Trailblazing Magazine October 2020

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ELSA HÃ…STAD Sweden Has Made Albanians See Innovation Broadly

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Low Season Does not Mean Low Profits or Reason for Closing Down the Business


O |

wners, Hotel Managers,

concerned including the Ministry of

Tour /Ground Operators

Tourism, Transportation, Airlines,

and Airlines have the

Airport Management, Association

responsibility to maximize their

of Travel Agents identifying the

revenues, keep their human assets

weaknesses and strengths of each

active throughout of the year.

place and develop strategic plans

During my years of experience I

and ways to promote and create

always overcome the seasonality

awareness of the different available

that we service providers have as

resources to the different markets

our “nightmare” by being creative,

around the World. During crises or

innovative and working with all

pandemics GO REGIONAL.





Most of us hoteliers, travel agents,

STOP, think about it and ask your IT

By connecting data across multiple

With personalization becoming a

airlines and Tourism Authorities


platforms and use strategically this

priority for many of us that live and

data such can provide patterns and

have our source of income from the

know how to adjust our strategies in anticipation of upcoming trends or

Imagine the golden data capture

many other information that if well

tourism the social media becomes

overcoming short notice adversities

upon arrival of each and every

processed we can prepare well in

a very important tool to arrive to

but we are not used to do things

one, accompanied with origins,

advance your strategy for the season

tourists and visitors across the world

together by and use the collected

precedencies, gender, age,

or even to have an immediate action

in a very quick and efficient manner.

guest/ visitors data provided to us

geographical source, country of

in case of any outbreak of Virus,

Hotels and all service providers

via different sources.

origin, email address , phone and

weather , earthquakes and many

can learn to collate across multiple

all other collected data by the

other factors that can negatively

touch points and data profiling

This key information can and will

different areas who handles tourists

impact your “ profits”.

to deliver a better customer

unlock profitable opportunities

or visitors, that is gold if well used .

experience, by sharing their data.

during traditionally low and medium periods of the year.

Local tourism authorities must lead these actions and together

I’m concerned that we alone or

with other Hospitality / Tourism

in each unit struggle what to do

Sectors must structure and combine

with the data individually instead

data to focus on key periods that

of collectively getting together

need a boost the slow periods by

and use all City, Resort, Country

developing one single action plan

available data and develop

for all.

“magic” to attract customers.

“Social media becomes a very important tool to arrive to tourists and visitors”

The data you and all sectors have on their CRMS is a powerful tool. Many others who don’t have such spent several thousands of Euros in software programs, salaries to capture such, and many of you are not properly managing such valuable data as long-term value. 10





Off-Low season promotions

Why not starting with the

Municipalities etc. get together and

this as part of your product, you

are not only important, they

forthcoming Holiday season , let

use the data collected merge funds

will increase revenue and room

are crucial.

Municipalities and local business

and act as one. This my experience

occupancy, and local awareness

as well as multi-national companies

from many years , and can assure

Using the data it bring the

organize city events showing

you it only gave results.

knowledge about your customers

their traditions in the gourmet

and helps to promote specific

and culture areas, schools to

The different tours and events

internal destinations, hotels and

organize their choirs , local Multi-

market are huge and has become a

The business travelers are not

experiences during low or off

national companies sponsoring and

multi- billion dollar global industry.

influenced by seasonal trends

seasons, particularly when it comes

promoting their products etc

By positioning the hotel or Regional

and this helps the tourism sector

to special discounts.

