A new visitor centre to support sustainable tourism in Albania

A new visitor centre that was opened last Sunday in Librazhd will support the development of sustainable tourism in the Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park. It will promote the protected area’s unique biodiversity and forest ecosystem wealth of the area as well as offer the space for promotion and education on its natural heritage and values.

Mr Senatori, Mr Dedej and Mr Koka

The old school in Fushe Stude 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). Moreover, the complete rehabilitation of the office of Regional Administration of Protected Areas (RAPA) in Librazhd was done.

“The construction of the visitor centre in the Shebenik-Jabllanicë National Park stems from the  cooperation with the local government and its support to give life to one of the most beautiful natural areas of the Albanian touristic offer“, said Zamir Dedej, Director of National Agency for Protected Areas of Albania. “This centre follows European standards and it offers diversty of information for the domestic and foreigen visitors in a multi-dimensional shape and form, such as  models, videos, and other material”, Mr Dedej concluded.

"Italy has been actively engaged for several years in environmental protection and conservation of biodiversity of Albania, and opening visitor centres in Buna and Shebenik contributes to the same goal,” said Dr. Andrea Senatori, Director of Italian Agency for Development Cooperation  (AICS) in Albania. “The centre in Shebenik will promote natural and cultural heritage of these mountains. The role of the NAPA and the Park will be fundamental, and I am convinced they will use it not only for the promotion of tourism, but also as a teaching centre for students of schools from the region,” Dr Senatori concluded.

While elaborating the management plan for Shebenik-Jabllanicë, involved stakeholders and experts highlighted the importance of developing tourism as an important and desirable source of income valueing local food and hosting tradition. Now that the centre is opened, NAPA and Park managers will ensure its maintenance and proper future use, as the main point for assistance and information for the park visitors. The centre will serve as a departure point for guided tours in the National Park, a home to numerous mammals such as the Brown Bear, the Gray Wolf, the Eurasian Lynx, and the Eurasian Otter, just to name a few.

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.

“Our common effort in this advanced stage of our cooperation with Albanian partners and IUCN has been to translate the vast amount of high level scientific work into strategic support to the MoE and to NAPA in the definition of their policies and into concrete activities to support local communities to preserve and enhance the unique Shebenik-Jabllanicë ecosystem”, commented Mauro Ghirotti, environmental and food security coordinator at the AICS, Rome.   

 

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