Tourism is identified as a priority field with innovative potential for the economy within the framework of the Smart Specialization Strategy (S3) in Albania. The development of S3 is part of Albania's obligations related to the EU accession negotiation process, specifically Chapter 20 "Enterprises and Industrial Policies" and Chapter 25 "Science and Research." It is also part of the Western Balkans Action Plan 2021-2024 within the framework of the Berlin Process and a component of the EU's innovation agenda for the Western Balkans 2021-2027.
In this context, the National S3 Team, with the support of the Union of Albanian Producers, organized a roundtable discussion on mountain tourism on November 3, 2022, following the methodology of the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission.
Approximately 30 representatives from the quadruple helix (government, academia, business, civil society) participated in this event. Participants provided valuable contributions by presenting the sector's needs and possible solutions for intelligent development in mountain tourism.
The meeting began with welcoming remarks from two panel members: Ms. Albina Tole, Deputy Minister of Education and Sports, and Ms. Matilda Naco, Executive Director of the Albanian Tourism Association. Mr. Arben Shkodra, the Secretary-General of the Union of Albanian Producers and a member of the National S3 Team, served as the moderator and guided the discussion in two parts. During the first session, the participants engaged in a discussion format to address the challenges, opportunities, and perspectives for the sector. In the second session, they analyzed the path toward smart specialization in mountain tourism. At the conclusion of the roundtable, the participants provided their insights regarding the strategic measures necessary to fully utilize the sector's potential, with a focus on promoting innovation and scientific research.
Representatives of the quadruple helix primarily discussed issues such as:
- Opportunities for the development of sustainable mountain tourism through the promotion of values, infrastructure development, and raising awareness among local stakeholders about tourism values;
- Identifying strategic measures to fully exploit the sector's potential;
- Emigration and demographic trends in rural areas;
- The importance of scientific research and collaboration among the four helixes to promote intelligent development;
- Ways to manage tourist flows from the private sector;
- Financial resource shortages;
- The capacity and knowledge of the private sector to compete in the market;
- The necessity of quality analysis publications, statistics, and other data that provide deeper information about mountain tourism;
- The competitive advantages that Albania has to specialize in this priority development field;
The conclusions drawn from cross-sectoral cooperation and networking with key actors will serve as the basis for a national workshop in the field of tourism.