Revitalization of Prespa. The journey of the ACEG Center towards sustainable tourism in Prespa!

In the framework of the European Day of Parks, on May 24, 2024, the Albanian Center for Environmental Governance (ACEG) organized the closing meeting of the project “Promoting Sustainable Tourism through Increasing the Capacities of Municipalities and Entrepreneurship in the Prespa Region.”. This project, which has been one of the most important initiatives of ACEG, aims at the sustainable economic development of the protected area of Prespa National Park through the promotion of nature-based tourism.
For three years, ACEG has worked intensively in four main directions:
1. Increased Cooperation: Cooperation with the local administration of Pustec and Devoll municipalities through the increase of technical and logistical capacities in the promotion of natural tourism.
2. Training and Networking: evidencing and addressing the needs for training, networking, and human resources for local businesses in the tourism sector, including citizens, public administration employees, and students of “Fan S. Noli” University.
3. Healthy Parks, Healthy People Program: Piloting and implementing this program promotes the health benefits of protected areas and raises awareness of their importance, which translates into economic benefits.
4. International Cooperation: Strengthening cooperation with the EUROPARC Federation, relying on their practices to increase the capacities of ADZM Korce and to promote Prespa National Park throughout Europe.
During the implementation of the project, ACEG has organized several activities that have had a positive impact on the community:
Academy of Natural Tourism: Training for youth and women in sustainable tourism business development.
Evaluation of Tourist Services: Analysis and Improvement of Tourist Services in Prespa National Park.
Support for Local Businesses: Equipment and knowledge for local businesses, including three bee farms run by women.
Networking and Knowledge Exchange: Study visits and training for area entrepreneurs.
Workshops and Training: Organization of training sessions on tourism in protected areas.

Piloting the Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative was an approach that was embraced by ADMZ Korçë, the business community, and the public administration. This initiative exceeded our expectations by having a significant number of businesses that embraced it as well as participating individuals. As a result of this initiative, to promote natural tourism in Prespa and the sustainable development of the area, local and national businesses joined, but were also supported by the administration of the municipalities and ADZM Korce itself.

Gjergji Koki, Director of ADZM Korce:
– The cooperation with the ACEG Center in the framework of the promotion of sustainable tourism in the Prespë National Park has brought a new approach for the proper promotion of the natural resources of this extraordinary region. The “Healthy Parks, Healthy People” initiative is an invitation to do tourism, which ADZM Korca has supported and wants to take to another level together with the ACEG Center.
The focus has been on the promotion of nature sports as a mechanism that brings health benefits to citizens but also increases the economic potential of the Park by valorizing natural and cultural assets. An innovative approach to help all local actors and national businesses network to increase service standards but also make the community aware that protected areas offer much more than a tourist visit, the Park can affect their physical and mental health.As with the presentation of the initiative and its implementation, we had the honor to be assisted by the Europark Federation with representatives Mr. Carls Castell Puig who held a presentation at the meeting with messages to continue working in this direction.
Mr. Carls Castell Puig, Commissioner of the Europarc Federation
– I am happy to participate in this closing event of a project which piloted for the first time the Healthy Parks Healthy People program of the Europarc Federation. I personally and the Europarc Federation encourage you to continue this initiative and we hope that in the future we will have the opportunity to deepen the cooperation with the ACEG Center in the implementation of this program, which basically has the valorization of natural resources for health benefits in the well-being of citizens, giving you suggested that the health sector be included in this initiative to further fulfill this program.
Another essential aspect was the inter-municipal cooperation between Pustec Municipality and Devoll Municipality. ACEG thanks both municipalities for the readiness and support shown throughout the project. The final activity of this initiative aimed to further strengthen cooperation and develop innovative programs that will make the Prespa area competitive for all-season tourist packages. The promotion of natural tourism as an alternative for the sustainable development of the area and the promotion of the local economy was and remains one of the main goals of ACEG
Mr. Pali Kolefski, the mayor of Pustec Municipality
– The ACEG center during this period that has been operating in the Pustec Municipality has given a great help to the institution of the Pustec Municipality in improving the capacities of the Municipality’s administration in the field of natural tourism but also for local businesses. It has been a valuable support for a small municipality which needs administration training from time to time and training for businesses which also need it, to provide services in tourism with improved standards.
The ACEG Center thanks all supporters and partners for their trust and contribution to this successful project, including @PONT and @NATGA,@ ADZM Korçë,@ Kayak Albania, @Korça Alpin,@ Elisabeta Balance, @Panorama Restaurant, @Prespa Balcony Guest House,@ Ferma Kitan and @Ferma Gjaci. This project is clear evidence of how cooperation and commitment can bring about positive changes in the community and promote sustainable development.

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