TRAVEL NEWS: Albania is Booming

ALBANIA, THE LAND OF EAGLES

World Renown actor Jim Belushi – a descendant of Albanian ancestors – is featured in this video promoting tourism in Albania.

ENDING THE ISOLATION

Once the butt of many jokes, Albania is emerging as one of Europe’s hottest new destinations, and its ambassadors are taking the message from Tel Aviv to Berlin.

Lonely Planet named Albania as its number one destination for 2011. The country has an almost unspoilt coastline of 350km of stunning sandy beaches, great Mediterranean cuisine, a warm welcome, thousands of years of history, and UNESCO sites such as Butrint. Albania is cheap and a tremendous amount to offer the tourist wanting to get great value in one of the few undiscovered places left in Europe.

Cox and Kings recently described Albania as “Landscape of almost heart wrenching beauty, rugged mountains, snow-capped for much of the year, towering above unspoilt white sand beaches and green mysterious valleys.”

Albanians do things differently. While the rest of Europe shunned George Bush’s farewell tour, the Albanians embraced him and even built a statue in George Bush Square in Fushe Kruje. During the Communist era, the only permitted Western films where the slapstick comedies of 1950s of Norman Wisdom, who was subsequently awarded the freedom of Tirana. And while what was once Europe’s most isolated country has been the butt of many jokes in the past, things are changing – fast – and Albania is emerging as one of Europe’s hottest destinations.
Digital Journal caught up with one of the people at the forefront of the Albanian tourism revolution on the Tivat ferry crossing in Montenegro on March 1, 2012.

Albania had more than 3 million tourists last year, according to official statistics, and while perhaps a quarter of that figure was people passing in transit from Kosovo to Montenegro, it is a significant increase, reports Digital Journal online.

THE LONELY PLANET’S #1 in 2011

Isolated for decades under a dictatorship that was harsh even by Communist standards, Albania opened up in the 1990s and has since been hustling to catch up to the rest of Europe. On a recent visit, many locals complained that their country might be catching up too fast. For travelers that’s all the more reason to visit soon, before busloads of tourists convert secret spots into more crowded destinations.
Below are the 10 good reasons you should visit Albania in 2013. If you go, you’ll undoubtedly come up with more.
This said, Albania’s headlong rush into the future has not been painless. The country remains poorly-equipped for mass tourism: waste treatment is inadequate, the litter problem is severe and some roads are poor. It is a delightful country for travelers, but requires patience.

To read more from the Huffington Post article, click here.

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SWISS AMBASSADOR TOUTS ALBANIA

Albania, sealed off for decades, and only open to visitors for the last 20 years, is trying to promote itself as a tourist destination. But it is not well known, and is by no means a tourist hotspot, even if visitor numbers are climbing.
“Albania is not yet on the radar, but with its stunning coast, its history, its ancient ruins, his mountains and its unspoiled nature mean that it has a lot of potential,“ says Alexander Wittwer, since January 2013 the Swiss ambassador in Tirana.

Some say there is little demand for more tourism infrastructure. Most visitors go on special hiking, cultural or educational tours. Nevertheless, the number of Swiss visiting Albania has risen from about 6,000 in 2005 to more than 40,000 last year.

The biggest rise in visitors are those from its neighbours, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro. But tourists from Greece, Italy, Germany, Poland and other countries can also be seen, usually in tour groups. Occasionally a cruise liner anchors on the Albanian Riviera. But individual travellers are few and far between, even if the Lonely Planet guidebook company named Albania as a top tourist destination in 2011.

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Editor’s note: Original World offers annual tours to Albania along with other countries that comprise The Balkans. Tours include “Undiscovered Albania” (which is a 10-day tour), Undiscovered Albania with Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia (16 Days), and the Balkans Explorer: Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia (21 days).

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