A new visitor centre was opened today in Velipoje, aiming to support the development of sustainable tourism in the Buna River Protected Landscape. The visitor centre will promote the protected area’s unique biodiversity and coastal and wetland ecosystems located along the border of Montenegro and offer the space for promotion and education on the natural heritage and values of the area. The old Velipoje info point was rehabilitated within the project ‘Institutional Support to the management of Protected Areas in Albania’ financed by the Italian Development Cooperation, and implemented by IUCN in close collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and the National Agency for Protected Areas of Albania (NAPA).
Dr. Mauro Ghirotti, Programme coordinator, Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, said: “It is very positive and motivating to see that our constant support to safeguard Albanian natural heritage and the results of the scientific work carried out with key Albanian, Italian and international institutions in assisting national authorities in decision and policy making, regarding the management of protected areas, materialise in concrete actions to preserve Velipojë.”
The NAPA and Park managers will ensure the centre’s maintenance and proper future use, assisting and informing the park visitors. The Centre will be a departure point for guided tours in the Velipojë Protected Landscape, and promote a variety of new tourism infrastructure such as the hiking and biking trails along the Buna River and the birdwatching tower that can be used by visitors as well as for scientific purposes.
Protected areas have great potential for the development of sustainable tourism; they can improve the socio-economic status of the local communities while contributing to biodiversity conservation. “In Albania we witness a growing trend in tourism development and an increased number of visitors in protected areas. This has to be backed by proper visitor infrastructure and interpretation skills of park authorities”, said Mr. Boris Erg, Director of IUCN’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “IUCN is committed to supporting the Albanian authorities in the development of sustainable tourism in protected areas, including visitor management planning, development of soft tourism infrastructure, and capacity building for interpretation and visitor management”, Mr Erg concluded.