Tiny country steps onto the world stage
Blerina Ago first rafted the whitewaters of the Skrapari Canyon on the inflated rubber tube of a truck tire. At 14, she was the first woman to do so, and she was hooked.
For those who haven’t been to Albania, there are mountain drives that could convince a Kiwi they were at home in New Zealand, hiking that rivals the Swiss alps, beaches that compete with Greece, star-gazing reminiscent of the desert, and so many adventure sports. Because after that day on the truck tire, Blerina decided she wanted to share Albania’s natural beauty with the world. And she launched her company, Active Albania, to do just that. In 2018, Active Albania welcomed more than 17,000 tourists to explore Albania through mountain biking, kayaking, snowshoeing, snorkeling, canyon exploring, and of course, whitewater rafting.
Swiss EP Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs), Danielle and Tristan, were two of those tourists. They were amazed by Blerina’s story and amazed by Albania’s natural beauty. Like many tourists who visit Albania, they asked themselves why more people don’t know about this beautiful, off-the-beaten path, under-the-radar place. And at the same time, Blerina was amazed to learn about the resources Swiss EP had to offer entrepreneurs like her and immediately got to work to get the help she needed with branding and marketing.
Blerina met with Damjan Damjanovski (EIR) for an intensive brain-storming weekend and Taken by Albania was born. One million media impressions globally. Albania’s minister of tourism shared it, the Mayor of Tirana shared it. The prime minister shared it. The British press talked about it. press was talking about it. There was heated debate--is the campaign reinforcing the negative stereotype of Albanians presented in the Liam Neeson movie, or using the stereotype to Albania’s benefit?--there was excitement, there was global talk about Albania, a small, often forgotten, rarely discussed country of only three million people.
It took a whole Swiss EP village of several EIRs helping Blerina craft the messaging and develop the launch strategy, collaboration with various ecosystem builders, and leverage of government connections in Tirana, combined with Blerina’s contagious passion, to create this success story. And it’s still just the first act. We are confident that 2019 will be Albania’s biggest year for tourism yet because of this campaign. More tourism means more businesses to support that tourism and more business means increased economic growth. This is our mission in action.