This only can happen if all of

Convention Centers as the focal

continue to thrive all year around,

us at the Minister of Tourism,

point of the destination and offering

but they can react to SOUND

Imagine such, done collectively with

MICE (Meetings-IncentivesConventions-Exhibitions)


Airlines, Tour/ Ground Operators, Hotels, Resorts, Municipalities,

The MICE sector is extremely

Ministries and other third parties.

profitable. The combination of

Imagine the “Forza” or Power

meetings, incentives, conventions

and the major advantages when

and exhibitions is now an integral

going to the selected segments recommending local, culture, activities, restaurants, local /

“Why not starting with the forthcoming Holiday season”

regional off season events experiences with spectacular packages. Use whatever is available in your city or area like regional activities of the Municipality, small or large festivals, seasonal sporting events, concerts and pop culture tie-ins to fill the sales gap.






part of the global hospitality

mark as companies will need to


motivate re incentivize their associates and partners for the new ERA.

Targeting REGIONAL delegations can help even smaller operators groups, particularly the smaller

Albania needs to increase focus in off Season and the MICE Groups are an important area

ones, often tend to look for unique


earn a healthy profit, as these


and tailor-made services in terms of accommodation and tours. More

According to a survey done by

travelers are combining work with

The Incentive Search Foundation,

leisure activities in their business

Incentive Travel is a fundamental

destination, which again presents a

corporate culture builder, within or

great opportunity for travel agents

out of any crises. Resort retreats,

and tour operators to keep sales

annual summits and familiarization

going during off-seasons.

tours or even a day trip are common examples, and ALBANIA as it all for that.

Innovative strategies to maximize revenue are key for all Hospitality service providers, destination management companies and travel agencies. A marketing framework is necessary in order to maximize the scale of profitability during low season. Globally, this industry alone generated more than US$ 1 trillion worldwide in 2017. By 2025, this amount it is predicted to grow to an outstanding US$ 1,5 trillion



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“The project adheres to all European and international building standards, which Gener 2 was the first to begin building with these standards more than 12 years ago. We were the first developers in the market to do so,” says Is Ulaj, the Executive Assistant to the CEO, who, in an exclusive interview with TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE, elaborate on this innovative project on Albanian market.

one of the best-selling points and buyers highly value the location, especially when they visit the site and see the city and the park from inside the apartment. We are extremely proud to be delivering such a well-rounded development, which will ultimately become a full-fledged, new community. The project adheres to all European and international building standards, which Gener 2 was the first to begin building with these standards more than 12 years ago. We were the



Can you make a panorama of Lake View Residences project and what is its position in the portfolio of projects of Gener2? Set in front of Tirana’s beautiful artificial lake, Lake View Residences


is bringing a new way of


living to Tirana. Because

first developers in the market to do so. Lake View Residences is just one of several ongoing real estate developments under construction in our real estate portfolio; but it is certainly the largest.

the location offers immediate access to the

xpected to be fully

innovative approaches of Gener 2.

park and to the roadway,

complete by the

Facing the Lake of Tirana, Lake View

the Lake View Residences

end of 2021, Lake

Residences has been designed by

is in high demand by

View Residences will

the principal architect, Marc Joubert

people of every age.

splash its uniqueness

who created the project to resemble

From a developers’ point

the surrounding hills of the city.

of view, the location is

demonstrating once again the



M OV E R S & S H A K E R S




such as demand, location,

specifications and amenities,

and build quality. At Lake View Residences, residents

which we deliver and the consistency

and business owners can

of our success. We have a history

be sure that there will be

planted balconies, floor-to-ceiling

of developing iconic buildings in

windows, energy & cost effective

Tirana, including ABA Business

mechanical systems, acoustic

Center, Toptani Shopping Center

insulation, various options for

and others. We aim to keep doing

premium & luxury finishes, the latest

so while challenging the status quo

in smart home technology, private

with every development we take on.

parking spaces, 24/7 security, and

Our products, at all price points,

much more.

have been successful because we

Gener 2 has been developing real

Lake View Residences functionally

emphasize on developing with high

estate for over 20 years and all

resembles a gated community by

quality and focusing on long term

of this experience translates into

design. What many families enjoy in

value for our clients.

