Tourism ministers and the other representatives of six Western Balkan countries backed the Tirana Declaration at a regional conference in Albania's capital on Thursday, marking the completion of the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) project for the development and promotion of the European Union-funded tourism.
The Tirana Declaration to Assist the Recovery and Growth of Sustainable Tourism in the Region envisions positioning tourism as a key strategic sector for regional economic recovery and sustainable development, coordinating the opening and continuation of the tourism and travel industry supply chain, and enabling safe and unhindered travel, the RCC said in a statement.
RCC Secretary General Majlinda Bregu said the next step for the 2021-2024 period would be for governments, industry, destination communities and other players to define priorities in implementing a long-term and sustainable vision of the regional tourism.
“Tourism accounted for 15 percent of the region’s total GDP before the pandemic, and regional co-operation has the potential to be an invaluable stimulus to recovery,“ Alessandra Wieser, deputy head of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Regional Development, said.
She added the EU considered the Western Balkans a privileged partner.
Tourism is still among the sectors most severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and in the first half of 2020 alone, the number of foreign tourists decreased by 75 percent compared to 2019, while traffic in 2020 was 35 percent.
That is a massive drop from 12 million visitors in 2019, which brought the Western Balkans an income of 7.2 billion Euro.