As part of the capitalisation activities of the project OPEN TOURISM, the Center for Economic Development & International Relations in Tirana, as a project partner, organized an Incoming Mission & B2B meeting on the theme "Albania - Culture Itinerary" on 11 May 2023. The event took place from 9:30 to 18:00 in the cities of Tirana, Durres, and Berat. This activity was attended by representatives from the Central and Local Government, the Municipality of Tirana, the Ministry of Tourism & Environment, the National Coastline Agency, and 10 tour operators based in Tirana.
During their presentations, the tour operators emphasized the importance of their participation in this event, the lessons learned from the project, and the skills they have enhanced to promote tourism. This event is considered crucial by all the participants and will facilitate collaboration among stakeholders in the tourism industry. The presentations, following the agenda topics, sparked a significant interest among the participants, leading to questions and encouraging debates.
The activity was firstly greeted by the project manager and Executive Director of CEDIR, Mr. Florian Bilali. He highlighted the achievements of the OPEN TOURISM project and emphasized the importance of capitalising on these achievements to attain the desired outputs. Specifically, he mentioned the following crucial topics:
- Development and integration of innovative strategies and tools to promote natural and cultural assets. This will enhance competitiveness and leverage the potential attractiveness of all project partners and cultural assets.
- Creation of effective tourism management and marketing tools and plans.
- Engagement of local economic operators in promoting local attractiveness.
- Creation of a network that includes both the public and private sectors, with a focus on tour operators.
All project partners implementing the OPEN TOURISM capitalisation project recognize the significance of creating a circuit involving tour operators. This will enhance their skills in welcoming tourists, providing tourist information, and offering visitors an immersive experience to explore the country and promote its touristic values. Furthermore, the development of the OPEN TOURISM Promotional Kit is considered a vital tool for spreading the territorial marketing strategy. This includes leveraging platforms such as the Facebook page, OPEN TOURISM App and Platform.
The activity provided an opportunity for all participants to extend their journey and visit the Municipality of Durres. They were warmly greeted by representatives of the Municipality, including Mrs. Floreta Kertusha (PHD), the Head of Unit of European Integration, Foreign Assistance, and Diaspora. Mrs. Kertusha presented the cultural assets of Durres and emphasized the importance of creating a tourism circuit. She believes that this circuit will serve as an excellent model for promoting quality tourism. Mrs. Kertusha sees the participation of tour operators as an opportunity to collaborate in promoting the territory and sharing the country's cultural assets. The project partners, along with the tour operators, had the chance to visit archaeological sites in the city of Durres during this activity. Representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Durres also participated in this event, along with five tour operators.
The final destination of the journey was the Municipality of Berat. There, the project partners from Italy and Cetinje were welcomed by representatives of the Municipality, including Mrs. Etleva Dhima, the Director of the Department of EU Integration and Projects, as well as other representatives from the Municipality of Berat. Four tour operators operating in the city of Berat also participated in the event.
During the meeting, the representative from the Municipality of Berat delivered a presentation on the theme "A Look at Cultural Tourism in the City of Berat." The representative highlighted the significance of Berat as a popular destination for foreign visitors in Albania, being consistently featured in international travel guides even during the years of communist isolation. Historical records about visitors to Berat are limited, but in the 17th century, a renowned Ottoman chronicler documented an expanded view of the city's architecture and lifestyle, capturing the curiosity of the Ottoman Empire. In the 18th and 19th centuries, numerous European explorers, including Edward Lear, journeyed through Berat, leaving behind a substantial collection of engravings and sketches that provide valuable insights into the city's architecture and organization. In the 20th century, Berat gradually gained recognition in European travel itineraries, marking the modest beginnings of its cultural heritage-focused tourism promotion. Within the territory of the City of Berat, there are 436 objects classified as "Cultural Monuments," which can be categorized into two groups:
- Cult objects: 16 churches and 5 mosques.
- Museums: Muzeu Ikonografik "Onufri" and the Ethnographic Museum, as well as a private museum named "Muzeu Solomon" and the Gallery "Edward Lear".
After completing the activity at the Municipality premises, the participants had the opportunity to visit the "Berat Castle." The castle serves as an open museum that showcases the overlapping eras of history, representing the continuity of civilization. It holds evidence of its origins as an Illyrian settlement dating back to the 4th century BC, with notable influences from the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods.
The purpose of organizing this activity in the cities of Tirana, Durres, and Berat was to facilitate the exchange of cultural and natural resources, with a particular focus on promoting sustainable tourism. The goal was to disseminate the concept of tourism and foster collaboration and synergies with other economic sectors for comprehensive local development from economic and social perspectives, empowering local communities to preserve their territorial assets.
The first part of the activity involved presentations by the representatives, aiming to share testing experiences and discuss cultural events and their aspects. During the project activity, evaluation forms were distributed to all participants. These forms provided valuable insights into the participants' satisfaction with the logistical organization of the event, the quality of the PowerPoint materials, and the relevance of the project outputs to their needs and interests.
In this Incoming mission & B2B meeting, a total of 17 representatives from the central government and 20 representatives from the business sector were present.