particular about the development

Lake View Residences is more than a continued demand for just a wise investment. Through properties in this neighborhood this project, Gener 2 is raising the as families shift their lifestyle bar for development in Tirana. preferences for more convenience, A home is an important part of amenities, and to live closer to everyday life. It is where families are nature. raised, where memories are made, and a place where we feel safest. But a home is also an asset. An asset which should retain its value and increase in value. When it comes to real estate, not all properties or homes are the same and provide the same potential upside value. Value is determined by several factors

such as separate entrances

each and every ongoing project, including Lake View Residences. Our reputation in the market has been built on the quality of the products


What can you say about the standards and the services this multidimensional project offers? This development offers top class

for residents and businesses,

is the safety, shopping and food convenience and the outdoor courtyards and play areas for their children. Also the multitude of cafes, 21



obstructed views from

spaces. This is an important security

the adjust buildings and

and convenience feature which

shadows. If you find

rarely exists in other developments

yourself taking a walk

in Tirana. The underground

near the lake in Tirana,

floors contain 950 parking spaces

you won’t miss Lake View

and areas for storage. In total,

Residences. It will stand

the development is an area

out from anything else

of 129,000 m2.

you’ve seen.

When do you predict to complete

Can you walk me through the different phases of Lake View Residences? What are

this project? Lake View Residences is expected to be fully complete, with residents

some top facts about it? restaurants and businesses opening

of the concept design, created the

inside, are all planned to be part

project to resemble the surrounding

topped out since last January and

of the community offerings and are

hills of the city. Not only is this

most of the interior walls of the

tailored with the residents in mind. It

design very aesthetic, but there are

residences are complete. The curtain

is perfect for families to safely enjoy

functional purposes to it as well. For

wall is currently being installed

their neighborhood, do their grocery

example, the structural shape of the

along with the building’s mechanical

shopping and run their errands,

buildings with the tapering balconies

works. The two worksites that make

without ever having to leave the

from floor-to-floor, creates great

up Lake View Residences consist

complex, if they choose to.

views from each building and each

of 7 structures, with a total of 600

floor. Additionally, this structural

elegantly designed apartments, each

shape allows sunlight to enter the

of which is unique. The ground floor

complex and provide sunshine to

and first floor are designated for

every window. This wouldn’t be the

commercial use, while the next 15

case if the buildings didn’t have

floors up are all residential floors.

the taper and were designed as

The access points are separate for

traditional towers. There would be

the commercial and residential

What do you value most from an artistic and architectural viewpoint when designing Lake View Residences? How harmoniously is this project interconnected to the prime location in this case? Marc Joubert, the principal architect


All of the buildings have

and businesses to begin moving in, by the end of 2021. If you would like more information on this development, please visit our website at, where you can find more information or explore the virtual tour feature, or our social media pages. We post great content periodically.






Gener 2 is both the developer and the builder of Vertical Forest Tirana, a project which bears the signature of the Italian architect, Stefano Boeri. It bears many challenges in comparison with the traditional buildings but Gener 2 does it all when it comes to an eco-friendly environment and happier & healthier clients. “The level of detail in the design, the precision in the execution of the structure, and the overall project itself, once complete, will be an icon in the Balkan region. We are extremely proud to be facilitators of this development,” says Is Ulaj, Executive Assistant to CEO in his exclusive interview with TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE. The studio led by Italian architect Stefano Boeri came up with the concept of Bosco Verticale, or Vertical Forest, as a way to combine high-density residential development with tree planting in city centres. This was also a way to stimulate biodiversity. “Working with a team of consultants such as Stefano Boeri Architetti, SCE Project, ESA Engineering and others, is proving to be an excellent experience for us,” Ulaj says.





