SMARTiMONY a debate table in Gjirokastra on tourism strategies

SMARTiMONY a joint Greek-Albanian INTERREG-IPA project funded by the EU with value for the development of cultural tourism based on cultural heritage assets is moving many actors and factors of business, public institutions and civil society on both sides of the border between the two neighboring countries. In the framework of this European project INTERREG-IPA CBC, the prefecture of Gjirokastra and the Cultural Media Center ANTIGONEA recently organized a public debate focused on drafting strategies of economic usability of cultural heritage values to put in the interest of the development of cultural tourism. This debate included tourism experts from 7 municipalities of the prefecture of Gjirokastra region, professors and students of the Department of Tourism at the University “Eqrem Cabej”, specialists of the Regional Directorate of National Heritage, businessmen and licensed tour operators, representatives of handicraft associations, hotels, civil society entities Visit-Gjirokastra, TID-Gjirokastra Area, representatives of local and central media. etc.

The debate was opened by Engjellush Serjani, President of the ANTIGONEA Cultural Media Center, who stressed. that despite the positive developments in the field of tourism, in the current situation it is necessary for the performance of cultural tourism to have a greater commitment from supporting actors, there is a need for innovation and strategic plans, especially for suburban areas with sparsely populated areas. “Tourist offers based on the extraordinary values of cultural heritage, are still raw and not at all flexible, while there is a lack of elaborate and oriented strategies to encourage investment in cultural and creative industries,” said Mr. Serjani.

The Chairperson of the Gjirokastra Regional Council, Ms. Lindita Rova, in her speech underlined the need for a profound change in the conception of development strategies of this priority sector of economic and social development in peripheral areas, as tourism, agriculture and livestock remain the only opportunities for curb their further depopulation. “The state is investing in improving the tourist infrastructure, supporting this vital sector with investments, management tools and administration, but the time has come to invest in the preparation of capable human resources for tourism and cultural heritage,” she underlined.

SMARTiMONY type projects, said during his speech the Secretary of the Prefecture of Gjirokastra, Mr. Arjan Korkuti, aim to support and strengthen the capacities of tourism SMEs in remote, peripheral areas and with sparse populations to grow in these areas as well as regional markets, to increase productivity, quality and innovation in the tourism sector. “The implementation of this project includes the establishment and promotion of 231 destinations, 5 of which will be business applications with commercialization potential, to enter the global distribution channels after the completion of the project”, said for the participants in the debate table Mr. Arjan Korkuti.

Ms. Pezana Rexha, Director of the Regional Directorate of Cultural Heritage focused on some aspects related to investments for restoration, revitalization and management of archaeological sites in 7 municipalities of the region and especially in the protected historical area of Gjirokastra in UNESCO.

A debate was also attended by many representatives of business and tour operators, who raised some concrete problems related to the drafting of strategies and the new trend of managing tourism offers. Mrs. Kristina Fidhi, Chairperson of the Board of the Regional Association “Vizit – Gjirokastra” asked for more attention from the state for the processing of information, statistics, training of guides, publications dedicated to the recognition of cultural monuments.

Lecturer of the Department of Tourism and Cultural Heritage Dr. Daniela Qiqi, praised the objectives of the SMARTiMONY project in terms of encouraging tourism business innovation processes with new products and services in a connected global economy and within a constantly changing business ecosystem. “Increasing the capacity of tourism human resources towards entrepreneurial, social and business innovation, are related to the growing needs for training of tourism actors and fights the fragmentation of stakeholders towards cross-sectoral cooperation for product and process innovation.

While the archaeologist Prof. Dr. Dhimiter Çondi gave a long lecture about the archeological treasures of the Drino Valley and about some unique values of the archeological sites of Ancient Epirus. “Until now, these values have not received the attention deserved by the artists of tourism, public institutions and the tourism business. “Many archeological expeditions on both sides of the border have discovered unique objects and values in the Drino and Vjosa valleys and in the whole region of Ancient Epirus, but these areas still hide extraordinary values of human life in antiquity, values for which are very to interest foreign tourists. “These values should only be sought and discovered, but they should be maintained, restored, revitalized and managed in the interest of tourism development”, underlined Pro. Dr. Dhimitër Condi in his speech which was received with great interest by the participants in the debate.

Active actors in this debate were also University Professor Dr. Antoneta Arseni; representative of the tourism business “Caravan Horse Riding Albania” Ilir Hitaj; restaurateur Ing. Vaso Polo, representative of the tourist office “Experience Gjirokastra”, Eni Kaci etc

Of great interest to the participants in this panel of public debate, was the involvement of all participants in the survey process of several forms through which the drafters and implementers of the joint Greek-Albanian project INTERREG-IPA aim to attract the opinion of actors and operators of cultural tourism.

“In order to support tourism in our region and especially its extension to remote peripheral areas and sparsely populated areas, to better utilize cultural heritage assets, to enter and compete with dignity in key tourism markets, recognition is required. of the situation, information is needed and studies and strategies are definitely needed. Therefore, we highly appreciate this survey of these experienced actors “, stressed at the end of this activity the secretary of the Prefecture, Mr. Arjan Korkuti.