Albania, sealed off for decades, and only open to visitors for the last 20 years, is trying to promote itself as a tourist destination. But it is not well known, and is by no means a tourist hotspot, even if visitor numbers are climbing.
“Albania is not yet on the radar, but with its stunning coast, its history, its ancient ruins, his mountains and its unspoiled nature mean that it has a lot of potential,“ says Alexander Wittwer, since January 2013 the Swiss ambassador in Tirana.
Albania may have potential, but it also has a bad reputation: it is associated with corruption, criminality and blood feuds. No wonder that for the moment it doesn’t feature among the holiday destinations offered by the two big Swiss travel agents Kuoni and Hotelplan.
When asked why, they say there is little demand. Most visitors go on special hiking, cultural or educational tours. Nevertheless, the number of Swiss visiting Albania has risen from about 6,000 in 2005 to more than 40,000 last year.
The biggest rise in visitors are those from its neighbors, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro. But tourists from Greece, Italy, Germany, Poland and other countries can also be seen, usually in tour groups. Occasionally a cruise liner anchors on the Albanian Riviera. But individual travellers are few and far between, even if the Lonely Planet guidebook company named Albania as a top tourist destination in 2011.