisine is offered which is reputed and sought out. There are opportunities to visit
attractions in the area (the Macedonian villages at Prespa as well as villages near Pogradec such
as Lin). Specialist tour operators and niche market tourists can be interested to visit, for instance
to see endemic species of fauna and flora.
However, there is a need to upgrade the product to compete with similar products in Macedonia
and Greece and highlight the characteristics that are special about Albania. Environmental clean
up is vital to the success of this product.
The Korça Region has outstanding opportunities for nature tourism. It can attract the general
tourists who are interested to see high quality landscapes as well as fauna and flora but also
specialist markets such as ecotourists; adventure tourists who want to enjoy activities in nature
such as trekking, climbing and other outdoor sports; and researchers and scientists. Specialist
markets are easier to target than general tourists as they have their own marketing channels.
Nature tourism can involve day excursions but also longer stays in the area. It spreads tourism in
the region to other areas apart from the cities, enhancing opportunities for villages to offer new
products. It can offer opportunities at different times of the year (i.e. skiing in winter). Currently,
there are ongoing initiatives to develop nature tourism and developing a range of products and
activities will encourage specialist tour operators to feature the region.
However, some of the initiatives that are proposed replicate ventures that have been implemented
in other countries and may not be suitable for the region. The implications of launching theses
initiatives must be carefully assessed.
This market is not yet properly developed although it presents undeniable potential. It should be
encouraged but will take time to become established.
Handicrafts and Local Specialities
Handicrafts and local specialities are important additions to the tourism assets of a destination.
They represent the variations in culture and traditions that can be found within the region. The
value chain is different to tourism value chains as it concerns the creation, production and
distribution of physical goods rather than services. The stages of the value chain involve the
sourcing of raw materials; their treatment and processing; their design and production; their
distribution; and their marketing and sales.
Linking handicrafts and local specialities with tourism will allow the traditions to live on and
develop, and skills can be passed onto the younger generation. The traditions of past generations
and the cultural heritage of the society are preserved for future generations. Handmade and
cottage industry products tend to be of high quality and cut across other value chains (i.e.
agriculture, textile etc…). The sector employs women, creates income through new businesses
and promotes the region nationally, but also if properly marketed internationally
However, in the Korça Region the sector is disorganised and provides little value added to
tourism at the moment.
Value Chains which have the Greatest Potential for Short Term Development
The analysis shows that there is much to improve and develop if the Korça Region is to become
a leading tourism destination in Albania and in the Southern Mediterranean area. The strategy
proposed in this document focuses on a three-year timeline. Therefore, the focus of the strategy
will be on the markets that are most likely to be developed in the short term.
The Domestic Market is already by far the largest market to the Korça Region and recent
activities such as the concerted push on establishing festivals and events has greatly motivated
this market in the last few years. Furthermore, the population in the Korça Region are
increasingly becoming aware of the economic importance of developing tourism. Private sector
investment is growing and there is greater involvement of public institutions at regional,
municipal and commune levels. These advances have been a consequence of the efforts made in
the last few years by GTZ in training, information dissemination and marketing and by SNV in
the launching TAPs in four areas of the region and succeeding in getting local stakeholders
involved and committed to tourism development. This market has the greatest short term
potential and it is already being catered for and marketed to. The strategy would focus the
marketing efforts and provide a systematic methodology.
The Foreign Coach Tour Market is already visiting the Korça Region albeit in relatively small
numbers at the moment. Tour operators surveyed for this study are keen to include the Korça
Region but are put off because of lack of information, no organised packages and the perception
that access is difficult because of bad roads and poor amenities and services at the destination.
This market is reached through tour operators, convincing them to feature the destination in their
packages and by building awareness about the Korça Region in the foreign market by generating
These three markets are therefore selected as priority market for the first three years of the
General Recommendations for all Value Chains
It is clear from the value chain analysis that there are areas of general improvement which must
be achieved if the Korça Region is to become a major tourism destination in Albania and in
Southern Europe. The following section provides essential recommendations to advance the
tourism sector in the region.
Positioning and Branding the Korça Region
Positioning and branding are closely linked but different concepts. The brand is the mental
image that forms when a person is confronted with a product, or in this case, a destination.
Positioning is how that product (the destination) compares with the competition and involves
the attributes of the product which the consumer evaluates during the actual decision making
process during a purchase.
The objective of positioning is to create a distinctive place in the minds of potential customers
which will trigger an immediate positive association with the destination, an image which the
consumer can refer to when confronted with the destination. There are two types of image:
organic image and induced image. Organic image refers to personal experiences, word‐of‐
mouth, education and the media; information beyond the reach of marketers. Induced image
refers to information designed by promotional agencies in the form of advertising and publicity.
