Albania, known for its low-cost travel options, is making moves towards high-end tourism. The nation's tourism minister, Mirela Kumbaro, aims to attract more luxury travelers with four- and five-star hotels. Despite its history of limited tourism during its communist past, Albania is now more accessible, especially from the UK.

Albania Gears Up for High-End Tourism With a Touch of History, Adventure
(Photo : Johnny Africa from Unsplash)

Albania Aims for Affordable Travel, New High-End Tourism 

In an effort to boost tourism, Albania is setting its sights on high-end visitors, despite currently offering some of Europe's most affordable travel options. Mirela Kumbaro, the country's tourism minister, is focusing on bringing luxury hotels and experiences to the nation.

Travel to Albania has become much easier and cheaper, especially from the UK. According to The Independent, flights from Luton to Tirana, Albania's capital, are available for under £50. Ryanair and British Airways also offer flights from various UK locations. Accommodations are equally affordable, with city-center hotels in Tirana costing under £30, and beachfront apartments even less.

Albania's push towards luxury tourism marks a significant change from its past. For many years during the 20th century, Albania was under a strict communist regime that restricted foreign travel. Now, three decades after the end of this period, the country is welcoming tourists more freely.

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Kumbaro emphasizes that while Albania is affordable, it's not aiming for mass-market, beachside holidays. Instead, the focus is on sustainable tourism that avoids overcrowding. Adventure tourism is also a key focus, leveraging Albania's mountains, forests, and rivers.

Efforts to improve accessibility include the construction of a new airport in Vlore, in southern Albania. This is expected to reduce car travel within the country and make southern regions more accessible. The tourism minister also addressed misconceptions comparing Albania to the Maldives, insisting that Albania should be appreciated for its unique qualities, from modern cities to ancient towns.

Albania Ranks Third Globally in Tourism Growth

Albania became a top tourism destination in the first seven months of 2023. The latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer ranked third worldwide for tourism growth compared to 2019, before the pandemic. Tourist numbers in Albania rose by 56%, a significant increase from 2019.

Qatar was the leader in tourism growth, with a 95% increase. Saudi Arabia came in second, showing a 59% growth rate. Albania's performance was outstanding, surpassing well-known European countries like Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, and Spain. Even with this success, global tourism numbers are still not as high as in 2019.

Other nations like Armenia, Montenegro, and Serbia also saw a strong comeback in their tourism sectors. The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer is a quarterly report that looks at travel data and gives an up-to-date view of the tourism industry.

By July 2023, international tourism had recovered to 84% of its level before the pandemic. Despite economic and political challenges, people are traveling more, showing a strong and sustainable return of tourism, according to BNE Intellinews. About 700 million tourists traveled internationally in the first seven months of 2023, 43% more than in 2022. However, this is still 16% less than in 2019.

The Middle East had the best recovery, exceeding its pre-pandemic levels by 20%. Europe reached 91% of its former levels, boosted by regional travel. Africa and the Americas also recovered well, while Asia and the Pacific are catching up.

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