Bumper year expected for Albanian tourist season, despite concerns over staff shortage



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Albania is experiencing an unprecedented boom in tourism, with 7.5 million visitors in 2022 and 1.6 million in the first quarter of 2023, a 54% increase on the same period last year, but with forecasts predicting a bumper year for the sector, concerns remain over a shortage of staff.

On Inside Albania, Matilda Naço from the Albanian Tourism Association sounded the alarm over the disparity between the number of expected arrivals and the number of qualified staff to work in the sector.

“We first observed this issue in 2010 and 13 years later we are facing the same problem which is a good indication of the gravity of the situation,” she said, adding that the situation is very concerning.

She said tackling the problem holistically is the only way to resolve the situation, through building strong relationships with the governments and institutions, including education, while strengthening data and research, “which remains lacking.”

The Minister of Tourism, Mirela Kumbaro, told Euronews that solving the issue is not just about increasing salaries, but that both the government and private business owners operating in the sector, need to treat these professions with dignity.

“Do we give enough dignity to professions in the field of tourism, service workers, hotel room cleaners, waiters, receptionists? Tourism is a dynamic industry that is developed by the private sector and I think that private operators need to start responding as well as the government. If we treat them with dignity, employees will feel professionally superior,” she said.

Kumbaro added that considering tourism and service jobs as actual professions will make the sector more appealing to the public.

“We have started in recent years with chefs to give them a more prominent, interesting and well-paid profile, being a kind of patent for the name of the restaurant and hotel, and this means that we are on the right track,” she added.

In addition, a focus is being given to vocational education and developing professional training and accreditation for those wanting to work in the sector.

Regarding salaries, Kumbaro said they are in constant communication with the private sector and the increase in the minimum wage will reap results.

“The minimum wage and the increase in the average wage have a positive impact on the sustainability of human resources in the tourism sector, and sectors related to tourism.

On the subject of the extension of the tourism season, which previously ran from June to September, Kumbaro explained that Albania is now offering tourism in seven months of the year with a homogeneous distribution of visitors across the whole country.

She added that 40% of visitors prefer the mountainous north of the country, rather than the beaches in the south that were a previous focus of the sector.

“Our aim is to have tourists who stay longer, who spend more and who diversify their tourist itinerary, not only during the three months of summer on the coast, but also through nature tourism in the protected areas that currently make up more than 21% of the surface of Albania, cultural tourism with UNESCO cities and assets, culinary and gastronomic tourism that is seeing a significant increase thanks to the supporting initiatives of the Albanian government in agrotourism and accommodation structures,” she said.

The minister concluded that through a combination of financial incentives, communication with private businesses, a focus on elevating the dignity of those working in the sector, and an extension of the season which results in less seasonal workers, a solution will eventually be found.

“This is a dynamic process, a completely new economic reality where tourism from no more than 4% a decade ago, now contributes 17.5% to the Gross Domestic Product, but above all, a socio-cultural development.”



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