Albania opens Sazan military island as tourist attraction

Albania opens Sazan military island as tourist attraction
By bne IntelliNews April 6, 2017

Sazan Island, home to a communist era military base, will be open for tours of its bunkers and tunnels this summer, according to Albania's defense ministry.

The move is expected to attract many foreign visitors, and is aimed at developing tourism, which is a key source of income and jobs for Albanians. 

Albania is not the only Adriatic country seeking to transform its communist era military bases into tourist attractions. Croatia plans to turn sites inherited from the former Yugoslavian army - whose value are estimated at around €10bn into tourist havens. The Montenegrin government has similar plans for the former Bigovo-Traste military resort near Kotor. 

Sazan is a small island in southern Vlore county on the Adriatic Sea. With an area of 5.7 square kilometers, it is strategically located between the Strait of Otranto and the entrance to the Bay of Vlore.

Visits will be permitted from the beginning of May until the end of October, under an agreement signed by Defense Minister Mimi Kodheli and Economy Minister Milva Ekonomi. The agreement establishes the areas that can be visited on Sazan island and the times, the defense ministry said in a statement on April 5.

The bunkers and tunnels on the island were built to protect people from nuclear attacks. Over 3,000 military personnel were once stationed on Sazan, which still serves as a military base but today only a couple of soldiers remain and there is no civilian population.

Ekonomi believes that the opening of Sazan island for tourists will be of great benefit for local tourism and expects it to be a popular attraction.

Kodheli expressed his willingness to make the island available to tourists stressing that the ministry of defense will put an emphasis on safety.

“Today the world, especially the Mediterranean coast, is troubled due to the geopolitical events in the area and many tourists now prefer not to visit places with a high risk,” Kodheli said.

She added that “what we must ensure is the safety of our coast, on which we work on a daily basis.”

Revenues from tourism in Albania rose by 13% y/y in 2016 to €1.53bn. In the fourth quarter of 2016, the number of foreign citizens arriving in Albania increased by 11% y/y to 738,899.

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