In Albania, the summer tourist season, although it was considered by the authorities to be auspicious in terms of the income stream in the economy, highlighted some problems. The 30% increase in the number of tourists who visited the country significantly increased road traffic, which showed marked deficiencies, mainly in the northern axis. Road infrastructure experts and tourism promoters underline that despite the significant improvements in this sector, over the last 15 years, many challenges are still presented as regards the access of travelers to areas with touristic values.
In Albania, the number of tourists who visited the country, according to the authorities in the first 9 months of this year compared to a year ago, increased by 30% or by about 2 million, while the peak was reached during the summer months. This was accompanied by some problems related to the provision of services and mainly to the road infrastructure.
Although with a significant improvement compared to a decade and a half ago, as a result of the construction of several important national axes, as well as in the interior areas of the country, the current road infrastructure showed that it cannot cope with a high flow of tourists, especially during the summer season. The main concern appeared on the northern axis of the country F. Krujë-Shkodër, the only one used by tourists entering through the Morina customs point in the northeast, and the other two in the north, as well as by those going from other areas of the country towards the north.
“Hours in traffic, on a road that could not handle even a tenth of this traffic, especially at peak time. To come from Pristina to the end of the highway for two hours and then to spend 5 hours for a quarter of this road is not at all normal,” Eng. Fatmir Hasho, road safety expert, told Voice of America.
Albania is part of the pan-European transport project of the 90s, which includes 10 corridors, two of which 8 and 10, east-west and north-south, or otherwise the Adriatic-Ionian pass through Albania. These two major projects have not seen tangible progress. They were built just a few kilometers away from being highways with European standards, Blendi Feziu, host of the Opinion show, who has dealt with many issues focusing on tourism and road infrastructure, says for the Voice of America.
“We have not finished Corridor 10, the part from Shkodra to Thumana, from Thumana to Kashar is being worked on, but we still have it unresolved. We have unresolved the corridor that will connect Kashar with Lekaj. We have a piece of corridor from Rrogozhina to Lushnjë, outside the standards, because there is no highway with roundabouts. And from Levani to Gjirokastër it is still not resolved. So if we talk about Corridor 10, we have some crumbs of it, but not a corridor. If we talk about Corridor 8, which is the first to start, it is completely untouched. There is not a single meter of highway today that we are talking about, with the exception of the Durrës – Rrogozhinë axis,” said Blendi Fevziu, host of the “Opinion” show on Klan Television, for the Voice of America.
The Albanian Road Authority told Voice of America that in relation to Corridor 8, the works of the first and second phases have begun in the Fushë-Labinot-Murrash segment and the third and fourth phase segments that end in Rajc – Skënderbe are expected to be tendered. .
Regarding the problem in the northern axis, Prime Minister Edi Rama, during a meeting on tourism issues, accepted it and gave some details on the progress of the Blue Corridor project, which affects this axis.
“The work for the most important tourist corridor, which is the Blue Adriatic-Ionian Corridor, has started with the Thumana – Kashari segment, the agreements for the other segments are nearing completion, so practically next year we will be on the construction site for this corridor. Those who use constantly and especially during the summer season who have all the rights in the world to feel persecuted, the corridor up from Shkodra to Fushë-Krujë will endure a little” – said Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania.
On the other hand, the director of the Albanian Road Authority, Ervis Berberi, said that the goal remains the completion of the main road arteries within 2030.
“These are our capacities. If you see year after year there are inherent developments in infrastructure. And the more there are investments in infrastructure, there is an attraction of tourists, they pay taxes and automatically the income increases and we have more opportunities in the future to invest in infrastructure and to accelerate a cycle that needs its time” – argued for Voice of America, Ervis Berberi, Director of the Albanian Road Authority.
But what is noted with concern by road infrastructure experts is related to the fact that some areas with rare natural beauty are difficult to visit precisely because of the roads. One of them is that of Koman, which leads to the lake of the same name and through it to Fierza and Tropoja, or other destinations, such as the Shala River.
