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 health tourism on November 9, 2022, following the methodology of the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission. Approximately 20 representatives from the quadruple helix (government, academia, business, civil society) participated in this event. Participants provided valuable contributions by presenting the needs of the sector and possible solutions for intelligent development in the field of health tourism.
The meeting began with welcoming remarks from two panel members: Ms. Mira Rakacolli, Deputy Minister of Health, 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, also part of the panel, moderated the discussion in two parts. During the first session of the meeting, they discussed the challenges, opportunities, and prospects for the sector. In the second session, participants analyzed the path towards intelligent specialization of the health tourism sector.
During the discussions, the participants addressed issues such as:
- The development perspectives and benefits offered by technology in this sector, especially in areas related to dentistry and aesthetics;
- Identifying strategic objectives and concrete measures that can be applied to fully utilize the potential of health tourism;
- The high standards of services and products offered within this sector, which are comparable to those in the EU;
- Competitive market prices and planning conveniences;
- Sector-specific challenges, especially labor emigration and brain drain;
- The importance of scientific research and engagement among the quadruple helix actors to promote intelligent specialization;
- Competitiveness in the region and beyond.
The conclusions drawn from this cross-sectoral cooperation and networking with key actors will serve as the basis for a national workshop in the field of tourism.