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 coastal tourism on November 9, 2022, following the methodology of the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission.
Approximately 35 representatives from the quadruple helix (government, academia, business, civil society) participated in this event. Participants highlighted the opportunities for sector development by applying innovative solutions in the context of intelligent strategies.
The meeting began with welcoming remarks from two panel members: Mr. Ledion Lako, Executive Director of the National Coastal Agency, 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 of the meeting, discussions revolved around the challenges, opportunities, and further development perspectives of the sector. In the second session, they addressed the path of coastal tourism towards intelligent specialization. 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.
During the discussions, the participants highlighted, among other things:
- Opportunities and perspectives for sustainable coastal tourism development as one of the most vital sub-sectors of the economy;
- The need for market formalization;
- The increasing demand for qualified human resources and the role of academia in their preparation in the context of intelligent specialization;
- Collaboration among actors in the quadruple helix to promote intelligent development in the sector;
- The lack of data, studies, and reports on the sector's progress;
- The identification of objectives and strategic measures to improve the sector's performance, with a focus on promoting scientific research and innovative solutions;
- The establishment of internal hotel management systems and the use of existing platforms for online reservations and sales trend monitoring;
- Emigration and brain drain;
- Diversification of the tourist offer, increasing accommodation capacity, and competitiveness in the country and the region.
The conclusions drawn from this meeting, cross-sectoral cooperation, and networking with key actors will serve as the basis for a national workshop in the field of tourism.