The Peaks of the Balkans Trail, a 192km long passage through Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro, has recently been awarded the winner for outstanding 'Destination Stewardship' at this year's World Travel and Tourism Council´s (WTTC) Tourism for Tomorrow Awards held last month in Abu Dhabi.
The keynote speaker at the event, former US President Bill Clinton noted, in relation to the Balkans: "Peace works better than conflict, and one of the best manifestations of this is travel and tourism."
Head of Tourism, Peja Municipality in Kosovo, Virtyt Morina, also project steering group member said: "Through a positive attitude and sheer hard work, the project celebrates the growing cooperation of 5.4 million people of Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. We are so pleased to offer some of the least known and the most beautiful parts our three countries. What people gain from this is a genuinely authentic experience of our culture and nature."
He further explained: "Crossing three country borders, the Trail is a giant gesture of how sustainable tourism works in a very real way. The Trail opens up the world's newest hiking experience crossing three country-protected national parks."
Morina continued by saying that the project offers tourists the opportunity to experience rugged beauty through different environments, ranging from gentle grasslands to challenging mountain climbing, to the sheer gorgeousness of glacial lakes, and authentic old villages.
"The project has given our local people a whole new range of opportunities to earn money, develop skills, have pride in sharing their special cultural practices with visitors who want active holidays, and a guarantee of utterly local experiences.
"We are still learning and getting our tourism right. Creating sustainable practice is an ongoing journey for all of us in our three countries," he stated, adding: "But one thing we know for sure is that working as a team, celebrating our part of the world, whilst protecting and sharing our culture and beautiful nature is a major commitment for us all."
Project steering group member, Merita Kazazi from Shkodra Regional Council, Albania, also commented: "The best thing about the project is that Peaks of the Balkans Trail shows the cooperation in crossing borders, to create peace and welfare even beyond the politics."
Also attending the ceremony, project steering group member, Enis Ljuljanovic from Montenegro´s Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism added: "Although during the project it was a challenge to hold on to our local culture and spirit and protect our nature, comprehensive planning and a strong regulatory regime helped to support development that is both financially viable and environmentally supportive."
Director for economic development, Peja Municipality, Sokol Ukaj thanked all stakeholders and supporters, especially the German aid organisation GIZ and WTTC for helping to make the project become "a celebration of peace and of transformation for the people of the Balkans" a reality.