Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Will Albania dabble in dictator tourism?

Could Albania be looking to turn the scars dictator Enver Hoxha left on the country into tourist attractions? This article quotes the head of the tourist agency Outdoors Albania as saying "there is interest in this paranoid, psychotic regime".

While Hoxha has been dead for 22 years, Albania has struggled to come up with the money to undo the damage done to Albania during the Hoxha dictatorship. For starters, over 700,000 concrete bunkers built to defend Albania against a "Western imperialist invasion" that never came still scar the countryside, while a former Soviet submarine base stands largely intact, inviting the question of converting it to a museum. With so much remained to be cleaned up, the lines between "dictator detritus" and "tourist attraction" have naturally started to blur. Of course the larger question remains: is dictator tourism in bad taste?

The short answer, of course, is yes, but beggars can't be choosers. Albania is still, by far, the poorest country in Europe. While the country boasts pristine (by European standards) beaches and coastline, the nation's reputation for poverty, chaos and violence has put an unwanted damper on tourism. Albania is most famous in Europe and around the world for having gone into seclusion for much of the 20th century during the Hoxha regime, so why not find a way to turn into tourism revenue? At present, the famous concrete bunkers are doing little more than gathering graffiti. After all, people don't visit North Korea for the food - they do so because of the illicit thrill at getting a glimpse of a paranoid, secretive society, and to gawk at oversize monuments of their dictator. Dictator tourism in Albania would offer all the sordid voyeurism of peeking through the iron curtain with none of the actual risks or drawbacks.


Anonymous said...

More abbout Albania at Albanian Canadian League Information Service (ACLIS) http://www.albca.com/aclis

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