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Dear Prime Minister Rama,
Dear President Chakrabarti
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my greatest pleasure and honor to launch today the Tourism Development Programme for Albania – one of the largest ever investments of the European Union in this country.
We all know why the interest for tourism development in Albania is so high. I have been personally "taken by Albania" for some time now. Taken by its natural beauties, its rich cultural heritage and its warm-hearted people. And I have learnt that if you want to know the real Albania, beyond any prejudices, you must visit Albania.
This is why the programme we are launching today is so important for Albania. It is of crucial to support the creation of sustainable forms of tourism and the appropriate protection of the cultural heritage. But it is even more important to ensure those who have not had yet the opportunity to come do so and experience the real Albania
The programme we are launching today is based on two pillars: Tourism and cultural heritage.
Tourism is an essential source of income and job creation in many economies. It has positive effects on a wide variety of industries and services. Beyond physical development and marketing, touristic development also benefits the promotion of natural resources, social, and cultural heritage, which has an impressive multiplier effect on any economy.
significant potential, Albania faces challenges in developing this sector.
First, lack of coordination and planning of the tourism industry,
Second, lack of well-defined and enforced rules and regulations for tourism activities,
Third, the absence of classification, licensing and certification which enable higher standards and quality
and fourth, unfair competition due to high level of informality.
We should also look at the length of the touristic season. There is a clear necessity to diversify tourism offers, expand the season and integrate a more varied range of attractions, activities and services all year round. The objective to be reached is to lengthen the staying, increase the spending and ensure the returning rate of tourists to Albania.
Through the "Tourism Development Programme", we will address all these challenges by starting in four areas: Berat, Korca, Fier and Shkoder.
The EU and the EBRD are bringing unique investment and expertise to enhance the attractiveness of the country. But I am firmly convinced that this programme will be successful only if the sustainable solutions to the challenges we listed will emerge from thelocal level. These solutions need to be designed and consulted with those directly concerned and who understand the needs and potential of their region. Participation of local governments is therefore at the centre of this programme. Local governments are essential drivers for us, including for the role they play in Albanian's EU integration process. Most of the EU acquis will be implemented at local level. And the local level needs to be empowered and feel ownership of this historical process.
Promoting the cultural heritage of Albania is the other pillar of our investment.
Cultural heritage is our bridge to the past – and into the future. And this is not only because we want to connect generations and communities, creating a shared sense of belonging – it is also because heritage often holds solutions for the local economies and, in general, for the quality of our lives.
27 indirect jobs are created for each single job in the heritage sector. To compare, the ratio for the car industry is only 6 indirect jobs for each direct job.
To help ensure that we better harness this potential, the programme will enhance and preserve the attractiveness of cultural, natural and other assets both for local communities and for tourists. For 70% of Europeans, the presence of cultural heritage influences their preferences when deciding on holiday destination.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am proud that the EU is investing 40 Million euro, in excellent cooperation with EBRD, to drive regeneration and economic development in Albania.
Touristic development is of course a tool to enhance the experience of visitors and the quality of life of host communities. But if poorly planned or developed to excess, it could destroy the very qualities that make Albania unique.
This is today's challenge: to help build a tourism sector that strengthens the social fabric and economic development, by giving value to the natural beauties and cultural assets of this beautiful country.
A tourism industry that does not destroy, but builds for the future.