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TIRANA (Albania), December 14 (SeeNews) - The World Bank said it signed a $71 million (66.8 million euro) loan agreement with Albania to finance an integrated urban and tourism development project in the country.
The project will support the economic development of Southern Albania, well-known as a tourism destination, by improving urban infrastructure and enhancing tourism assets of four tourism centers, country director Ellen Goldstein said in remarks published on the website of the World Bank on Tuesday following the signing ceremony for the project.
The project includes two UNESCO cultural sites, Gjirokastra and Berat, as well as Saranda, a tourism gateway for the region, and Permet that links the South Albania tourism circuit with the heart of the Balkans. The project includes urban upgrading and infrastructure improvement, tourism sites upgrading, heritage and cultural sites’ restoration, and tourism market and product development.
"Sustainable development of natural and cultural endowments in the South can be a game changer for Albania, yielding economic benefits for the local communities, creating jobs and sustaining and accelerating the economic recovery that we are seeing today," Ellen Goldstein.
Ellen Goldstein underlined that the project envisages not only combination of investments for infrastructural improvement and tourist site upgrade, but also aims at creating tourism products, site management plans for the four cities and their surrounding cultural and natural heritage sites, and establishment of partnerships for tourism destination management.
"It is through these activities that the south of Albania will be better linked to regional and international tourism markets, so that the local population and the country as a whole will benefit from more jobs, more revenues generated and more equitable sharing of economic gains," Ellen Goldstein said.
With existing data suggesting that at least 300,000 tourists are visiting the south of Albania annually, the tourism is responsible for one fifth of economic activity and job creation in Albania, Ellen Goldstein said.
"It currently supports 50,000 jobs, a number which is expected to grow to 200,000 by 2025," she added.