Experts say that the authorities should make clear plans for investments in infrastructure, to precede tourism.
“The road of Vermoshi and Theth was done, the road of Koman should be done as well, it is an obligation. To use that entire lake is an attraction you don’t find anywhere. They are areas that can receive tourist development if this road is built. It was proved in Vermosh, rare beauties were discovered only from the road. We lack detailed planning. Today we were supposed to be in the design phase of the road, where it is not and the improvement where it is. We have another example of the road that goes to Gramsh. Gramshi has been completely untouched except for the residents of the area. It has now become visitable and a tourist attraction. The cause is the road” – continued Eng. Fatmir Hasho, road safety expert.
The authorities say that during the coming year no intervention is foreseen on the road of Koman, and that it remains to be seen in the future.
Even Anri Pashaj, explorer and promoter of tourism, says that the Albanian nature offers extraordinary values which are mostly unsupported by infrastructure, and brings this example.
“In Lura, in addition to the mountains of Kunora and Oroshi, on the other hand, with endless history, we also have the 12 lakes of Lura, which are inaccessible for people who want to go with a modest car, as high cars are needed for terrains difficult. I know that there is an intervention and work is being done to improve it, I really hope that this area becomes accessible to everyone” – Anri Pashaj, explorer and promoter of tourism, said to the Voice of America.
But another problem that is noticed in the road infrastructure is related to the signage. In many roads, according to Engineer Fatmir Hasho, who conducted their audit, unnecessary signs are noticed, as in the case of the Peqin-Rrogozhinë road.
“I conducted the audit of that road and I underlined in the audit that there are signs with 60, 40 and 20 km per hour in very short distances, which are not good even from a professional point of view for a driver. Instead of helping you walk, they do the opposite,” continued Eng. Fatmir Hasho, road safety expert.
The authorities explain that this situation is related to the chaotic developments in the territory after the 1990s and that the frequent signs are placed to increase the safety of the residents in these areas, where there are constructions without criteria by the roads.
But one of the findings of experts in the field of tourism is related to the fact that the road infrastructure in the north, despite some significant improvements in areas such as Thethi, Vermoshi or Valbona, appears more underdeveloped than that in the south.
“It is true that the northern axis that connects Fushë-Kruja with Shkodra in the north has remained in place, and this is scandalous, while the south has improved. But on the other hand, the infrastructure of the north is more difficult because it is mountainous, while the south has been easier to build. But the north has undoubtedly been neglected for periods
long periods of time. I don’t know if it’s a political decision or if it’s related to projects, but this is evident,” continued Blendi Fevziu, host of the “Opinion” show on Klan Television.
The officials admit that in the north of the country, less has been invested in the road infrastructure after the year 1990, and they add that during the last few years many interventions have enlivened mountain tourism even in winter.
“The policies of different governments over the years have chosen to invest, maybe not in the right way. But there is another factor, even though many roads have been built in the north, due to the climatic conditions, the predisposition to damage is higher. After the studies began, it was realized that Albania is a tourist destination with two assets, the sea and the mountain. On the coast there is a higher number of trending tourists and we will automatically turn to the infrastructure that draws them to the sea, to absorb them. The moment they come to Albania, they will go to other countries to visit them and automatically we start with the road infrastructure as is the trend of tourism to help the tourist infrastructure” – continued Ervis Berberi, Director of the Road Authority ALBANIA
Albania’s road infrastructure after the 1990s has developed slowly amidst an unparalleled urban chaos. Despite the obvious improvements and growing investments in this sector over the last 15 years, Albania according to Instat has the lowest road density per square km in the region and the EU. On the other hand, statistics show that during the years 2017-2021, the number of road transport vehicles for passengers and goods has increased significantly by over 40%. In this situation, experts say that the roads are insufficient, in many cases and without standards, as well as the increase in the number of tourists during the summer, further complicated the situation of road traffic in the country, which according to them was confirmed by the 10% increase in the number of accidents road in the June-August period of this year compared to the same period last year.