Tourism is identified as a priority field with innovative potential for the economy within the framework of the Smart Specialization Strategy (S3). The development of S3 is part of Albania's obligations in the context of the EU accession negotiations process, specifically under 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 Berlin Process and a component of the EU's innovation agenda for the Western Balkans for 2021-2027.
In this context, the National S3 Team, under the special care of Deputy Prime Minister Ms. Belinda Balluku, with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment and the Union of Albanian Producers, organized a roundtable discussion for the tourism sector with a focus on the development of the tourism market and hospitality. The meeting took place on June 8, 2023, at the premises of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment.
Approximately 60 stakeholders from the four sectors (central and local government, business, academia, and civil society) participated in this roundtable. Participants provided valuable contributions by outlining the sector's needs and possible solutions for intelligent development in the field of tourism.
The meeting began with an opening speech by Ms. Linda Pustina, Chair of the National S3 Team and Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, who emphasized the importance of this process, followed by a welcoming address from the Deputy Minister of Tourism and Environment, Ms. Vilma Bello, who led the first part of the roundtable discussions. Ms. Florenca Haxhi, a member of the National S3 Team for the Development of the Smart Specialization Strategy, presented the project framework and the importance and role of the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP) in the Republic of Albania.
The first session focused on the role of central and local governance in prioritizing and developing the tourism market and hospitality sector, as well as prioritizing specific elements related to accommodation structures, agrotourism, sports activities, nature sports, guides, and the circular economy. In a collaborative discussion among participants, this session addressed challenges, opportunities, perspectives, and provided concrete suggestions and recommendations related to the strategic measures necessary to fully exploit the potential of the tourism sector and the role of policymaking in sector development.
The second part of the meeting discussed the role of education and training in the tourism and hospitality sector, challenges, and the journey toward developing human capital in the context of Smart Specialization in this sector. This session was facilitated by Ms. Klodiana Gorica, a lecturer at the Department of Tourism and Marketing at the Faculty of Economics, University of Tirana, NCP for EIT and EIC, and a Member of the Academy of Sciences. In this part of the meeting, participants focused on the role of human capital in the tourism sector, academic offerings, vocational education and training (VET), continuous education, scientific research, as well as the sector's needs and challenges to remain competitive in the region and beyond.
The conclusions drawn from this meeting, along with intersectoral collaboration and networking with key stakeholders, will serve as the basis for a national workshop to be held for the tourism sector.