Full interview below:


Verticale in Milan. Working with a

the façade. So, you can say that

this project is part of an urban

team of consultants such as Stefano

the living parts of the façade are

plan titled “Tirana 2030,” which

How important is Gener 2’s

Boeri Architetti, SCE Project, ESA

literally growing simultaneously to

specifically aims to promote these

involvement in the development

Engineering and others, is proving

the building’s structure. It’s quite

developments and to generally

of Vertical Forest Tirana project?

to be an excellent experience for

interesting. The building itself will

improve nature densification

Gener 2 is both the developer

us. The level of detail in the design,

be a living thing.

throughout Tirana.

and the builder of this project.

the precision in the execution of the

The Vertical Forest concept was

structure, and the overall project

The Vertical Forest Tirana is

such as these because we, ourselves,

developed by Stefano Boeri of

itself, once complete, will be an

considered as the most innovative

are innovators in our market. We’ll

SBA, a world renowned architect,

icon in the Balkan region. We are

skyscraper in the country,

always embrace ideas which are for

who has designed several green

extremely proud to be facilitators of

dominated by natural features.

the common good. Tirana is heading

buildings and properties throughout

this development.

Do you think this is a model of

in the right direction in terms of

future for the city of Tirana?

tackling environmental issues and its

the world, most notably, Bosco


Gener 2 absolutely welcomes ideas

“will be an icon in the Balkan region”

How challenging is this project

This trend

given its specific ecosystem which

seems to be

interprets the environmental

gaining traction



There are a couple of challenges

the world, and

with this sort of development. But,

we certainly

with SBA’s experience, we are able

hope it continues. Although the

to overcome them. For example, the

development challenges are

trees that will be planted into the

more difficult than for traditional

balconies specifically needed to be

buildings, the advantages such as a

chosen to survive the Mediterranean

positive environmental impact and

climate that we have in Albania.

happier & healthier clients, are well

Additionally, the trees have been

worth it. Tirana can certainly gain

planted exactly 2 years in advance

from these trends by utilizing less

of when the project timeline calls to

land, regenerating and densifying

install them. This is to ensure that

vegetation, reducing pollution

the plants are at perfect maturity

and reducing the environmental

for when they are planted into

impacts of urbanization. In fact, 27

future is certainly exciting, bound to be improve yearover-year.









he October edition

SMEs that are an important part


of the economic development,”


Håstad says.

to the Swedish

In addition, she highlights that

Ambassador of

“Sweden is a country of innovators.

Albania, H.E. Elsa Håstad to talk at

This is very much Sweden. We are

length about the Challenge Fund,

famous for our innovations. We are

its impact on Albanian startups,

proud of this! In this context, we

the key role of SMEs and Albania’s

were thinking how we can support

potential in them. As well as the

Albanian innovations.”

chances that Sweden signs the

What is far more important for

next seven-year long strategy

the top diplomat is that Sweden

with Albania.

has managed to change the

Talking about Challenge Fund and

Albanians’ mindset when it comes to

its criteria, Ambassador Håstad

innovation. “We want to support a

underlines why Sweden is interested

new way of thinking and may be this

in supporting Albanian startups.

is the most important contribution

“Well, for Sweden, this is a way to

to Albania.”

support Albania in its EU accession

According to her, “we hope that this

process because you need to have

concept of innovation that is not


We want to support a new way of thinking


Adventurous Touristic Guides in Shkodra Lake


Full interview with Ambassador

Second, Sweden is a country of

Elsa Håstad follows:

innovators. This is very much

We’re excited to learn from your experience with Challenge Fund in Albania. Could you expand on it? I am happy to. Let me start from the beginning. Why is Sweden interested in supporting Albanian startups? Well, for Sweden, this is a way to support Albania in its EU accession process because you need to have SMEs that are an important part of the economic development. So, this is

Albanians can think of innovation in a broader way. only technical solution but it can

without its presence.

be an intellectual solution as well

Working with human rights since

will be spread in Albania. So, the

1997, Håstad came to Albania

Albanians can think of innovation in

on September 2019 standing out

a broader way.”

for her high commitment and the

Håstad also talked of Sweden’s aim

initiatives in the fields that Sweden

to give the assignment of funding

is engaged heavily in Albania like

the startups in Albania to some

innovation, democracy/human

other entity which could do that

rights and environment/economic

our entry point. Also I would like to state that we do that in cooperation with the EU Delegation and Germany, so it is really an European effort.

