Nature-based tourism in protected areas in the Wider Prespa Area holds a great potential to contribute to the local economy, reduce poverty, and help develop this predominantly rural area, as argued in the report “Assessment of Challenges and Opportunities Related to Sustainable Tourism”, commissioned by PONT in 2019. The positive social and economic impacts of nature-based tourism will in turn strengthen the case for nature conservation in the Wider Prespa Area.
Following this line of argument, PONT provided a grant to the Albanian Centre for Environmental Governance (ACEG) in 2019 to engage young entrepreneurs in Prespa in Albania and support them in identifying and developing business ideas for nature-based tourism. This action was complemented by capacity building of Pustec and Devoll municipality administrations to create an enabling environment for such businesses.
Building up on the results and achievements of the initial grant, PONT has recently signed a follow up, 3-year grant agreement with ACEG to further steer the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of the young population in Prespa towards nature-based tourism. This grant will continue the capacity building activities to create and advance alternative livelihoods along the nature-based tourism supply chain, such as nature-guiding, locally produced food and beverages, transport, accommodation etc.
To that end, ACEG will provide on-the-job coaching and facilitate networking among local youth and women in Prespa. The 18 members of the Youth Tourism Academy, established during the first phase, will provide the initial focus for the capacity building activities, while aiming to recruiting additional interested members from the local communities in Prespa. The practical implementation of the improved skills and knowledge will be piloted through the Prespa Health Park Initiative in Prespa in Albania, in cooperation with the park authorities, local governments of Pustec and Devoll, and national business groups.
At the same time, the grant will facilitate the collaboration among the local governments around Lake Prespa in all three countries to coordinate their efforts in promoting Prespa as a transboundary tourism destination. ACEG will also promote the new nature-based tourism products in Prespa to tourist operators and media, as well as share the achievements and lessons learnt with the local communities and businesses, park authorities, local governments and NGOs.