March 11, 2024

Albania’s rural charms: Nature’s abundance awaits

Beyond its dazzling coastline and wealth of historical and archaeological treasures, Albania has a host of protected natural areas, making it an ideal rural tourism destination

Speaking at last week’s ITB Berlin Panel “Quo vadis, rural destinations?” Albania’s Minister of Tourism and the Environment, Mirela Kumbaro, called attention to the fact that a third of Albania’s territory is made up of mountains, rivers, and forests.

Albania saw 10.1 million visitors last year and started the first two months of 2024 with 55% more tourists than during the same period in 2023. However, when Ms Kumbaro asked the audience at the panel discussion if they had already visited Albania, few hands went up. “This means that Albania is a destination to discover,” she confirmed.

Highlighting Albania’s singular appeal as a rural tourism destination, Ms Kumbaro mentioned not only the country’s vast expanse of natural and preserved spaces, she also highlighted examples such as the Vjosa River, the first wild river in Europe to become a national park.

With a large percentage of its territory occupied by protected areas, Albania offers huge potential for tourists seeking natural adventures such as hiking and river rafting. But as Ms Kumbaro noted, city and rural tourism are not competing with each other. “We are not dividing Albanian tourism into cities and rural areas. They have to co-exist,” she said.

Combining different kinds of visits and moving between cities, the seaside, and natural areas is not difficult in a country where nothing is too far away. “You don’t need to travel hours and hours from one destination to another,” the Minister asserted. “You can get from the peak of a snow-capped mountain to one of the most beautiful beaches in Albania in just half an hour.”

Illustrating how important preservation of its natural sites is for Albania and how that links to tourism, Ms Kumbaro remarked on the fact that her ministry covers both areas, the environment and tourism. “It’s like an instrument for checks and balances,” she affirmed, to make sure development is sustainable. Ensuring the right balance between one of the most important sectors of Albania’s economy and the environment is “an absolute condition for a small country like Albania” she said, observing also that with 100% renewable energy the country is an example of sustainable practices.

To develop its rural tourism offering, Albania looked to Italy, Ms Kumbaro said, “not to copy any of their models, but to gain inspiration from their best practices.”

Summing up the variety the country presents, Ms Kumbaro compared Albania’s diverse tourist offerings, including its vast rural tourism options, to a table loaded with so many delicious dishes that it is almost difficult to decide which one to choose. “Everything you need is here in Albania,” she asserted.

Albania All Senses

Albania’s National Tourism Agency came up with its “Albania All Senses” slogan, Ms Kumbaro explained, after carefully following comments on social media from Albania’s visitors last year. “Everyone was talking about a new experience and about the senses,” she said, and the destination thus chose a slogan that invites visitors to experience the country through all of their senses. Ms Kumbaro specifically identified the sense of taste, mentioning the national drink, Rakia, Albanian mountain tea, and Albania’s complete lack of what she called “food for tourists”: “We just have real Albanian local food.”

Albania signs agreement to be ITB Berlin’s Official Host Country in 2025

Gearing up for next year’s edition, Albania signed an agreement with ITB Berlin to be the Official Host Country ITB Berlin 2025 on 6 March at the show. The agreement was signed between Minister of Tourism and the Environment of Albania, Ms Mirela Kumbara and Messe Berlin CEO Dr Mario Tobias.