Sweden. We are famous for our innovations. We are proud of this! In this context, we were thinking how we can support Albanian innovations. For us, the innovation is a new solution to a problem. For us, as an Embassy innovation is definitely not about technical new ideas, it is not about applications on your mobile. No, it is mindset. You see something and you want to change and you find a new way of addressing it. That’s innovative thinking. So we want to promote that. We want to support startups’ funding, so they can go on living and we provide three different levels of the support they can get.






But we also want to support a new

continue. Perhaps you fail but you

a lot of professional advice. So we

feedback online. You can also get

way of thinking and may be this is

learn as well. Sometimes we should

believe that this approach boosts

back and everyone can look at the

the most important contribution to

celebrate failures.

their business ideas.

final feedbacks. So you can learn

Albania. Because as you know, we

from each other. I think this is super

travel around Albania because we

What has hit you most about the

Let me go back to your previous

important. So, this is our way of

are convinced that these innovative

Albanian winners of Challenge

question. One feature about our

really making sure this competition

ideas are all over the country. So we

Fund? Are they eager to

innovation program in Albania

is transparent, online and equal

travelled around Albania with our

learn more about the Swedish

is openness and transparency.

to everyone.

team and we gathered people from

traditional spirit in startups?

Therefore we introduced the

North to South and invited them to

May be it has not been so much

application online because it is also

We have been focused on the

talk about innovation. We do our

about telling the stories of Swedish

important that we of course have

criteria as well because they are

discussion online now. If there are

innovators. But it has been a story

zero tolerance against corruption.

also what we are looking for. If you

of supporting ideas

This way, we do not come

are out of Tirana, you get extra

and I think the startups

across people saying that some

points because we are really looking

that have applied

applications had an easier way of

for people outside the capital. If

including those which

getting funding. No, this process is

you can create employment, you

have reached the last

transparent and equal to everyone.

get extra points, too. The more

level have got also a lot

You apply online and then you get

employment you create, more points

150 people attending this discussion and out of them, five are selected, important is that these 150 people are listening many things about innovation and its

“Sometimes we should celebrate failures.”

of feedback. Because in this competition, even if you have got

connection with their businesses. Perhaps they will be

as far as to the final stage, we

innovators later. I think that is our

provide professional feedback

biggest contribution.

to these applicants from a group

Also I would like to add a final

of experienced entrepreneurs

note. If you have a personal idea

from Sweden or other countries.

and if this one is creative enough,

This means that they comment

innovative enough, you can get a

on the applicants’ business ideas

small funding to make this idea true.

encouragingly. Even if they don’t get

Sometimes you don’t need much to

the funding in the end, they receive





you get. If you have women who

platform for schools and parents

and sleep. It is actually more than

What are the long-term priorities

are leading the business or have

to communicate with each other.

that. You transform tourism in an

of Sweden when it comes to

managerial positions, you get extra

This innovation, called Pi-platform,

experience. Personally I think that

boosting technology and startups

points as well. Of course, we want to

is good even in the times of the

this kind of tourism is the future of

in Albania?

encourage gender equality.

current Covid-19 pandemic. The


Thank you also for this important

If you think about environment,

schools can buy this digital platform

you get extra points. And finally

which does not cost much. This

I was listening the presentations

things. One is of course that we

if you have some social ideas,

platform is active in Sweden too.

of some of the applicants. One of

hope that this concept of innovation

social entrepreneurship, you get

The Pi-platform avoids the physical

them, working on the innovative

that is not only technical solution

extra points. This is our way of


tourism, showed through statistics,

but it can be an intellectual solution

encouraging this process.

