The 70th meeting of the Commission for Europe of the UNWTO opens in Tirana

The 70th session of the Commission for Europe of the World Tourism Organization commenced in Tirana, with the participation of UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili, Executive Director Natalia Bayona, alongside ministers and delegates from tourism ministries representing 40 European countries.

The session, which brought Albania back into the spotlight of European tourism discussions, was inaugurated by Mirela Kumbaro, Minister of Tourism and Environment. She extended a warm welcome to her European counterparts, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to host the 70th Meeting of the Commission for Europe of the UNWTO in Tirana.

In her address, Minister Kumbaro referenced Edith Durham, a 19th-century British writer who ventured into northern Albania, traversing the challenging yet mesmerizing landscapes of the Albanian Alps—landscapes now captivating millions worldwide on platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Reflecting on Durham’s memoirs, she emphasized the profound essence of hospitality ingrained in Albanian culture. “As an Albanian and as the Minister of Tourism of Albania, I am deeply privileged and honored to extend a heartfelt welcome to all of you in Albania,” Minister Kumbaro concluded.

Highlighting Albania’s remarkable tourism achievements last year, Minister Kumbaro pointed out that the World Tourism Organization’s barometer ranked Albania first in Europe for increased tourist inflows and fourth globally. She emphasized that Albania is poised to maintain its position at the top this year, citing the impressive figures from the first quarter of 2024, during which the country welcomed 1.7 million foreign visitors—a staggering 60% increase compared to the same period last year.

Mrs. Kumbaro underscored that Albania’s allure as a sought-after destination is gaining momentum beyond measure. Referred to as the “Undiscovered Pearl of the Mediterranean” by numerous international publications, Albania is undergoing a transformative phase in tourism, transcending mere economic benefits to become a catalyst for social empowerment. Through tourism, Albania showcases its natural splendors, its vibrant culture, and its resilience in challenging times. Today, Albania emerges as a delightful revelation in the global tourism landscape, symbolizing the potential for countries to rejuvenate themselves within a short span, much like individuals.

The meeting was also greeted by Prime Minister Edi Rama, who underlined Albania’s tourism success and the challenge to move forward in a sustainable manner, preserving the beauty of the country. 

“Today, we face a vastly different reality, with over 10 million tourists having visited Albania last year and continued high numbers during the first three months of this year. While this is undoubtedly a success, it also presents a significant challenge. We must address numerous issues if we aim for Albania’s progress to be stable and sustainable. Preserving Albania’s unique beauty and ensuring that tourism adds value to our nation’s identity are paramount goals.

The efforts of this organization and Zurabi are truly commendable. This isn’t merely about convening meetings and discussing statistics; it’s about sharing expertise, knowledge, and learning from past mistakes to avoid their repetition. These are the critical aspects. I earnestly hope that we can absorb as much wisdom as possible from your experiences to steer clear of similar pitfalls,” stated Prime Minister Rama.

UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili also extended his appreciation for the excellent organization of the 70th Meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Europe in Tirana and welcomed representatives from participating European delegations.