When Altin Prenga decided to leave Italy after a decade as a migrant and start a small family-run restaurant in his native village of Fishtë, in northern Albania, everyone called him crazy.
Almost a decade later, his restaurant has become a success story for Albania's emerging agritourism industry and its business has gained international recognition as a perfect place that offers farm-to-table food.
Prenga returned to Albania in the 2009, becoming a pioneer of the Albanian food industry by opening the famous restaurant "Mrizi i Zanave" : the 35-year-old chef-owner now boasts one of the best slow food restaurants in the country with original dishes derived from organic food and animals.
Its success has inspired many others to start restaurants "from farm to table" and the Albanian government now offers tax incentives for this emerging industry.
Also Fundim Gjepali, another award-winning Albanian chef, opened a holiday farm in his home town of Shijak, while dozens of other people are experimenting to bring Italian models to Albania even if experienced chefs report that the sector requires tradition and for this reason only those who make the difference survive.
In the new tax package adopted by the Albanian government, the emerging agrotourism sector will also benefit from various tax incentives, including a reduction in 6% VAT and an exemption from the tax on investment infrastructure. In addition, companies will benefit from a reduction in 5% corporate income tax for a period of 10 years if they obtain the status of "certified farm" by the end of the 2021.
The incentives aim to give a boost to agro-tourism, currently at its first steps in Albania with few restaurants and wineries offering tourists local organic products. Albania has also embarked on a campaign to mark its unique agricultural products to promote agro-tourism by promoting the most typical and characteristic Albanian products such as apples and honey from Coriza, olive oil from Berat, chestnuts from Tropoja, mandarins from Saranda, raki, vegetables from the district of Fier and medicinal plants from northern Albania; all products lacking international recognition and certification to enter the EU markets.
The Ministry of Tourism has reported that it will give priority to the mixing of cultural tourism with agritourism through a program of "rural renaissance" (ie the program of 100 villages) which will restore historic villages as the mountain tourist destination of Theth in northern Albania and the coastal villages of Dhermi and Vuno along the southern coast of Albania.
The article is available in full in English on Tirana Times
- The agritourism in Albania and the 'Mrizi i Zanave' model: the transformation of the village into an international brand
- The Albanian chef Fundim Gjepali, between Rome, Tirana and the agritourism in Shijak
- The 100 Academy of villages is born: the rural area as an investment and tourist attraction
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