question. I think there are several

that mass tourism The other one consisted in the new

in Albania is

On another note, if I will share some

way of looking at tourism. In this

going down and

of the inspirational or interesting

context, we have awarded some

environmental or

winners of Challenge Fund, I would

startups who could present a new

adventure tourism

like to provide a variety. So I have

way of looking at tourism. So, it

is going up. I found

been thinking about three cases.

is sustainable, environmentally

these figures very

One is about the creation of a digital

friendly and it is not only about food

interesting. I think

“You transform tourism in an experience.”

in Albania. So, the Albanians can think of innovation in a broader way. On the other hand, what we intend is to give the assignment

this is right for Albania. You cannot

of funding the startups in Albania

accumulate massive tourism as this

to some other entity who could

damages Albania’s beautiful nature.

do it without us. We have actually

Another case that attracted my

supported five entities who are

attention was the innovation of

potential to take this over. There are

a father and his son. They both

two - three civil society organizations

invented a drone to spray the upper

and two universities. We have

part of the pine trees which were

supported them and we hope they

stricken by a worm infection. I found

can continue on our way. So that is

it very creative as an idea. As you

super important because we want

see there is a variety and I think this

this to stay. That is one thing.

is the beauty of all this.


as well will be spread



The other side, if I talk in a more

That’s why it is so great to grow

general level, is that Sweden’s

them. Our support comes in handy

seven-year long strategy with

in this respect.


Albania is coming to an end. As you know, this agreement

How would you define the overall

consists in funding three areas:

influence of Challenge Fund for

innovation, democracy/human

Albanian startups so far?

rights and environment/economic

I think that our biggest impact is

development. We are now writing

that we have managed to change

a new strategy, our government is

the concept of innovation. That

making a decision on it, meaning

is innovation is not only technical

we can go for another seven years.

which is the first thing everyone

It is not yet signed, there is still

think about but it is actually

some work to be done by both

promoting ideas and intellectual

countries and our decision makers.

ideas. I think that is what I see

But what we know is that they want

already happening now in Albania.

this agreement to be signed for the next seven years, so it is a sort of oral confirmation. This is super important. If we have this strategy again, it gives us the predictability to work on these key areas for the next seven years. During these years, we will work to give the assignment of funding startups to another entity. To become a EU member, having strong and well functional SMEs is fundamental. This is key for every country. Albania has a great

Shkodra Lake

potential when it comes to SMEs. 36




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their eyes when they first try using

FACID (the Textile Façade),

portfolio increase?

the products and see the difference!

As I mentioned above, Schüco is

This is the BEST moment of my

the Leading World Company in the

work! I could say it loud!

Aluminium Window/Doors/Facades

Partners using Schüco FWS 50 and Schüco AWS/ADS 65, e) MK Hotel in Tirana Business Park


is NO Progress!”

Any plans for expansion or

accomplished by our regional

various target groups.”

Competition there

and then watch the satisfaction in

new Administrative Building

perfecting its systems for the

say: “Without

Offices & Showroom

d) Albanian Football Association

their annual TO in innovations,

I could only

them this product

AWS 75. BS,

“Schüco invests most part of



the heart of Tirana using Schüco

or innovations!,” he says, adding

in Bulgaria using Schüco AWS/ADS

itself is the Leading World Company

c) Tirana For Ever Green Tower in

and testing system improvements

among Schüco is also a Licensed

we’ve accomplished. I can mention a

“Perfecting its systems for the various target groups”

actually. Hundreds

accomplished by our regional office

The products that are most in

a) Restauration of Windows/Doors/

demand in the market. He also confirms the


What drives this keen interest of Alukoenigstahl in Albania and further in the Balkans versus other competitors? Alukoenigstahl is a company with almost 160 years of experience and

Systems Innovations. This means that portfolio increase of Schüco Various Systems happens every year, is happening right now actually. Hundreds of System Engineers, Architects are involved in projecting, developing and testing system




improvements or innovations!

significant hit worldwide businesses.

