Tourism has been identified as one of the priority sectors with innovative potential during the mapping phase developed 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 negotiation process, specifically Chapter 20 "Enterprises and Industrial Policies" and Chapter 25 "Science and Research." It is also part of the Western Balkans 2021-2024 Action Plan within the Berlin Process and the EU agenda for innovation for the Western Balkans 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 workshop for the tourism sector on June 20, 2023, at the premises of Hotel Xheko Imperial. Approximately 65 representatives from the four helixes (central and local governance, academia, business, and civil society) participated in this event. They contributed to further assessing the full potential that the tourism sector presents and the prospects for intelligent development within the S3 framework.
The meeting began with a welcoming address by Ms. Linda Pustina, Chair of the National S3 Team and Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, who emphasized the special attention that the Albanian government is giving to the S3 Strategy. The Deputy Minister of Tourism and Environment, Ms. Vilma Bello, also participated in her welcoming speech, highlighting the importance of smart development in the tourism sector. Ms. Florensa Haxhi, a member of the National S3 Team, moderated the event and explained the working methodology that would be followed during the workshop. Mr. Arben Shkodra, Secretary-General of the Union of Albanian Producers and a member of the National S3 Team, was also part of the panel.
Participants were organized into several working groups, with each group representing the four helixes. In the first part of the workshop, each group conducted a SWOT analysis under the facilitation of an expert, identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the tourism sector. Subsequently, each group expressed their vision for the sector, objectives, and the necessary resources to achieve this vision. Each group also identified the policies needed to implement the suggestions and objectives established.
In the second part of the workshop, each facilitator presented the findings of their respective group. Some of these findings were related to:
- Diversification of the tourist offer.
- Promotion of tourism in the domestic and international markets using innovation and information technology.
- Sustainable tourism development in the protection of cultural heritage and the environment.
- Competitive advantages of the sector in the region and beyond.
- Limited digital infrastructure and the absence of national infrastructure.
- Encouraging collaboration between government, business, academia, and civil society, as well as regional cooperation.
- Lack of qualified workforce, emigration, brain drain, curriculum review to meet market demands, and continuous training.
- Simplification of administrative procedures, fiscal policies, and financing.
- Formalization of the market and standardization.
- Incentive policies for tourism sub-sectors.
This workshop was conducted as part of the previous roundtable discussions within the Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP) meetings. The conclusions drawn from this workshop will be analyzed, evaluated, and included in the final EDP report, which will serve as a basis for the development of the S3 strategy.