According to recent press reports, the Albanian government has launched a radical drive to attract a thriving international tourist trade by bulldozing hundreds of kiosks, shops and hotels along the best sandy beaches in the country. All the buildings were illegally erected and are without proper water and sewage facilities. In their place, new plots are being marked out and the first up-market holiday estates are being built. In Tirana, the capital, a new five-star hotel with mid-range room rates is opening.
Optimism that trade will come exists despite the fact that Albania’ s tourist ministry admits the country has serious problems, including constant power cuts, sporadic and undrinkable water supplies, no sewage systems and piles of street rubbish. But the capital also has a vibrant nightlife and hospitable people. It also sports beautiful beaches, forested mountains, a Mediterranean climate, castles and archaeological remains that have been granted world heritage status.
Scientists claim the country has the greatest variety of plants and animals -including bears, wolves, lynx and golden eagles- of any in Europe, and could become a center for ecotourism. But it is along the beaches of the Adriatic that the government hopes to swell the number of tourists.
For the moment, the only tourist trade of any size stems from landlocked Kosovo in the north, where Albanian is the main language. Last year 230,000 Kosovans went to Albania and it is hoped there will be 400,000 this year.