Tourist turnout data (INSTAT source) for the year 2019 confirm a steady growth in the number of visitors to the Land of Eagles.
Over the past 6 years the influx has more than doubled. It went from 3 million in 2013 to 6,4 million in 2019.
Compared to 2018, the past year still showed a positive trend with an increase of 8,1 percent.
Can we celebrate? Well here we want to give a realistic and concrete insight into the situation, far from the desks of the editorial offices, from the stages of politics, from the television programs that transmit fabulous scoops.
We are in the kitchens where the brigades work, between steaming vapors, sauté flames, sizzle of fries, calls of the outgoing dishes. "Quick guys, quick!" We are in the rooms where the waiters hurry, take orders, in the corridors of the hotel rooms where the waitresses on the floors are busy cleaning, rearranging, making beds, changing sheets.
We are inside the company's car as a whole, with its components, roles and duties. They are the departments of a company. It is a complex organization, not easy to manage.
Albania still has many shortcomings and several gaps and in this segment, at the base of the reception, it stumbles, stumbles, and too often disappoints. Compared to European competition, Albanian standards are still low. It must be done as soon as possible.
If we want to start by talking about empty spaces, we can mention a fundamental one: there is no staff. There is no qualified staff.
We continue in the form of a list.
The culture of work, understood as professionalism and continuous improvement, is absent.
Important shortcomings come from vocational schools with rough, incomplete training.
Hotel establishments with obsolete basic equipment without new machinery for conservation treatments and new cooking techniques.
Newly-qualified chefs very skilled in decorating dishes with dots, commas, tufts and more, but who know little or nothing about food safety, food conservation, cooking economics and its organization.
As for the training on room service we are at the dawn. Only recently has the professional figure of the waiter been introduced.
In most restaurants the figure of the dining room manager is missing and is covered by simple, inexperienced waiters.
Training in the hotel industry is also lacking; employees who should know multiple languages, have skills in managing reservations, in welcoming the customer.
University education relating to the training of managerial figures in the sector exists, but where are the managers? Abroad?
Perhaps the few preparations operate in the largest and highest level structures. But the structures that welcome most of the tourist flow are certainly not those.
The entrepreneur, hotelier or restaurateur who is, still has an idea of management. He governs employees without delegating anyone, he has no sector collaborators to deal with. He decides. No kind of meetings are held. Entrepreneurs for the most part of tight sleeves who do not invest part of the profits in the company. Little or nothing ordinary and extraordinary maintenance. What about human resource management? It lacks the minimum basis of psychology to create collaborative relationships, giving consideration and respect, motivating and gratifying the staff. The result is uncohesive staff, without team spirit, without a guide that reassures. Often humiliated staff, who after a very heavy workload, in a continuous stress due to disorganization, becomes exasperated and gives way.
So maybe it happens to be in the middle of the season, without the cook, the good waiter, the efficient dishwasher. Inevitable then the disservices that will fall on the customer. We should go further, but avoid going into details by mentioning only the absence of rules for coordination between the room and the kitchen, which are fundamental for creating good service.
Glissiamo on the management in use that instead of being useful are a hindrance. Software created by programmers who evidently have never set foot in a restaurant kitchen. All this translates into a customer service in many (too many) mediocre cases that goes haywire at the times of greatest influx.
It would be useful to be able to produce reliable statistics regarding loyalty. Knowing in what percentage tourists return to the holiday resorts of the country as proof of the satisfaction received. The suspicion, in fact, is that there is a substitutive change, that is that the promotional operations of the various advertising channels create new inflows, but at the same time the percentages of that disappointed clientele that never returns are not considered. In this sense, few and fragmented data emerge. Polish customers for example fell by 16% by comparing the 2019 data with the previous year. The reasons for the sector agencies are the increase in the cost of the holiday packages for the Land of the Eagles.
Can you read then that for the same price, a group of customers choose other destinations?
2018 registered a 15,8% increase compared to 2017 against an 8,1 increase in 2019 compared to 2018 (percentages on an annual basis). The past year has seen Kosovars and Macedonians respectively first and second in the number of entries (followed by the Greeks, the Italians, the Montenegrins, the Germans and the Poles).
Is it because of proximity? Of original and linguistic ties?
The fact is that in this case too, an economic attraction is likely for bands that have modest spending power.
Concluding this summary analysis, I believe that it can be observed that the sector product offered by Albania rests on savings rather than on quality. We need to fill this imbalance which is underestimated and, in its correction, in great delay.
Otherwise it would mean giving up large bands willing to spend more on higher quality. Above all, more careful monitoring, effective implementation of interventions and reforms in support of the training of qualified figures, (starting with vocational schools) are needed, both for simple operations and for managerial and entrepreneurial management. (University).
Then the speeches on the enhancement of the territory, the naturalistic, historical, architectural and cultural heritage, recently also pronounced by the Minister of the Environment and Tourism Blendi Klosi, are also appreciable, and also motivating the challenge launched to shortly reach the 10 million tourists.
But it seems that the emphasis distracts from more real contexts, and in this sense, while we are there, we can also add those that have long awaited resolutions such as waste management, animal stray, controls for food safety, the network public transport, sewerage and more.
Maybe someone thinks that the tourist only looks at monuments, mountain forests, sunsets over the sea in a sort of cathartic hypnosis? If anything, suggestion and curiosity can make it start, but then it comes. Albania has a charm of its own, wild and primitive, unique. Historical testimonies and crossroads of ancient peoples. Welcoming, kind people with a particular emotional charge.
It is not enough.
The European Union and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are preparing to finance an innovative program aimed at rebuilding the roads and aqueducts in the tourist areas of the country. 100 million euro loan, half of which is non-repayable, the rest on subsidized credit. Small sector businesses will also benefit in part. It is hoped that this new aid to Albania will not be "dispersed" and that it can be responsibly and effectively targeted in an order of priority to fill in the gaps and fill in the shortcomings such as those stated.
Albanians have excellent potential, but latent; among these the predisposition to human relationship and empathy, but they need training-information guides on how international competition operates so as to consolidate the good results and go further.
Because success can be achieved in various ways, but maintaining it is a commitment of seriousness, professionalism and skills, which, particularly in this sector, ultimately revolve around a single centrality: the satisfaction of customer expectations.