The image creates an emotional reaction, which if portrayed positively, enhances the
destination's chances of being chosen over other destinations. Therefore, to successfully
market a destination, its image must be controlled and managed. This is achieved through
Ries and Trout explained in their seminal work: ‘Positioning: the Battle for your Mind’6
consumers are bombarded by advertising messages or ‘spams’; today, it is estimated that the
average person is exposed to 3,000 messages a day. They mostly cope with the clutter by
shutting out anything which is inconsistent with what they know or have experienced.
Therefore the primary rule of positioning is to focus the message on what the consumer already
believes in, his/her perception rather than on the reality of the product. In terms of positioning
a destination it is important to understand that it is not what stakeholders say their destination
represents but how the potential visitor perceives the destination. And this is the first rule of
destination positioning and branding: ‘it is not what you say it is, it is what they say it is’.
Being the first to claim a unique position in the mind of the consumer is very powerful and
provides a great advantage. The second entrant will find it difficult to claim the position even
when the attributes are better or stronger. To select the Korça Region’s best position, its
attributes have to be isolated, the market perception of each attribute assessed and then
evaluated against competing destinations. One important rule of positioning is ‘differentiation’
or ‘finding a niche’, identifying what is unique vis‐à‐vis the competition or areas that the
competition has not exploited in its own positioning. Of course these need to be positive to
underline aspects that are strongly attractive about the destination.
It is therefore important to identify the attributes that characterise the Korça Region to extract
the core attribute and the supporting assets.
Culture: The Korça Region is already known as a place of culture and history (see the
tour operator survey; and also confirmed through interviews). The region is seeped in
cultural heritage represented through its literature, art, museums, architecture and
famous sons and daughters. This is the areas core attribute which is supported by the
other fine characteristics of the region.
Nature: The region’s wonderful nature, lakes and mountains has inspired local poets,
writers and painters like Vangjush Mio.
Cities and Villages: Cities and villages are a testament to the history and culture of the
region; the first Albanian school, the first girls’ school are located in Korça City as is the
Medieval Art museum with 7,000 pieces of art; the region has been synonymous with
Ries, A. and Trout,J. (1981) Positioning, The battle for your mind, Warner Books - McGraw-Hill Inc., New York,
sophisticated culture throughout history; i.e. the developed settlements of Voskopoja,
Vithkuq and Korça City which has been labelled the ‘Little Paris’…; and philanthropists
have added to the cultural heritage of region, for instance the Bratko Museum of
History: The region has a very long history going back to the Neolithic times 6,000BC,
through the advanced Illyrian period represented today by the tumulus at Kamenica, the
medieval times, the Ottoman period to modern times.
Humanity: Humanity is represented through the arts and crafts of the Korça people, the
music (the serenades, the mandolins…) the folklore of its different communities
including its Macedonian minority, the distinctive cuisine and the beautiful handicrafts.
The position is conveyed through the brand. A brand is not a slogan or a logo; these are tools
that are employed to communicate the values and identity of the brand or in this case the
destination. Branding a destination is transmitting an experience, a feeling; not places to look at
or things to do.
Tourists want experiences not places.
The brand must be ‘experiential’. The focus must be on the experience, the feeling that the
destination engenders. A brand is about feeling – everything revolves around the brand, even
advertising. The feeling that will be experienced at the destination is promoted. It is about
communicating the values that form the brand.
The Korça Region brand needs to reflect the Korça Region’s personality and its identity.
Therefore it is essential to develop the identity. This is achieved by defining the CORE or
PRIMARY asset of the Korça Region and separating this from the supporting assets that can be
also enjoyed in Korça. The supporting assets will supplement the core asset. According to the
positioning analysis discussed above the Korça Region’s most prominent asset is the rich culture
synonymous with where much of the sophistication associated with Albania originated. To this
core asset a number of strong supporting assets linked to the Korça Region can be associated.
These include nature, cities and villages, history and humanity.
During the workgroup meeting, the stakeholders brainstormed about the positioning the Korça
Region as a tourism destination. The mechanics of developing a destination position was
discussed beforehand. It is important in defining a position to pick the central theme and present
this as a single idea. Trying to include all the attributes of the destination together and presenting
too many ideas is confusing and does not work. The best brands are simple ideas like the
painter’s Miro’s Sun to identify Spain or the slogans ‘Malaysia Simply Asia’ and ‘Incredible
India’. These destinations are multi-faceted but the position translated through the brand offers
one idea that encompasses it all.
