“We’re not seeing any rich tourists coming, hotels are not enough”
“We need to attract rich tourists”. This is the appeal launched by the Association of Albanian Hotels, Zak Topuzi in an exclusive interview for Albanian Free Press. Topuzi says that Albania lacks accommodation capacities, meaning that the growth of the number of tourists is not in line with the number of accommodation outlets receiving them. According to him, another problem relates to the fact that the government is focused only during the months of July and August. “We all know that July and August are the busiest months for the sector of tourism and we don’t really need many strategies for these months. What we need to do is extend the holiday season, in order for the south of the country and beaches to be exploited more than two months. In fact, last year and this year, a hotel group has been able to secure contracts lasting from 140 to 160 days, but this is just the beginning. September is here now and hotels are not very busy. The number of hotels which are operational until the end of October is around 10”, he adds. “Topuzi also says that “we need to offer holiday packages, which do not only include a hotel room, but also a range of other services”. “The area where the hotel is situated should turn into an area of services, entertainment, etc. We’re still far from attracting rich tourists into the country”, Topuzi notes.
Did Albania meet the expectations of foreign tourists during this holiday season as far as accommodation capacities are concerned? Do you think Albania is still far from receiving tourists all year round?
We’re still far from it. It’s not a matter of business strategy, but a matter of policies applied by the central and local government. The private sector comes last. All of this should be stimulated through policies in order to have tourists all year round. In fact, this is not just a problem encountered here, but all over the world. At least, the region has managed to welcome tourists during eight months of the year and in some areas, they are present 365 days. These areas include Dubrovnik, Budva or other areas in Greece.
Is the yearly growth of the number of tourists reflected in the growth of accommodation capacities in Albania?
It’s true that the number of tourists is growing, but we need to take measures in order to increase capacities, build more hotels and improve the way they’re managed. In fact, efforts are being made to reduce VAT for tourism or the tax of investing in hotels, but we’re yet to see any potential investor, which means that not enough is being done. There must be other stimulating policies, which the region has long introduced. We need to catch up with this trend and aim for rich holidaymakers.
To what extent did the reduction of VAT to 6% help the hotel sector this year? Was there any impact?
It did have an impact in formalizing the market. Compared to a year ago, revenues from VAT have increased by 40%. Let us not forget that although VAT was reduced to 6%, hotels receive online bookings, which means that they’re taxed up to 15% of their sales.