• Feb 06, 20
  • Monica

My name is Blerina and I come from the Balkans. I was born in Albania. Until 15 years ago when I started rafting, international news would only mention Albania as an unsafe and troubled place.
Back in those days, to one of my dear Italians friend, I would show one of the first pictures we took from inside the beautiful Osumi Canyons (and let me give you a little context here – Albania was known as a post communist very very poor country isolated for more than 40 years, always in the news about some mess going on over there), and when he saw the picture he would say: ”noooo it’s fake”, but when he did come for rafting and saw everything with his own eyes, he was like …. “Mamma mia”.
So, I know this has been the situation with a lot of other countries in the region. In some of them it was unimaginable even to mention tourism as an opportunity for economic development.  I am sharing with you a video of our little story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoH2EiQc3ms
We understand that we are just a small part of a big picture. We are aware that in today's dynamic international touristic market, with our individual products we have found ourselves competing with well established major international destinations. We all know it has been hard and in the past we have been relying mostly on domestic tourists.  
Now we are finally experiencing the rise of an emerging larger destination called "the Balkans". This is a destination where the tourists are served much more that we could individually ever offer. It's the time where we don't see ourselves as Albanian, Macedonian, Montenegrin but as Balkans operators. By such we are offering a large variety of adventures, landscapes, activities, foods, cultures and experience yet with one thing in common. We all share a piece of land called the Balkan Peninsula. The Balkans are so diverse and at the same time so alike. We share different stories, yet one common feel. Our peoples speak a variety of languages yet our cultures are so much alike. Even our English accent sounds the same. Also each of our country believes Raki is their own traditional drink.
We now see ourselves as a unique small part of a larger amazing experience, each being a unique piece of this larger puzzle. We believe that complex tours across our countries offer a far better experience to our tourists that we could ever be able to offer. 
Let me give you an example. While on the very influential Lonely Planet you can find various guides of major touristic destinations like Indonesia, Spain, Italy etc, it is quite unusual to find a guide only about for instance, Albania or Montenegro. But you can find a great guide about Southeastern Europe, which is basically the Balkans. This is obviously how the rest of the world naturally perceives our region as a touristic destination: Balkans - As a whole!
The relative affordability of adventures means that the Balkans is a playground for the thrill seeker and outdoor enthusiasts. The region is as good for strapping on safety gear as it is for just kicking back and soaking up the great outdoors. The Balkans as a unique destination offers amazing adventure experiences in all seasons such as: 
-          Great Value Skiing in Bjelasnica, Jahorina in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bansko in Bulgaria, Durmitor in Montenegro etc. 
-          Beautiful sites of shipwreck diving in Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Greece, Turkey. 
-          Beautiful river journeys like the Danube
-          Amazing beaches in the Adriatic, Ionian, Aegean and the Black Sea where blue waters leap up to Medieval towns and there are still pristine rocky and sandy beaches to be found. 
-          Rafting and Kayaking featuring wonderful Canyons with gorgeous waterfalls like the ones in Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro.
-          Extreme sports destinations like Bovec & Bled, Slovenia and Kosovo which offers from canyoning to paragliding.
Some countries will get the tourists to the cradle of civilisation while some others will share how their young country was established. Beautiful coastlines, upbeat urban capitals, breathtaking scenery, organic tasty food will provide the tourist with an amazing diverse experience. You will party with memorable cheerful people who will call you "hajde, hajde" when will invite you in the dance floor.
Whether a tourist has one week or 2 months to travel, the Balkans offers an adventure of a lifetime.
All of us share the same goal: Giving an amazing experience to our guests. 
By seeing ourselves as a part of the big picture and creating complex inter-balkanic touristic offer we create synergy;
-          We will share each other's markets (and not compete) 
-          Make happier and far more impressed tourists
-          Generate better individual peer reviews on the leading touristic social media
-          And most importantly acquire a larger share of the international touristic market which means more business for all.
So let us use opportunities like these to network, exchange, share and develop amazing touristic products for our guests on our emerging destination: The Balkans.
Speech @AdventureNext_Balkans, Ohrid Macedonia organised by Adventure Travel Trade Association.