Albanian Ambassador to HN: Vaccinating hotel staff would help our tourism

As a result of the pandemic, our tourism experienced a very difficult year, says Enkeleda Merkuri, the ambassador of Albania in Slovakia, in an interview with HN.

​Has your country introduced any form of economic lockdown?
Albania, along with Slovakia, was among the first countries to take immediate and strict measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virtually immediately after the outbreak of the first wave of the pandemic in March last year. At the moment, however, almost everything is open with us - shopping malls, bars and restaurants, although with limited visiting hours.
Unlike in Slovakia, new cases of infection increase only very slightly ...
This is true, although increases or decreases in the number of infections and deaths have in any case taught people to follow strict rules set by the government to protect them from the virus. It is mainly about wearing drapes in any environment - in outdoor and indoor areas, as well as the use of disinfection, keeping away from other people and the like.
Albania has sought to develop tourism in recent years. How did the pandemic affect him?
Due to restrictions on movement and travel, Albanian tourism experienced a very difficult year last year. The tourism infrastructure, which was ready to welcome tourists from all over the world, remained at a very low number of visitors. Holidaymakers from other countries in the Balkan region took care of these.
Last Sunday, you launched a massive vaccination campaign before the upcoming summer season. Do you believe that the resorts will be able to welcome holidaymakers from abroad?
With the start of vaccination, our hopes increased that we would have a more optimistic season in 2021. The government's intention is to significantly speed up the entire vaccination process thanks to the arrival of the new vaccine. The goal is to vaccinate at least half a million citizens by the end of May. This would greatly facilitate not only the start of the season, but also a halt to the spread of the pandemic and an increase in collective immunity in Albania.
Will tourists in Albanian resorts be safe from the coronavirus?
Prime Minister Edi Rama has said he is open to suggesting that representatives of the entire business community be vaccinated. The priority should be to give the hotel staff the opportunity to serve foreign tourists who come to Albania in the summer. It is this initiative that can be a good attraction for holidaymakers who want to visit us during the new season.
Are there any restrictions for Slovaks traveling to Albania today? And are Albanians afraid to introduce new coronavirus mutations?
In order to give you the answer to the first question, I must first answer the second. We did not notice any cases of new mutations or different variants in Albania as in the rest of Europe. Under the given conditions, there is no panic at our moment. The European Union's decision to grant immune certificates to citizens who have overcome COVID-19 or have already been vaccinated has increased the public's confidence that tourism will be safer this year and that foreign holidaymakers will not contribute to the spread of the pandemic. And when it comes to restrictions for Slovaks or citizens of other EU countries when traveling to Albania, I emphasize that they are not in force today.
What measures will tourists need to be prepared for?
This will depend on the pandemic situation during the summer. Of course, it may be necessary to follow coronavirus protection rules. They will probably accompany us for a long time until life returns to normal. Due to the above facts, the Albanian Embassy in Bratislava has launched a promotional campaign of our tourist destinations, where everything will be explained in detail.
Do you cooperate with our companies in the field of tourism?
Yes, we establish close contacts and establish cooperation with Slovak travel agencies operating in Albania. This remains a priority in our activities throughout the tourist season. We try to provide them with all the information they need for groups of tourists traveling to Albania, as well as to facilitate their communication with local partners.
Nevertheless, your country is still not very well known among Slovaks ...
Our goal is to achieve the number of visits of Slovak tourists that we had the last three years before the outbreak of the pandemic. And we want them to increase gradually in the near future. That is why I want to meet Slovak operators and tourists and introduce them to activities for the new season.​




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