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Monday, September 17, 2012

Albanian Tourism in the right way...

Written by Salvatore Messina on Sunday, 04 March 2012. Posted in English

 Written by Salvatore Messina
How many times are you going on a vacation or to attend a wedding, or a business meeting?  Many? Good! Now try to remember the procedure: you plan your trip, you decide that you have to start, what form of transport to use, prepare the suitcases, decided, according to the reason and duration of travel, what clothes to get out of closet, then you pass to the bank to withdraw some cash and check the credit card. And if the reason of your trip is a business meeting, take the necessary documents. 

Albanian Tourism; is it in the right way?Even Albania has decided to "travel": tourism has been placed in the center of the country's development policies, more than once affirmed, in the highest level of governance, the importance of tourism to create wealth, for employment, but not yet decided where to go, why, with what means of transport, what the luggage to take, how to spend and what documents to take!
Start from a reflection: the one who has responsibility for governing, should then tell the citizens, but also enterprises and local administrations, clear and achievable  objectives and should determine what that means-intellectual, economic, physical-it is possible to cover the distance between the point where we are and where we want it to go and decide how to act, programming the necessary actions, time to be implemented and to establish who is responsible for their accurate implementation.
Let's reflect together: Albania has no expansion of Brazil or Canada and it can not aim on agriculture as the leading sector for its development, there are no mineral resources of South Africa or Australia so it can not aim either under its underground. But there is a interesting cultural wealth – clearly not a great one, as I often hear in official chairs: it will be simply comparable with two neighboring countries, Italy and Greece, to have the clear difference! - and a pleasant natural wealth. There are resources which, if properly evaluated, if managed with modern methods, may constitute two really strong points for the country 's tourism. And that will allow "no seasonality" - many times desired but not yet started –in the tourism that Albania chooses motivated primarily by the summer holidays at sea, in which people mostly come from the Balkans, or Albanians that return for holidays with their family, all with limited expenses, with a demand for low prices and an average service, if not non-existent.

There are those who occupy the beaches of Durres and Saranda and - fortunately a little less -that of Vlora, unfocused visitors to Butrint or Blue Eye that "forget"  to throw the bag of potato chips in the trash basket- when there is one-  or those who exercise throwing rubbish from far in garbage containers, with few opportunities to succeed: they are no players in the American basketball championship!
Far from the chaos of the summer season, the line on the road Durres-Fier that – who knows why- it is asphalted, expanded, always regulated in the early summer, when there is more traffic, and never in winter when there is certainly less traffic, off the occupied beaches even from cars which apparently are in need of sunshine and are parked by the seaside coast, displaying Europeans, above all ..... e. ..., that-with the tourist guide in hand-seeking to visit this Country which is rightly called "the last secret of Europe."

This slogan is so efficient as fully accepted by every resident: think of the difficulties that have to pass a tourist who has chosen to visit Albania. If one has not decided to take his car- the ability of the "sportive" guides of the Albanians is known and constitutes a fear for those who would like to return home with their car without becoming part of any accident-must use public transport. If we take off the list, the train – the reason why is under the eyes of those who are willing to approach the railway station in Tirana, at the end of the Boulevard Zogu 1: dirty wagons, broken glasses, unbearable smell, it remains only the road transport. But where does our tourist find the information on the stations, the departure schedules of the buses and vans, the prices, the description of the roads, or the duration of the journeys? In the information offices there is no trace: the staff is careful to navigate the Internet only for selling low quality publications with information that is not updated in a long time and which are often copied from the publication of a municipal administration and do not even worry about meeting the tourist requests! And if our visitor continues to require a panel to show the bus stops ... there is nothing to do, there is no table! There remains nothing else but to ask the first who is passing by.
Albanians are evaluated for their courtesy and for their availability for those who decide to get to know them, leaving behind the negative stereotype that was attached and which are fed daily by numerous news on the black chronicle published by the European press, but which are not known to the accuracy of information given to tourists. Of course, not having the names of streets and numbers of the city-as happened until a few months- does not help the accuracy. But even today, the explanations are filled with the colors of real estate, from the vicinity of that school, and that office public data that make tourist suspicious and unhappy.
And this situation of uncertainty does not change even when tourists choose the hotel: in Albania, any hotel decides on its own how many stars they are going to put to their own activity, despite the space of rooms, the quality of services, the skills of staff. And it certainly does not help that the hotel transparency between supply and demand of services of a tourist, whom expects a clear link between services, the stars and the price!

