The Peaks of the Balkans Trail is one of 12 Finalists in the 2013 WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Awards

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The world’s newest transnational hiking experience the Peaks of the Balkans Trail (www.peaksofthebalkans.com) is a finalist in the prestigious global awards.

The 192-kilometre signposted Trail winds through the remote and unspoilt mountainous regions of Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro in the Southern end of the Dinaric Alps in South East Europe.

Chief of Tourism Sector Virtyt Morina from the Municipality of Peja says he is humbled and proud that the judges of the world’s leading sustainable tourism initiative have chosen the Peaks of the Balkans Trail as a finalist.

      “This is very much a recognition of the harmonious working partnerships between Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. It’s special we have such constructive relationships in our formerly troubled region.”

      

     “Now we can offer safe access and travels for visitors, protect our natural resources and heritage, and bring new social and economic benefits to the people of the region.

The Trail was born of a passion to preserve the cultural, natural and spiritual heritage of the local communities, linking them together to create a rare journey for both local inhabitants and for visitors.

Virtyt Morina says the project is a tribute to the vision and energy of cooperating Governments, Municipalities, and local tourism organisations. Border police worked to formalise border crossings for easy access. Mountaineering associations and local hiking clubs trained professional Guides to ensure hikers are safe and can get the best out of their trek.

Local communities and incoming tour operators are creating sustainable business ventures. The Trail opens the doors to traditional local hospitality along the pathways.

He says there is strong recognition of the sensitive balance between tourism activity with its benefits to local communities and its impacts on the environment and the ability to manage a flexible structure for environmental protection.

The local Municipalities in Peja (Kosovo), Plav (Montenegro) and Shkodër (Albania) spread annual budget for the protection and promotion of natural and cultural heritage in the mountain areas. The national strategies and policies such as Montenegro´s Tourism Development Strategy to 2020 also support an integrated approach to community-based development.

A combined Steering Group continues to manage the project. Initial support for the project came from German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and implemented by GIZ, and the three Partners.

The Peaks of the Balkans - Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro will be jointly competing in its category against the two other Destination Stewardship nominees, the Sentosa Development Corporation, Singapore and the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

A further piece of history for the region has also been made in the declaration of the world’s newest National Park in Kosovo. In Albania and Montenegro the mountainous areas are protected by statute but this announcement means there is now one massive Transnational Park protected by statute.

Award applications were received this year from 46 countries across seven continents.

Meanwhile the next step in the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards is an on-site inspection visit for each finalist which is the second step in the judging process leading to the selection of a winner in each category.

The winners will be announced at the WTTC’s Global Summit, which takes place this year in Abu Dhabi, UAE from 9-10 April.