TIRANA Dec 13 The World Bank said on Tuesday it
had given Albania a $71 million loan to upgrade infrastructure
in four southern towns to help attract foreign tourism but also
urged local authorities to avoid unsustainable
Ellen Goldstein, the World Bank's director for the Western
Balkans, said infrastructure in the UNESCO heritage towns of
Gjirokaster and Berat, the port of Sarande facing Greece's Corfu
island, and the southeastern town of Permet would be upgraded.
"It aims to create tourism products, site management plans
for the four cities and their surrounding cultural and natural
heritage sites, and establishment of partnerships for tourism
destination management," Goldstein said at the signing ceremony
in Tirana, capital of the impoverished Balkan country.
But she borrowed lyrics from Canadian singer Joni Mitchell
to caution Albanian authorities against over-building or wildcat
construction, telling them, "You don't know what you've got til
it's gone/They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."
Tourism contributes about 6 percent of Albania's gross
domestic product, less than half of its European Union
neighbours Greece and Croatia, Prime Minister Edi Rama said at
the signing ceremony.
Tourism in Sarande, a haphazardly built Ionian Sea port,
grew initially thanks to foreign day trippers crossing over from
Corfu to visit another UNESCO heritage site, the ancient town of
Luxury small private hotels have sprung up along Albania's
Adriatic and Ionian sea coasts, but big resorts have yet to be
built since land ownership in the formerly communist country has
often proven unclear, putting off foreign investors.
Rama said he regretted that 25 percent of the requests for
bookings received by Albanian tourism companies in 2016 could
not be handled due to a lack of capacity.
(Reporting by Benet Koleka; editing by Mark Heinrich)