Western Balkan tourism
The picture shows Kotor, Montenegro, a tourism hotspot before COVID-19. Kotor is a destination with clear overtourism – its location attracts tourists and cruise boats that lead to tourists filling up the old town for a few hours and then leave again. In 2017, UNESCO warned the government that it could lose its UNESCO heritage status of Kotor, if excessive real estate development would not be halted. The same warning was given to the government of North Macedonia, in view of the developments in Ohrid, the major town of the Lake Ohrid tourism destination. The metaphor of the ‘tourism gold-rush’, coined German researcher Göler about Western Balkan tourism endangering natural resources, is aptly chosen and summarizes the past developments.
I worked on a few studies on (un-)sustainable tourism in the Western Balkans. Latest was in 2020, called ‘Tourism in Transition, the Post COVID-19 Aftermath in the Western Balkans’. How COVID will affect tourism in the medium term is a big question indeed. The present period can be used for rethinking the tourism model, and for development of more authentic tourism, next to the sun-sea-sand tourism and heritage tourism. An updated version of the paper will be in the Annual Review of Territorial Governance, the journal of TG-WeB, the Western Balkan Network on Territorial Governance. A research note on COVID19 and innovation in tourism will be published in European Spatial Research and Policy - University of Łódź, early 2022.
In 2019, I contributed to the study of Aida Ciro and Merita Toska (Co-PLAN, Tirana) on community based tourism in Albania, and earlier worked with Enrico Porfido (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) and Aida Ciro was on sustainable tourism, both research and advisory services.