Tirana, Albania

Albania’s tourism takes hard hit amid coronavirus pandemic

Travel agencies in Albania are facing bankruptcy amid the coronavirus pandemic, as tourists have stopped coming to Albania and Albanians aren’t travelling abroad.

Bookings have been cancelled on a daily basis.

“We are collapsing as many international partners that bring tourists to Albania have cancelled the contracts. They have their right to do so in situations of force majeure that does not depend on them,” Rrahman Kasa, president of the Albanian Tourist Union (ATU) said in an interview for Top Channel TV.

The main concern of the tour operators is the cancellations for the whole summer season. This will damage not only to the government’s budget, but also to the most profitable sector in Albania: tourism.

According to the Bank of Albania statistics, the country’s economy benefits about 2 billion euros from tourism. If the coronavirus pandemic continues through the summer, then there won’t be any income from this sector. This amount does not include the financial damage from the hospitality sector, mainly hotels.

In these conditions many businesses will go bankrupt, experts say, especially those which are still paying back mortgages to the banks.

Many airports worldwide have been closed, thousands of flights have been cancelled and cities are in lockdown.

Travel agencies are observing the coronavirus pandemic situation with concern. If the pandemic lasts through July, as the World Health Organization has warned, financial collapse is inevitable.

With the suspension of the activity in some sectors, it is still unknown what to do with the workers. Regarding the tourism sector, there are more than 150,000 employees who are forced to stay home. But there are also many employees in public transportation and other sectors. Some businesses have opted to pay the salaries, while others have suspended them.

Hospitality is among the most affected sectors by the coronavirus pandemic in Albania. Many hotels are on the verge of bankruptcy. No tourists have arrived in Albania in the past two weeks. Only sanitation workers and receptionists work at the moment in hotels.

To understand the damage caused by coronavirus, just take a look at the situation at the Tirana International Hotel in the center of the capital city.

“We have almost no guests; our occupancy is 1%. There are less than 10 people in the hotel. All of our guests them have left, and the last 10 are waiting for the flight arrangements, so they can leave,” Erjona Zenullari, Event Coordinator of the Tirana International Hotel told Top Channel’s “Top Story” program.

The mass cancellations are from foreign tourists who had planned visiting Albania.

“Most groups had elderly people and they are from countries with a coronavirus pandemic. Travelers were from China, Japan and Asia in general, and Europe. We were forced to cancel the reservations and refund them,” Erjona Zenullari explains.

Tirana International Hotel reduced the staff, with only 10 working at the moment out of 150. This is a difficult social and financial situation for the iconic hotel in the heart of the capital. Smaller hotels and those in the outskirts or in other Albanian cities are basically bankrupt, and their financial recovery will take months, “Top Story” warns.

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