Schüco invests most part of their

As I mentioned above, our Company

annual TO in innovations, perfecting

is 160 years old, which means has

its systems for the various target

successfully surpassed other crisis as

groups, of which I could mention

well like the Great Depression 1930s,

Architects (creating the most

the 2008 Real Estate Crisis starting

beautiful freedom design systems),

in the US, etc. Not only incentives

Metal Producers (developing ways

and project related discounts were





reviewed and applied, but our On

“This is a small part of what makes our Added Value!

Field Service didn’t cease to assist

and systems easy to produce and


our Partners (always respecting adequate security measures). We also came out with a few Digital solutions to best assist and inform our Partners about the innovations and system improvements. This is a small part of what makes our Added

(offering a long-life sustainability and energy efficiency recuperation to their building envelopes), having in its focus the end customer/ user (creating easy accessible, manageable and secure systems). Has the company come up with any incentives to assist the clients in these hard times of pandemic? It is true that this situation has shocked the world and gave a



install, time-cost saving), Investors




2020 WILL BE Our Best Year Emiland Skora, President and Director of Operations at Mediterranean Exports Imports Albania (MEIA), a leading essential oil exporter in Albania, says that 2020 looks great for the company with 25 % increase in sales.





“We pride ourselves on producing the highest quality essential oils in the market,” SKORA SAYS IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE.



When does your story begin?

How did you get into oils? What

MEIA started their production in 2011

were you before starting MEIA?

at their first distillery just outside of

I was working in finance in

the capital city of Tirana.

California,USA while planning on

Where does your company Mediterranean Exports Imports Albania stand and how much is it expanded over the last 10 years? As of today, MEIA is the leading essential oil exporter in Albania and we are well on our way to became

e started the

Berry, Bay Laurel, Myrtle, St John’s

a leader in the region. 2020 will be

company in 2011 in

Wort and Rose Hip oil.

our best year yet with a 25% increase

Albania once he was

opening a business back home in Albania. Given Albania’s rich history and tradition of producing high quality essential oils and combined with our family’s farming experience, I decided to start an essential oil distillery.

in sales. The company has one distillery

back from California,

in Northern Albania, near the city


“I was working in finance in

of Koplik while it will build a new

California, USA while planning on

distillery in the south Albania,

opening a business back home in

nearby the city of Sarandë.

Albania. Given Albania’s rich history

Can you share some of the main essential herbs’oils that you produce with our readers and how can they sample them? What are their benefits? Our main oils are; Helichrysum,

and tradition of producing high

Lavender, Juniper Berry, Bay Laurel,

quality essential oils and combined

Myrtle, St John’s Wort and Rose Hip

with our family’s farming experience,

oil. For everyone that would like

I decided to start an essential oil

to sample our oils, they can visit

distillery,” MEIA President says.

Aromatherapy Store near downtown

Aiming to expand in cold pressed

Tirana, where they also try other

oils as well as herb and spice

natural products made with our

exporting, MEIA produces as main

essential oils. And of course, they

oils: Helichrysum, Lavender, Juniper

can also visit our beautiful distillery in Northern Albania, near the city of Koplik. 46




What does your production process look like? How does MEIA go from plants into a product in your customers’ hands? How do

compare to their own test results. We pride ourselves on producing the highest quality essential oils in

you market them?

the market.

We are a unique company in Albania

What is your next focus of area

as we control the entire process from

for MEIA?

seed to oil. We start growing our

We are expanding in cold pressed

plants at our nursery where they stay

oils as well as herb and spice

for a period of 6-8 months and after

exporting. Soon we will also build a

that we plant them in our fields.

new distillery in the south Albania,

Most of our herbs take about 2 years

nearby the city of Sarandë.

to get in production, time which we use to take care of them in order to grow the best essential oil yielding and the highest quality. During harvest and distillation, plants go through a quality check before they are loaded in the distilling tanks to ensure no other herbs are mixed with the distilling material.


