Tourism represents a priority field with innovative potential for the economy, identified within the framework of the Strategy for Smart Specialization (S3) based on a detailed analysis of the capacities, resources, and competitive advantages that Albania possesses.
The development of S3 is part of Albania's obligations regarding the accession negotiation process with the EU, specifically Chapter 20 "Enterprises and Industrial Policies" and Chapter 25 "Science and Research," as well as part of the Western Balkans 2021-2024 Action Plan within the Berlin Process. It is also a part of the EU's agenda for innovation in 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 for the tourism sector focusing on diversification of the offer and year-round tourism, following the methodology of the European Commission's Joint Research Center. The meeting was held on the 8th of March 2023, at the premises of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment.
Approximately 35 representatives from all four sectors (central and local governance, business, academia, and civil society) participated in this roundtable. Participants provided valuable input by highlighting the sector's needs and potential intelligent development solutions in tourism.
The meeting was opened by Ms. Linda Pustina, Chair of the National S3 Team, Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, who emphasized the importance of the process and the attention given by the Albanian Government. Ms. Vilma Bello, Deputy Minister of Tourism and Environment, delivered a welcoming speech and participated in discussions with the representatives of all four sectors. Ms. Florenca Haxhi, a member of the National S3 Team, presented the project framework and the importance of the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP) in the Republic of Albania.
The first session of the meeting focused on the role of central and local government in prioritizing and developing the tourism market, diversifying the offer, year-round tourism, and prioritizing specific elements such as medical tourism, MICE tourism, cultural tourism, coastal tourism, and other types of tourism. In a discussion among participants during this session, challenges, opportunities, prospects were discussed, and suggestions and recommendations were given regarding the necessary strategic measures to fully exploit the potential of the tourism sector and the role of policymaking in sector development.
The second part of the meeting centered around economic development through innovation, competitiveness, the role of tourism, and the challenges and opportunities for the development of the year-round tourism market in Albania. This session was facilitated by Ms. Matilda Naço, Executive Director of the Albanian Tourism Association and a lecturer at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Tirana. Participants discussed the incorporation of innovative technologies in the business sector, challenges and opportunities for bringing added value to the economy, and highlighted the various functions of tourism.
In the final session of the meeting, discussions revolved around the role of education and training in the tourism sector, challenges, and the path towards human capital development in the context of Smart Specialization. Ms. Flutura Vaqarri, Director of the School of Hospitality and Tourism, in her role as facilitator, guided the discussions among participants, focusing 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, inter-sectoral collaboration, and networking with key stakeholders will serve as the basis for a national workshop on the tourism sector.