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The Dimensions of Tourism Development in Kosovo

The fast growth of tourism in Kosovo follows the global trends in this sector, especially in the last ten years. There is a constant flow of new tourism products introduced, an improved tourism offer in destinations within the country and in general, services are modernized and diversified. Tourism is therefore turning into one of the sectors that drive economic and social development in the country. 

According to the World Tourism Organization, in 2018 the European Destinations received over 700 million tourists and it is estimated that throughout the stay, each spend on average USD 800. In the same year, according to the Agency of Statistics of Kosovo, the country received 192,761 foreign tourists. These visitors are mainly from the German-speaking countries, from Turkey and our Diaspora. An interesting fact is that many tourists from Asia end up in Kosovo as part of Balkan tours. 

Besides foreign tourists, there are local visitors from Kosovo that choose to spend weekends of holidays at various destinations within the country, comprising of a significant group of users of touristic services. The latter group is growing every year. According to the Agency of Statistics of Kosovo, the number of local visitors who visited in 2018 various destinations within the country was 108,043. 

In addition to the dimension expressed in numbers, the development of tourism in Kosovo incorporates other dimensions that are just as important. Tourists who visit the destination have varied interests: about the culture of the country, its architecture, gastronomy, history, spiritual heritage or cultural events. As a complex sector, the successful management of a tourism destination is closely linked with the collaboration of different stakeholders from the private and public sectors. 

The most recent data from a research conducted by Swisscontact indicate that the number of accommodations, consequently of investments in this sector is thriving. On top of hotels, inns and hostels, alternative accommodations via the Airbnb platform represent a fast-growing trend. Currently in Kosovo there are over 450 properties hosting visitors from all over the world through Airbnb. 

  • It is estimated that in Kosovo there are over 550 accommodation units for tourists, of which some 22% are bigger hotels with restaurants.
  • In Kosovo there are over 11,680 rooms; i.e. the daily capacity is some 11,680 rooms. 
  • At bigger hotels, some 50.6% of guests are international tourists, some 22.7% are from the Diaspora and 11.8% are local visitors. 
  • The economic impact of tourism on accommodation units and restaurants has been calculated as follows: €153 million in 2017 and some €202 million in 2018.
  • The ‘occupancy rate’ at hotels is calculated at some 49%, whereas in smaller accommodation units (e.g. Airbnb) at some 60%.

Gastronomy is another sector closely linked with tourism that is going through transformation in the recent years. Responding to the increasing number of tourists and visitors, adapting to their requirements and tastes, Kosovo is enriching its gastronomic offer not only with restaurants that introduce dishes from other countries and even continents, but also innovation in traditional dishes. 


World-Famed Chefs Reinventing Local Dishes while Supporting Farmers

Chefs can be initiators of change - not just of taste and eating habits - but of supporting local farmers too. By introducing fresh locally grown ingredients into their recipes, the chefs foster stronger connections between farmers and restaurants, farmers and consumers. In 2019, world-known chefs Fejsal Demiraj and Entiana Osmenzeza, hosted the “Taste of Kosova” event serving dishes made entirely of ingredients locally grown or foraged in Kosovo. The event was part of the Albanian Gastronomy Expedition, a project of RRNO Foundation, which aims at documenting and reinventing Albanian cuisine. The expedition places a special focus on local farmers and producers. There are plenty of tasty and healthy things to eat are out there – you just have to look for and find them!  

Activities in nature, and in urban centers too are necessary for an attractive tourism offer and influence positively on the decision of tourists to extend their length of stay in a destination. The tourism offer of Kosovo is interesting and varied for any type of tourist, and it is increasingly getting richer. 

Only in 2019 several new tourism products were launched in Kosovo such as: one Via Ferrata in Prizren and another one in Peja in addition to the two previously existing via ferratas; while in Peja, tourists can now experience the thrill of a Tibetan Bridge; paragliding, kayaking in rivers, mountain biking, mountain hiking combined with yoga, or winter sports are among the most liked outdoor activities. More modern products such as the “escape room”, the Museum of Illusions, or cultural events are now an indispensable part of the offer in Prishtina. 


First Escape Room Opens in Kosovo

To contribute to further increase of things to do in Prishtina – for visitors, tourists and local people – the “escape room” RAZ opened in the city, an investment by a young team of individuals from the tourism and hospitality industry. The idea behind opening this escape game area was to meet the demand especially of visitors to Prishtina to have more things to do while in the city. The space will therefore improve the local offer and have an impact on increasing the number of visitors, their length of stay and the amount of spending. 

Meanwhile, a long list of products is under development to add more variety to the existing tourism offer in Kosovo. In the vicinity of Prishtina, the Bear Sanctuary will soon launch a natural trail with six attractions for families and children; nearby Lumbardh river in Peja a camping site is under construction complemented by six products and activities; in Prizren work is underway to open a filigree museum. These are some of the latest investments. 

It is now easier for tourists and visitors to experience the tourism offer in Kosovo thanks to a new service in the market: that of local tour guides. These professionals have information on the history, myths and beauty of destinations, and know how to send tourists to the right locations. 

“Apart from a financial aspect, the effects of increasing the number of foreign tourists and local visitors in destination Kosovo are noted in other related sectors, which directly or indirectly are resulting in new jobs, in the growth of local production, in increasing the number and quality of various services and also in improving the image of Kosovo in the world,” says Blerina Batusha Xërxa from Swisscontact, an organization which since 2014 collaborates with the institutions in the country to develop the tourism sector in Kosovo thanks to the financial support by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.  

Story was first published in Albinfo, March 2020