Albania is making a push to become the next emerging European tourist spot, according to the country's senior officials. They hope that by bringing more visitors to Albania they will be able to attract more investment in the country. Already dubbed as an up-and-coming tourist destination, Albania has been described by one travel guide as “the last secret of Europe”.
“A couple of years ago we had only 700,000 visitors, now that number is nearly six times bigger,” said Aldo Bumci, Albanian minister of tourism, culture, youth and sports. “However, in terms of investments, the market is still unsaturated, since most of the hotels in the country are small and many of them are just family-run seasonal operations.”
With 300 kilometres of Adriatic coastline and picturesque mountains, Albania has the potential to follow the lead of nearby Croatia and Montenegro – both also on the Adriatic – where tourism accounts for 11% and 17% of GDP, respectively. But there is still a long way to go before investors take notice. According to greenfield investment monitor fDi Markets, Albania's tourist sector has attracted just $60m of greenfield investment in the six years to 2012.
What is more, the majority of Albania's visitors are members of the country's widespread diaspora, who travel to the country on business or to see their families. Out of the 4 million people who visited the country in 2011, 1.3 million were Albanian citizens residing abroad and about 1.2 million were residents of neighbouring Kosovo, the majority of which are ethnically Albanian.
However, according to Mr Bumci, the large and active diaspora can be instrumental in boosting the Albanian tourism sector. “Albanian migrants are now well integrated in their host societies and they promote our country by the word of mouth,” he said.
It is hoped that greater awareness of Albania will help to increase the level of crossborder investments in other sectors. “Tourism is of course very important for us, but apart from that there are plenty of opportunities in sectors such as renewables and agriculture,” said Eno Bozdo, Albania's deputy minister of economy, trade and energy. Albania has recently enacted a string of laws aimed at improving the business environment in the country.
“We had the discussion [over] whether to go for significant incentives for foreign businessmen or to introduce a liberal regime which applies to all investors. We decided to go for the second option, and from the regulatory point of view we have made a significant progress,” said Mr Bozdo.