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An Offer Tourists Can’t Refuse

Albania has plenty to offer: golden beaches, soaring mountains, ancient ruins. And kidnappers.

14 March 2019

Organized crime, of all things, is the subplot to Albania’s new official tourism drive, “Be Taken by Albania,” a play on the 2008 film “Taken,” starring Liam Neeson as the father of a girl who has been kidnapped by Albanian human traffickers.

 

As Quartz writes, the Albanian tourism board’s website explicitly flags up the connection, proclaiming:

 

“In popular culture, Albania has been colored as a haven for thugs, criminals, and gangsters.”

 

Baloney, the site goes on to say: “In reality, Albania is a beautiful and incredibly safe place to visit and live.”

 

In reality, far more than a bit of bad press, it’s lack of development that is standing in the way of the plan to attract 10 million visitors annually.

 

Image from the campaign, via activealbania/Instagram.

 

As recently as two years ago the country had just 67,000 hotel beds, although for many visitors, the absence of mass tourism is a positive attractor. The tourism industry earned a record-breaking $1.6 billion in 2016.

 

At the launch of the “Be Taken” campaign, Tourism and Environment Minister Blendi Klosi said attracting tourists year round was the only way to reach the target of 10 million visitors.

 

Local tourism advocate Blerina Ago said sustainable tourism was also essential.

 

“I have seen the joy and hope that tourism brings in the most isolated areas of Albania and the transformation power of this industry in changing the lives of inhabitants, opening new jobs, and more well-paying jobs for young people and in particular for women and girls,” the Independent Balkan News Agency quoted Ago as saying.

 

 

  • Bizarre PR is nothing new for the fast-growing Balkan tourism sector. The Bosnian town of Visoko became a minor attraction on the strength of claims that an ancient civilization built enormous pyramids in the vicinity.

 

  • Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, not normally thought of as a hotbed of vice, earned plenty of good and bad press last summer for its “G-Spot of Europe” tourism drive.
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer
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