Feature: Albania opens up to foreign tourists to boost economy

TIRANA, June 6 (Xinhua) -- Albania has officially opened up the borders to international tourists and Albanian nationals living abroad. They are no longer required to present a negative COVID-19 test, show proof of vaccination, or undertake self-quarantine upon entry.

One day after the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs announced these measures, Xinhua reporters witnessed on Sunday a continuous flow of both foreign and national passengers at Tirana International Airport, the country's only international airport.

Jagdeep Sing, a 26-year-old Indian national, told Xinhua that this was his first visit to Albania.

"A friend of mine will pick me up and first I plan to visit the capital city Tirana, the National Historical Museum and Art Gallery," Sing said.

A 30-year-old man from Switzerland was to leave Albania after attending UNUM Festival, an open-air electronic music festival held in Shengjin, northwestern Albania. "I liked it a lot here, even though it was a very short visit," he said.

Responding to the Albanian government's decision to remove restrictions on foreign tourists, he said: "it feels great, we don't need to wear a mask, and this is a very smart decision."

Jemmy, 33, a tourist from Thailand, echoed. "The decision to allow foreigners to visit here is a very good one in order to boost the economy and get everything back to normal," she said, adding that she was impressed with "the people, the food, places, literally everything here."

A couple with two boys from Egypt, who were waiting to depart from the airport after a 12-day visit to Albania, told Xinhua that they were happy with no visa entry requirement by the Albanian government and no restrictions for entry either.

"We are taking a COVID-19 test now because authorities in our country (Egypt) still ask for this, but we were happy your country did not have this requirement and we could visit freely," said Rina, the mother of two.

Alison and Rupert, mother and son from South Africa, who had just landed at Tirana International Airport from London, told Xinhua that they have heard from their friends that Albania is "absolutely" beautiful.

Rupert, a property broker, said that during their 11-night stay here, they plan to visit the capital city Tirana and then the cities of Berat, Gjirokastra, Saranda, all UNESCO-designated world heritage sites, as well as the coastline.

"Only a few countries accept South African tourists at the moment without vaccination," Rupert said.

"This makes it very attractive for South Africans certainly, in a time when across the world, due to COVID-19, many places are closed and not making any money," Alison, his mother, added.

According to the latest report of the National Institute of Statistics (INSTAT), during the first four months this year, the number of foreign national arrivals in Albania was 754,796, compared to 585,911 in the same period last year. It's expected that the removal of travel restrictions will prompt a significant rise in the number of foreign tourists as the summer season has started across the country.

[ Editor: WPY ]