- €100 million EBRD and EU programme to support investments in infrastructure and SMEs
- Construction ongoing on several regional roads and tourist sites
- Investments will help extend tourist season beyond summer months
Close to 100 km of local and regional roads in Albania are currently being reconstructed or extended, as part of a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and European Union (EU)-supported programme to improve connectivity to local tourist sites and the quality of the country’s tourism offer, boosting one of its key sectors.
The programme, to which the EBRD is contributing €60 million in loans and the EU €40 million in grants, finances the rehabilitation of cultural and natural heritage sites and upgrading of municipal and environmental infrastructure across the country, as well as regional transport links to improve accessibility to certain tourist sites and villages. The programme also supports local small businesses active in the tourism value chain with targeted financing and advisory services, helping improve the overall competitiveness of the sector.
Construction and extension works are ongoing on the road that connects the archaeological site of Bylis, an ancient Illyrian city, to the highway in the Fieri region. The Bylis site is located in a hilly region and is not easily accessible from the main highways. By making access easier, the new road is expected to help attract more local and foreign tourists to this famous archaeological site, where they can view the ruins of the ancient theatre and stadium.
Works have also started on the reconstruction of the road that links Pocem and Vllahine, further facilitating access to Bylis from the coastal city of Vlore. Restoration work on the archaeological site of Apollonia is expected to commence in the coming weeks. Together, these initiatives will make it possible to offer attractive new packages to tourists, combining Vlore, Bylis and Apollonia.
The 42 km road connecting the cities of Erseke and Leskovik is also under reconstruction. As well as helping improve the condition and safety of the road, the work will open up access to the Korca and Gjirokastra areas, unlocking their potential for tourism.
Another 40 km road, between Perlat and Fushe Lure, is also being upgraded. In addition, works are expected to start soon on the road from Shiroka to Zogaj, near the border with Montenegro, as well as on the new bridge over the Osumi river, in the Berat area.
Refurbishment of several tourist sites is also planned, including four churches in Vithkuq and Voskopoje.
“Currently, many inland tourist sites in Albania are not well connected to key national roads and coastal areas, which hampers their potential for development and attracting more tourists. The investments in road infrastructure should improve regional connectivity, facilitate access to tourist areas and help expand the regions’ tourism offer,” explains Ekaterina Solovova, EBRD Head of Albania.
“Boosting tourism in these areas will also allow Albania to extend its tourist season beyond the summer months, to include the rest of the year,” she adds.
In addition to strengthening infrastructure, the EBRD is providing financing to local commercial banks for on-lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the tourism sector. This will help SMEs invest in improving their businesses and develop and extend their tourism offer and competitiveness.
“Albania’s amazing natural and cultural heritage has great potential for economic growth. Our partnership with the EBRD aims to make this potential a reality by putting in place the infrastructure, such as these roads, needed to make these sites more accessible to tourists. This is our goal: to help build a tourism sector that strengthens Albania’s social fabric and encourages sustainable economic development, by giving value to the natural and cultural assets of this beautiful country,” said Hubert Perr, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Albania.
Moreover, the EBRD and EU are also working with the Albanian government on improving the responsiveness of the education system to the needs of the labour market in the tourism and hospitality sector. The newly created Sector Skills Council in Tourism and Hospitality in Albania will help establish a list of the professional and vocational qualifications that are most urgently needed by tour operators, hotels and other tourism firms in Albania, and promote those qualifications in the local education system.