After much deliberation, several ideas were proposed. The suggestion adopted as an identifying
mark for the Korça Region based on the core and supporting asset was:
‘The Birthplace of Albanian Culture’
This mixes in the idea of culture and intellectual capital and its uniqueness is conveyed the idea
of birthplace (there can only be one birthplace, like the first school, the first girls’ school etc…).
This idea of course needs to be presented to all the region’s stakeholders and agreed by them in a
public consultation, and then tested on tourists to evaluate whether it works. Generally it is best
to commission a professional PR/Advertising agency and provide them with a detailed brief on
what is required. However this can be an expensive option and would need substantial funding.
Village Tourism: Areas to Focus on in the Next Three Years
Within the next three years the following actions will be undertaken:
1. Forming the Korça Region Tourist Villages Association, differentiating the product
offer and developing itineraries between the villages (private vehicles, tour buses,
cycling, trekking and horse riding); creating a website for the association.
2. Improving/developing signage to and within villages and to attractions (this can be
funded through the ST-EP Programme)
3. Setting up information points and training
4. Lobby local, regional and central government about infrastructure and access
5. Advice and training for local entrepreneurs to improve services and to develop new
City or Urban Tourism
The three cities in the Korça Region are where the majority of tourist will be staying during their
stay and where they will spend a lot of their time. Product improvement, expansion and
development for this product include the following recommendations:
• Establish and open Tourist Information Centres in the most prominent area of the city,
ensure that it is permanently manned and that it is well stocked with collateral material.
• Develop accurate profiles of market segments that will be attracted to visiting the cities of
the Korça Region through research.
• Carry out market research to uncover the needs of different market segments in order to
adapt the product.
• Develop marketing collaterals to promote the cities in the form of guides and leaflets; use
advertising by local stakeholders to fund this; update regularly.
• Develop/upgrade web portals to promote the cities in several languages, update regularly
with information on events and developments in the city.
• Encourage cities to collaborate with each other to coordinate their tourism activities,
events and festivals.
• Organise capacity building in tourism, especially in marketing city tourism.
• Encourage upgrading and establishment of different categories of quality accommodation
from high end to budget.
• Provide clear signage so that tourists can find attractions, accommodation and facilities
and know what services are available.
• Organise training with owners and managers of accommodation and restaurants,
particularly on the required level of service needed for tourists.
• Organise training in Albanian of service staff using trainers from respected institutions
encouraging owners to hire English, Greek and Macedonian speaking front-line staff.
• Develop ‘Train the Trainers’ courses to ensure continuous training.
• Lobby for planning control by local government units to ensure that bars and restaurants
suitable for tourists are available at areas where tourists congregate.
• Encourage ‘no smoking areas’ in bars and restaurants and enforce ‘no smoking’
• List accommodation available in tourist guides, with services available and an indication
• Encourage restaurants to translate menus into at least English but also other languages if
possible and exhibit these prominently at the outside entrance so that tourist can see what
is available and the price before entering.
• Make attractions ’tourist friendly’ by ensuring that opening times are respected, that
someone is available to provide information if needed and that there are directional signs
within the site in several languages to orient tourists visiting.
• Develop a map of city attractions, hotels, restaurants and facilities and widely distribute it
through the TICs, hotels and travel agencies.
• Encourage local entrepreneurs to provide tourist services and activities such as guided
tours, entertainment, folklore, shows, car rental, private museums etc…
• Open retail outlets for handicrafts, local specialities and souvenirs that tourists can take
• Ensure that opening times of attractions are respected and that tourists are able to visit
these without looking for a person to open them.
• Develop and/or implement where this exists Environmental Action Plans for the cities.
• Build awareness of the need for waste management systems at hotels, guesthouses and
City or Urban Tourism: Areas to Focus on in the Next Three Years
There are several plans underway which will improve the cities of the Korça Region in the next
few years for which resources have already been found or are already being implemented.
Within the next three years the following actions will be undertaken:
1. Setting up Tourist Information Centres in cities (there are already plans for this in
Korça City and Pogradec).
2. Developing marketing collateral for cities, including city maps.
3. Making cities more ‘tourist friendly’ by improving signage, information at attractions
and ensuring, opening times are respected, making guides available for hire (training
of guides) and developing activities and entertainment for tourists.
4. Improving services in restaurants and hotels (i.e. enforcing the ‘no smoking’ rules,
menus in English, train of service staff through train the trainer programmes proposed
in the general recommendations).