Tourism in Tirana under communist regime

The tourists visiting our country at that time considered themselves lucky because it was almost impossible to see and witness how people live in dictatorship regimes. It was forbidden, like North Korea today or Cuba two decades ago. Not everyone had the chance to see these countries.

Some rare images presenting tourism in Tirana in the ’50s were published on SCAN TV, Albanian local television. It is a documentary produced in 1963 by Albanian Kinostudio, which has now been turned into colors by a laboratory in Hungary.

The video shows that the industry was well organized despite the low numbers of tourists. Tourism was not a priority for the Albanian economy, but we had a National Enterprise of Tourism, similar to the National Tourism Agency we have today. The tourists had a dedicated bus. They were accompanied by tourist guides, who knew the history well and were instructed perfectly what to tell or not to tell to a foreign visitor. The guides of that time also knew foreign languages like English, French, Russian, etc.

Visitors were warned to respect some rules in communist countries since their arrival. First, their traveling visa was not longer than a one-month stay. They had to declare all their devices, such as cameras or radio checking points, in Durres port or Airport. The tourists were advised how to wear, not to go in streets with exaggerated short skirts or swimming suits, because it was forbidden.

If you watch this video, the tourists’ behavior in the streets is cautious. Their dress is more than normal; the only accessory is a hat or small bag. The only detail showing they were tourists is their camera, taking photos everywhere and smiling.

The video also shows how they were welcomed at the Dajti Hotel on the main boulevard of Tirana. The restaurant, the table service, the fruits and foods of that time are part of the documentary, too. Dajti Hotel was the most modern hotel of that time and probably the most spied.

It looks like a movie of an ancient time, but many Albanians who lived in that time are still alive, and they have their stories with tourists because some of them worked in the small hospitality industry. Some workers at the port are seen in the movie waving at the foreign guests while they are taking the bus. One fact never changes Albanians’ warm welcome and hospitality. We treat a visitor as a guest, not as a tourist.

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