How did Swiss EP support this international digital advertising campaign for Albanian touristic promotion?
JM: We brought in Damjan Damjanovski, the expert, who came up with the 'Taken' theme for the campaign. He worked with Blerina for 2 days back in September here in Tirana. It was explosive, with ideas flying around and hard work being done.
In follow-up to Damjan's concept and initial ground-work done by Blerina and her team other Swiss EP experts, such as Neil Cocker, and finally Roland Simon worked with Blerina to further improve the campaign and to develop its roll-out strategy.
Why do you think that Albania is a place to be visited by tourists? How can an international traveler be taken by Albania?
JM: For me, if Albania cannot do tourism, it may as well pack up and go home. I am joking of course, but in all seriousness, Albania is incredibly beautiful and versatile, as it was created for tourism and Albanians are natural hosts. The food is fantastic, and often very healthy. Two years ago my 70+ parents came for a visit. I was working so for two days they walked all over Tirana alone, I thought, but along the way they met wonderful people, who talked to them and showed them places in town I did not know existed. Where else would the locals have the time and interest to share a tale with strangers from the North roaming the streets of Tirana? Albanians are the perfect hosts. International traveler will be ‘taken’ by their hospitable character and warmth.
What kind of tourist we should expect?
JM: I think you get the tourists you wish and work hard for to get. If you offer sea-sun-sand, you get a certain type of tourist, if you offer active tourism, you get a totally different kind of tourist, because it is two different persons, in my view. For me, beach tourism generally means mass-tourism. I have nothing again mass-tourism as such, if done properly it can be a massive boost to the local economy, but for it to work you need international tour operators bringing in hundreds of thousands of tourists and the infrastructure to cope with it. Albania is not there yet. That leaves us with the active tourist, persons who enjoys and pays for a more personal tourist experience.
Albania is often attacked by a "bad" reputation in the world. How can we fight these stereotypes through tourism?
JM: My recommendation is not to fight it head on, rather to roll with it. Let me explain. I have worked in Russia, Eastern Europe and the Balkans for 25 years now. Over the years, the villains in Hollywood movies have changed. We all remember Ivan in Rocky V. Back then the villain was almost always a Russian. The bad guy role then passed on to Serbs and Bulgarians, and now it’s with Albanians. Does that mean you are not safe to walk the streets of Moscow, Belgrade, Sofia and Tirana. On the opposite, these are probably some of the safest cities in Europe. Remember what I told you about my elderly parents on their own in Tirana. So the fact that Albania is mentioned in so many movies, it kind of means Albania exist in the mind of others outside of Albania. And that’s always a better departure point, than if you first have to explain your existence. The only way to fight stereotypes is to prove them wrong. For that you need time and tourists in Albania. Their positive personal experiences in Albania make the stories that they in turn will share with friends back in their home countries. Story after story the image of Albania will change. I give you one example, again it involves my parents’ visit to Albania. In Berat, my father forgot his jackets in the hotel. He did not realise it until he was unpacking his bag in the evening back in Tirana. My mother told him to buy new jackets, which would have been good for the local economy, but my father refused to go shopping. What to do? Drive back to Berat for two jackets was not an option. I then recalled that one of my staff is from Berat, she called her father, who went to the hotel, picked up my father’s jackets, put them on the morning bus to Tirana where my staff member picked them up and delivered them to the office by 09.00 in the morning! Which story do you think my parents told when back in Sweden?
What can this digital marketing campaign bring to Albanian communities and tourism entrepreneurs?
JM: More tourists, which means more work and income.
What should we consider when we invite a foreign tourist to Albania?
JM: I always highlight three things – the weather, the food and people’s hospitality.
What are your top 5 favourite things to do in Albania?
JM: I am here to work, so first on the list would be to spend time with the people I work. Then I enjoy sitting and watching people, drinking coffee sometimes tea or beer or wine depending on the time of day, and talking to people, and that I love to do everywhere – in blokku, on the pedestrian streets in Gjirokastre, Berat, Korca or Shkodra, or anywhere along the beaches of Albania. In the summer, as a family we stay at Plazhi i Gjeneralit, every year since 2013! It’s a pearl yet to be fully discovered, just like Albania :).