Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at meeting with coastal tourism operators in Durres:
Hello everyone and thank you for attending this event!
My respect for your work and willingness to keep working despite difficulties!
I believe you can now all smile as with a considerably supply of COVID-19 vaccines secured we will be able to embark on a mass inoculation programme and build reasonable basis for a more relaxed summer tourism season.
From the past year’s tourism season we have learned it was an extremely challenging season because of the pandemic and this year, too, we will primarily make sure that our border with Kosovo remains totally open.
Second, we will make utmost effort on our part to make sure that you and your colleagues face little possible restrictions in terms of your tourist activity.
Third, having the opportunity to conduct intense mass vaccination, as I already noted, we will persistently carry out the inoculation process so that we vaccinate half a million people within June at most, though we will try to deliver on this goal within May.
Vaccination is essential to efforts to break as many as possible links along the infections chain and it is crucially important that we respect the rules in tandem with the vaccination, otherwise each of us would hamper the efforts to move as soon as possible out of this tunnel at the end of which we are finally seeing the light.
I believe facts speak for themselves regarding the important change to the tourism industry, but definitely all your experiences and everything we have learned from you clearly show the untapped potential is still extremely huge and the opportunities are endless.
What I would like to add about Durres as the gravity centre of Albania’s tourism industry is that we can openly state that with a series of major projects we plan to launch in this territory during our third term in office will incredibly support entire tourism industry, as these projects are designed to exponentially increase Albania’s weight on the map of the Mediterranean tourism, significantly enhance the reasons why to visit Albania and Durres in particular and these projects will also certainly boost the opportunities for the tourism operators to attract a critical mass of customers, who would wish to visit the country and accommodate at your hospitality facilities.
Earlier today we discussed the major project designed to rehabilitate Durres’ archaeological and historic part, where, if we are to refer to the data on the Roman Amphitheatre, we would see a considerable growing number of visitors, but if we are to look at the opportunities the area offers, we are still far from the maximum and we have all the reasons to believe that with the planned interventions and the network of stakeholders, who are included in these projects, from the European Union in the framework of its important pledge and donation in the post-earthquake period to the American Development Fund, and the government and Durres municipality, we can deliver on a major transformation and further boost the attractive power of this magnet right at the heart of Durres. The walls’ restoration is already underway as part of the project designed to address the earthquake effects through the EU financial support.
The project to rehabilitate the Amphitheatre and the surrounding area has entered an advanced stage, with restoration of a number of old buildings, which we see as a valuable asset to return the area into a historical and tourist site, just like we already did in Korça and just like we most recently did in Vlora, with the Torre (the Venetian Tower) transformed into a museum, with the completion of the Veliera square and the with the start of the major investment project on Durres tourist port, which will also see the relocation of the existing cargo seaport from the city’s heart, as well as with the new Waterfront Promenade project along Durres beach on which we are working together with the local government authorities and which will helpthe tourism operators a lot and will attract more and more visitors.
I am very confident we are this way building a new development platform for tourism, first and foremost. Let’s not forget the fact that tourism development and attracting a growing number of visitors to Durres, especially the elite tourists, have been notoriously hampered because of cancer hotbed of trashes in Porto Romano. You know quite well that a number of news reports and terrible feature stories have been prepared and aired by leading European TV channels, seriously damaging the city’s reputation and the city’s chances to attract more visitors.
This is a thing of the past now and on the site of the infamous landfill in Porto Romano a huge Ecological Park is increasingly taking shape, which will definitely become an attraction thanks to its location near the coastline and it will offer opportunities to all age groups and the children and young people in particular. You know they represent the largest group when it comes to going out in the afternoon or on the weekend and when it comes to accommodating in your hotels.
In addition to the EkoPark, the fact that Durres is hosting a solar power plant thanks to the investment by France’s renewable company Voltalia, and the fact that Durres is becoming a city beautifully blending the past, the present and the future with so many aspects of its profile and especially as a result of its inclusion on the map of the Mediterranean as one of the biggest tourist ports, will all help you in your activity.
It is also a fact and not an opinion that investments in the country’s hotel and hospitality infrastructure have tripled and more than tripled. We have today more than three times the accommodation structures in this country. I see with a lot of optimism how countless requests and applications by local investors for construction of hotels along the coastline are being made, which means that we are moving absolutely in the right direction in this regard. It is very clear that, while the market is pushing hard in this direction, then it means that things are somehow put in the right place in terms of development base.
As far as the direct relation between you and the state is concerned, I think everything is going in the right direction, especially after heeding your long-time demand to cut the Value Added Tax to an 8% rate. We went further by cutting the VAT to 6% only and it has actually helped your businesses a lot. However, the measure has failed to properly work in terms of the formalization. We don’t see any essential change in this regard, though I believe that with the fiscalization process this aspect, too, will significantly improve in interest of both sides, especially in the interest of fair competition you desperately need.