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Albania is the next big Mediterranean holiday destination, Tui boss reveals

Simon Calder’s Travel

Albania could be the next big Mediterranean destination, the boss of Europe’s biggest holiday company has said.

“It’s a great country,” Sebastian Ebel, chief executive of Tui, told The Independent.

“I’m a big fan of Albania and I think we should and could do more. It’s on our agenda to look at it. I think the prospect is huge and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start a significant programme there.”

Mr Ebel revealed that 10 years ago, when he joined the executive board at Tui, he had raised the prospect of launching holidays to Albania.

“I couldn’t convince people to invest there,” he said.

At present the only Tui operation to Albania is a twice-weekly flight by the company’s Belgian offshoot from Brussels to the capital, Tirana.

In comparison, the budget airlines now have a massive programme from the UK. Ryanair and Wizz Air each have three daily flights to Tirana from their London hubs, Stansted and Luton respectively.

Ryanair also flies from Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh to the capital’s Mother Teresa International Airport.

Marlene and Bernard Kayley, from Preston, have just returned from a trip to Albania, saying they had “a marvellous five days”.

They split their time between the capital and the main resort, Durres. In the latter, Ms Kayley said: “Our hotel, Vila One Beach, was, as its name suggests, on the lovely clean beach. The excellent hotel chef provided us with traditional Albanian cuisine each night – not from the menu, he just asked what we liked.

“We are definitely returning to Albania.”

In December the nation’s tourism minister, Mirela Kumbaro, told The Independent: “We are aiming for high-end tourism in Albania.” The minister, whose brief also includes the environment, said she is “pushing for four- and five-star hotels with international brand names”.

Of all the eastern European nations, Albania endured the longest and most oppressive spell under state communism in the latter part of the 20th century. Almost no tourists were allowed to visit during the 40-year Stalinist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha.

But a then-small company, Regent Holidays, started bringing in visitors from the UK in the 1970s. Former director Neil Taylor recalls: “In most years through the 1970s and 1980s we sent about 12 groups a year there.

“The diversity of the clientele was the great…

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