A beach in Saranda, Albania

Tourism in Albania didn’t recover, it just survived

The 2021 summer season tourism in Albania, exceeded the expectations set for the pandemic situation; but it did not return to normal. Instead adapted to it. For June-July-August 2019, 4772328 foreign tourists entered the country. Meanwhile for the same period of 2021 came 3302434 foreign tourists, about 30% less.

In figures it seems that foreigners do not exclude Albania from the map of their holidays even with Covid restrictions.

The president of the Association of Albanian Tour Operators, Besnik Vathi, says most of these “foreigners” are Albanians with foreign citizenship. They returned to Albania after a time of not being able to come. They kept tourism in Albania afloat when tourism needed them.

Vathi shows that beside Albanians living abroad, for the first time tourists from the Middle East, more precisely Egypt and the United Arab Emirates came en masse to Albania. They benefited from the fact that they do not need visas to visit the country.

Another factor that contributed to the high number of tourists in Albania was the anti-Covid measures imposed by EU countries, but not by Albania. “This summer many Indians and Saudis used Albania as a transit to avoid the 10-day quarantine required by other European countries. Thus, they chose to spent 10-day holidays without strict Covid measures in place.

First time tourists

Tourists from the UK, US and Scandinavia, who always visit Albania, didn’t come this summer season. “This is due to the travel restrictions imposed by their countries,” Vathi says. He explains that although a group of other tourists came from the east, they can not replace the permanent tourists of Albania, regarding the consumption. Meaning, they spent less money.

Another hurdle the head of Tour Operators mentions is the late opening of Greece’s borders. It directly deprived southern cities of visitors. Trips to Corfu or Greece, by foreigners, started from Saranda. They could spend days there before going to Corfu. Instead, Saranda had no foreign visitors until mid-summer. For Vathi, tourism in Albania has suffered and continues to suffer from the pandemic and can never be recovered under restrictions. As long as the situation is like this and the tourism sector will not operate as whole, it can no longer operate with limits and safeguards.

He points out that there is no high expectation for the year-end holidays; except for diaspora returning home, as foreigners would not choose Albania. However, increased consumption in such short period is not significant, compared to what Albania is used to.

The summer tourism season in Albania always changes the conventional structure and behavior of consumers and the economic markets themselves; starting from the real estate market, entertainment services, food and beverage to the exchange rate.

With all the speculation of what might happen next season, experts say that during the summer season we left behind, tourism industry did not recover, it just survived.

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