News of another nail in the coffin of Albania tourism tells of Marriott International, owner of the Sheraton hotel brand no longer managing the Sheraton Tirana property as of December 31, 2017. One of the countries Argophilia pointed to as having the most potential for tourism growth, continues to be bogged down in corruption and bad business.
Late last year, ten current and former officials from the property registry office and local governments were arrested after Albanian police uncovered a scam to appropriate public coastal lands. The land grab scam is but one of Albania’s more recent reputation disasters. Edi Rama’s government has struggled the last few years to grow not just tourism, but business overall. The Rama administration has been long on promises and short on results where tourism efforts have been concerned. The Albanian PR unveiled an ambitious plan to establish a new national airline with the help of Turkish Airlines over a year ago, but nothing so far has come of the rumored Air Albania-Turkish Airlines subsidiary. News that Albania’s judicial reforms went up in smoke, the continue cannabis trade news, and allegations of intimidation and violence against journalists are the short list of horrendous PR for Tirana.
Meanwhile, Marriott bailing out on account of lackluster governmental efforts to attract more brands does nothing for the country’s tourism outlook. According to the news the Albanian Society of Tour Operator and Tourist Agencies (ATOA) attributed Sheraton’s departure from Tirana to Rama’s administration. Albania’s tourism sector continues to operate without clear rules and standards and informality is at high levels, ATOA said in a Facebook post on December 29, announcing Sheraton was leaving Albania.
According to Albanian media reports, the reasons for the departure are related to financial difficulties faced by the owner of the property MAK-Albania in recent years. MAK-Albania is a subsidiary of Kuwait-based M.A.Al-Kharafi & Sons W.L.L. The Sheraton Tirana Hotel was the first five-star hotel introduced in the Albanian capital, operating under Sheraton’s brand since it was built in 2003. On the positive side, Hilton said earlier this week it will open its first hotel in Albania in the summer of 2018.
Albanians had high hopes for Edi Rama when he was elected in December 2013. Albania, one of the most naturally beautiful countries on the Adriatic, should have become a tourist and new business Mecca. But the mountain Rama’s administration had to climb must be too steep, socialism just doesn’t seem to be working in the land of the ancient Illyrians. Albania’s people are still among Europe’s poorest, earning on average just over €300 euro per month.