Opinion

A utopia: how to make Albania a bit like Switzerland

Qeveria e ardhshme e Shqipërisë duhet të përqendrohet në investime të kujdesshme dhe strategjike për ta shndërruar vendin në destinacion turistik për tërë vitin. Dhe për ta bërë këtë duhet të rregullohet infrastruktura turistike jo vetëm në vijën bregdetare, por edhe në brendi të Shqipërisë, e cila është po ashtu e bekuar me shumë margaritarë.

A utopia: how to make Albania a bit like Switzerland

Enver Robelli / “Why do we travel? Also for this: to meet people who do not think they know us well at all; to once again understand what is possible for us in this life - which is still a little. These words of the Swiss writer Max Frisch, written many decades ago, have become relevant again, due to the pandemic and numerous limitations. The volume of grotesque stories entitled "The Enemy" by German writer Reinhard Lettau describes a group of generals desperately looking for the enemy. The enemy is hiding somewhere, say the generals, sometimes he is heard coughing but not seen anywhere, the enemy hides and is not visible, he wears a mask and when he opens fire against him, he hides in the bushes.

So it is with the virus that has changed the pace of the world. It is invisible, it is everywhere, and it can take life. In an article for the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, publisher and poet Michael Krüger describes his life in the time of the pandemic: "But I still live. We are drawn to a small wooden house in the village and from a distance we are watching how the world is changing. We are buying vegetables and cheese in a farmer's shop, in the manger of which live three pigs and twelve goats, with whom I - meanwhile - have a deep friendship. We are getting the milk (by car) to another farmer's shop in another village, where the donkey Nepomuk and his son Xaver are waiting for me, to whom I, from time to time, whispered in my soft and big ears my views over the world,

This situation is coming to an end. Even in Albania. The increase in the number of people vaccinated in the western world (and in Albania) opens new opportunities. Travel opportunities. Opportunity to quarantine. Opportunity to extinguish the merchandise. Opportunity to dream. To discover the (Albanian) world. To spark curiosity. Vaccinated, cured or tested negative now travel more easily. With restrictions, but easier. The Swiss airline "Swiss" has already started flights from Zurich to Tirana. Just the thought of being able to arrive in Tirana in two hours evokes a sense of euphoria. Then the fantasy is revived: the sea, the mountains, the fantastic Albanian cuisine, the tastefully arranged inns, the cordial people with those insatiable sentences like: "Oh how well you speak Albanian".

Faik Konica called Albania the rock garden of Southeast Europe. This is not even half the truth. With over 300 kilometers of coastline, access to two seas, hundreds of lakes, "wild" rivers that meander through stunning gorges, mountains and alps, lagoons, cities that still retain the charm of antiquity - Albania can be transformed in a Southeast European Switzerland in terms of tourism. But it takes a lot of work. The future government of Albania should focus on prudent and strategic investments to turn the country into a tourist destination for the whole year. And to do this, the tourist infrastructure must be regulated not only on the coastline, but also in the interior of Albania, which is also blessed with many pearls.

The tourist season in Albania usually lasts two months of summer, July and August. No matter how necessary and welcome tourists from Albanian areas (Kosovo, Northern Macedonia, Presevo Valley), their financial capacity is not as large as that of tourists from Western countries. This includes the Albanians in exile, especially over 200 thousand Albanians in Switzerland, who are the Albanians with the highest salaries in the world. Albania must actively fight for this tourist clientele. Especially the second generation, mostly well integrated, which often spends the weekend in Barcelona, ??Rome or the French Riviera, should be tempted to spend their holidays in Albania. This is more than a patriotic act. At the same time, the number of Swiss interested in visiting Albania is increasing. This layer of tourists is not only interested in the Albanian Riviera, but also in other forms of tourism, for example mountaineering, wandering through inland Albania. Thethi and northern Albania is not only a destination for mountaineers. It was an example: almost unknown are the natural lakes in the Dumre area. There are over 80 lakes, which seem to compete which is more beautiful. In this region is the town of Belshi, 25 kilometers from Elbasan. Once upon a time, the Albanian renaissance Sami Frashëri dreamed of Belshi becoming the capital of Albania. It did not become Belshi, it became Tirana, but the Dumrea area today can be turned into a real tourist oasis if the Albanian government has a vision for this. wandering through inland Albania. Thethi and northern Albania is not only a destination for mountaineers. It was an example: almost unknown are the natural lakes in the Dumre area. There are over 80 lakes, which seem to compete which is more beautiful. In this region is the town of Belshi, 25 kilometers from Elbasan. Once upon a time, the Albanian renaissance Sami Frashëri dreamed of Belshi becoming the capital of Albania. It did not become Belshi, it became Tirana, but the Dumrea area today can be turned into a real tourist oasis if the Albanian government has a vision for this. wandering through inland Albania. Thethi and northern Albania is not only a destination for mountaineers. It was an example: almost unknown are the natural lakes in the Dumre area. There are over 80 lakes, which seem to compete which is more beautiful. In this region is the town of Belshi, 25 kilometers from Elbasan. Once upon a time, the Albanian renaissance Sami Frashëri dreamed of Belshi becoming the capital of Albania. It did not become Belshi, it became Tirana, but the Dumre area today can be turned into a real tourist oasis if the Albanian government has a vision for this. In this region is the town of Belshi, 25 kilometers from Elbasan. Once upon a time, the Albanian renaissance Sami Frashëri dreamed of Belshi becoming the capital of Albania. It did not become Belshi, it became Tirana, but the Dumrea area today can be turned into a real tourist oasis if the Albanian government has a vision for this. In this region is the town of Belshi, 25 kilometers from Elbasan. Once upon a time, the Albanian renaissance Sami Frashëri dreamed of Belshi becoming the capital of Albania. It did not become Belshi, it became Tirana, but the Dumrea area today can be turned into a real tourist oasis if the Albanian government has a vision for this.

But the vision must be ambitious. When the first English mountaineers arrived in Switzerland in the 19th century, Swiss farmers were skeptical. But it was the local priests who persuaded the Swiss to open inns for tourists. Today Switzerland has 65 thousand kilometers of hiking trails, of which 22 thousand kilometers are trails through hills, mountains and Alps. In 2019, 39.6 million overnight stays were registered in Switzerland. Albania can learn a lot from Switzerland. The Ministry of Tourism in Tirana can contact the Swiss Tourism Agency and ask for help in developing a unique concept for Albanian tourism, which includes all of Albania, not just the coastline. Albania may open a tourism promotion office in Zurich. If a country like Northern Macedonia publishes ads in the Swiss media to attract investment from Switzerland, Why Albania can not publish ads in Swiss newspapers on the eve of the start of the tourism season? It is a matter of will, strategy and vision.

Another example: in Switzerland there is a federal law on pedestrian and mountaineering trails (Bundesgesetz über die Fuss- und Wanderwege). Why not have such a law in Albania, a law that regulates the planning, maintenance and signaling of paths from north to south, from Thethi to Ksamil? This too is a work of will, strategy and vision. All of this may seem utopian. But life has no meaning without utopia. Even the fall of the Berlin Wall once seemed utopian. One thing is clear: in addition to the great material benefits, tourism can also improve Albania's image in the world.