The Minister of Tourism and Environment in a press conference: The year 2023 marked Tourism in Albania

The Minister of Tourism and Environment, Mirela Kumbaro, held a press conference on the annual analysis of the ministry and to present the priorities of the year 2024 in the field of tourism and environment.

Minister Kumbaro expressed that the year 2023 was the best for tourism, as a result of successful cooperation among the sector’s actors, the legal framework, and the good promotion of the country.

10.1 million tourists visited Albania during 2023, from all six continents, with Europe maintaining the main weight of incoming flows. However, the most interesting trends of the past year were the flows of Spanish, Dutch, and Italian tourists. From Turkey, there was also a significant increase in entries of 200,000 tourists, or 110% more compared to the previous year.

In her speech, Minister Kumbaro said that the largest flows of visitors are concentrated on the coast, therefore in recent years a new standard has been set regarding applications, management, and cleanliness.

“The mandatory surface area of public beaches in each municipality has been increased by 30%, and in some cases even 50%. Applications for the management of beach plots for 2024 were completed in 2023. In total, 1917 applications are being reviewed, and by March contracts will be signed between the municipalities, the National Coastal Agency, and the subjects. I emphasize that all revenues go to the municipalities. Regarding cleaning, we continue the operation ‘Clean Beaches’, in 2022 we started with doubling the cleaning frequency on the coastal line of Durrës, Kavajë, Himarë, and Saranda. In 2023 we added Rrogozhina and Vlora and for 2024 the number of municipalities that will be supported with an additional operator by NCA, from June to September, goes to 8, because Shkodra with the beach of Velipoja and the beaches of Lezha are added. There are now 107 certified maritime tourism operators by the Ministry of Tourism and Environment. We had excellent cooperation this year with the Border Police which last year was equipped with a dedicated fleet and I call on all entities engaged in maritime economic activities to get certified, the process is open throughout the year,” said Minister Kumbaro regarding preparations for 2024.

Among the successes of tourism for 2023, Minister Kumbaro mentioned the promotion of 1100 events and 25,000 downloads of the TEA application, expressing the ambition for this digital event calendar to become a “One Stop Shop” that not only promotes but also facilitates connections between businesses.

Meanwhile, work continues on drafting the Tourism Strategy 2024−2030 with the support of the German Society for Cooperation (GIZ), as well as the new bill on Tourism which will go to the government next week.

Minister Kumbaro expressed that there are positive trends in formalization, as a result of a wide communication and awareness campaign, where both businesses and the public sector benefit, as categorized hotels pay a reduced VAT of 6%, regardless of whether they are inns or five-star hotels.

Regarding the environment, Albania leaves behind the Year of Vjosa, during which it was declared a national park and a feasibility study was conducted.

“We declared Vjosa a National Park and conducted the feasibility study, in an internationally certified process by IUCN. And it was precisely the process of declaring Vjosa, a highly valued global model, the godfather of Albania’s full rights membership in IUCN, in December. To continue with Vjosa, we ended 2023 with the development of an international competition for the construction of the Multifunctional Center of the National Park, with a center in Tepelena and two antennas in Përmet and Nartë. There were 3 finalist international studios, with CEBRA studio declared the winner. Work for the construction begins this year,” said Minister Kumbaro. Meanwhile, in January, work begins for registering Vjosa in UNESCO.

Speaking of the environment, Minister Kumbaro said that this was a successful year for Protected Areas with 4.5 million visitors.

Also, Minister Kumbaro highlighted two very important projects for the environment with the European Union, EU4Nature for the management plans of protected areas and EU4Rivers for water management, bringing them closer to EU standards.

“In 2024, we will have very close cooperation with the National Agency for Information Society for the construction of an Integrated Digital Environmental System at the AKM,” added Minister Kumbaro.

At the end of the conference, Minister Kumbaro said that 2024 will be dedicated to forests, with reforestation campaigns, awareness, and education.