Such examples can bring to the infinite! But we need to face the problem and to examine the situation if we want to get out of the current situation in which tourism is established, which should be accompanied by strong and competent hands so as to come out as soon as from the primary phase, in the vanguard, in which it is present for many years to come to the programming phase, the strategic decisions that all stakeholders of  tourism should take along the dotted line and define what will tourism be to Albania, for tomorrow or in a close future.
Some key words should be put out immediately, some options can not be postponed. I quote a few, with the purpose to give a boost debate only after the chaotic summer season, of uncertainty, of negative data brought only confidentially not officially, should engage us all to re-established Albanian tourism :
1. Tourism planning, defining which areas we could be accomplished the settlements and tourist activities that are permitted for extensions, specifying what kind of structures to be welcomed, with what security services, giving investors, as well as the Albanian and foreign, Land ownership and the time needed to get authorization for the project, Ministry of Tourism should realize a "one stop shop" just to manage the relationship between the investors and the public organization of tourism, be it national or local government , and take charge of coordination between various entities that interfere with the granting of licenses;
2. To evaluate the Albanian cultural and natural wealth, creating parks and natural parks where the archaeological sector specialist, responsible for maintenance, should be supported by tourism experts who should be responsible for product entry and communication to the tourist, creating services and publications specific to each current and potential international market segment;
3. To sensitize public opinion on waste management, promoting the collection of waste according to their composition (glass, plastic etc.), waste recycling, energy production;
4. Making the classification compulsory for all tourism structures, thus making transparent the relationship between supply and demand, and third fully loaded structures in relation to the market, as universities, the activities of subjective analysis and physical demands in ownership of each structure and, therefore, the classification proposal to be issued by the Ministry of Tourism which shall verify the maintenance requirements;
5. Subdivide the operators programming and mediation tourist experiences based on the international market in Tour Operators, travel agencies and tourist ticket shops, defining for each to be the total amount of the guarantee that should put the protection of customers;
6. Divide the ownership of tourist facilities, whether hotels, tour operators, travel agencies, tourist transport companies, from the technical department which should be responsible for the relationship with tourists and sustainable product compatibility with its classification and constitute a national register to the managers of tourist structures, reserved only for those who possess a university degree specialized in tourism and seeking to engage or already operating in this sector, as well as in public administration and private sector:
7. Determine the Albanian tourist municipalities, namely those who have owned cultural resources, natural and appropriate tourist facilities and accompany the process of sustainable tourism growth in their territory by applying mandatory classification rules not only in hotels, tourist agencies and tourist transport companies, but also in restaurants, bars, marine facilities,  i. e in any structure that is connected with tourist in that territory;
8. Create systems of the tourism territory thanks the public / private partnership , who have entrusted responsibility for tourism experts and specialists who need to create tourism products that can meet always the biggest expectations of the international tourist;
9. Improve the image of Albania in foreign markets to expand tourism seasonality thanks to the international arrivals, above all European, and protect  the tourist-consumer by establishing a tourism police that provides tourist information and assists in cases of non service, so as to  ensure the best conditions to spend his vacation peacefully
10. Invest in human capital, indispensable resource for development of each sector of tourism in particular which is based on the relationships between people and that it is necessary to achieve each of the actions shown above and to train specialists in the sector at various levels , from vocational training skills base for the kitchen, the restaurant, the front office, ticket shop, organization of tourist products, to the responsible managers of tourist facilities to be trained by the university professors who have high theoretical competence and clear practical experience in design, promotion and management of integrated systems but tourism and tourist enterprises need to satisfy current and potential tourist, aiming at the quality of teaching, the international vision, the new technologies of information society.
It is a challenge that can be challenged: The next meeting is a new law on tourism in  the Albanian table: Can we take a setback improving something here and there , or giving the sector a new direction, eliminating the parasitic rents and fighting for  efficiency and effectiveness, using international cooperation and European funds.
The future of tourism in Albania is in the hands of each of us. Together, you can succeed!

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