“We are a unique company in Albania

As for the distillation process, we make sure that the oil is distilled on a low temperature and pressure without being rushed so that we can capture all the best components. After distillation, we send all necessary testing results which we do pre-harvest and during distillation, which our clients








akuya Aoyama,


Vice President of


Development for

Let’s start from what we are going

Hyatt International

to have here in Albania – Hyatt

(EMEA) LLC shares

Regency Hotel in Tirana. At


what stage are the works at this

expectations about Hyatt Regency

Hotel? What are the prospective

Hotel in Tirana, expected to

assessments that you have in your

conclude in the beginning of 2022,

mind about it?

while discusses tourism in pandemic

This started as a straightforward

times and the general tourism

exercise involving refurbishment,

developments in Albania.

branding and repositioning of the existing hotel, but the project has

The hotel developer with Hyatt since

become part of the urban planning

2008 encourages an environmentally

that covers the area around to the

and socially sustainable

National Stadium. The scope now

tourism in Albania.

is refurbishment and extension of

“I hope there will be lot of emphasis

the hotel which will see a larger

on authenticity and that people

room inventory, more event space

would focus more on value and less

and more dining option and which,

on volume, and I don’t want to see

we hope, will better integrate the

branded hotels everywhere,” he says

hotel to the life of the city.

in this exclusive interview, adding

“I hope there will be lot of emphasis on authenticity “

“I can imagine branded properties on the coast, but I would rather like to see family-run inns and hotels, or concepts like albergo diffuso in other locations.”

Grand Hyatt Doha Hotel & Villas 50





What are your expectations about

hygiene protocols. Now the focus

just opened Hyatt Regency Sofia

Now let us talk about Albania. Event

this Hotel?

is about getting people to stay at

on 1 September despite all the

of the last 6 months has exposed

I hope that Hyatt Regency Tirana

hotels again and giving them as

challenges associated with COVID.

the vulnerability of tourism/hotel

would become the best hotel in

good a level of service as possible

People are meant to believe in

industry. It has also crystalized

Tirana, best venue for meetings and

under various restrictions. Resort

future and they just do not stop

some of the excesses of the mass

social events and best place to meet

hotels in populous countries have

living just because of a pandemic.

tourism model which the world has

with friends and families. Equally

done well this summer and city

Having said this, the current

built. I hope we will learn a lesson

important—this is actually the most

hotels had varied results depending

situation is making it difficult to plan

from all this and start doing things

important thing for me-- is that this

on local conditions, and I trust we

anything with certainty, and many

differently. I hope that Albania’s

hotel will create an opportunity

will continue to learn to adjust to

prospective owners are asking for

policymakers and other stakeholders

for Albanian colleagues to join the

evolving situations.

more flexibility when negotiating

would develop the industry in a

their contracts.

Hyatt family. Project pipeline, thankfully, has not What are your predictions to finish

shrunk, and people are continuing

How do you see yourself regarding

the project?

to plan and build and open hotels.

the projects in the region, in Albania

If all goes by the plan, the hotel

For instance, my colleagues have

and further? Are they on hold?

should be ready to open towards the beginning of 2022. In your view, how are the hotels generally resuming their work amidst COVID -19 pandemic and how is this going to influence on their further operations? I think hoteliers of the world have tried to and are still trying to figure out how to cope with the calamity of this scale. As we all know the emphasis, initially, was about saving jobs and saving businesses, then the industry has worked out all sorts of 52




In which city or in which area of

way which is environmentally and


etc. —should not be left out. I

socially sustainable. Tourism should

Albania, would you like to see

hope there will be lot of emphasis

not erode traditional lifestyle or

another Hyatt? Close to the coast

on authenticity and that people

cause depopulation of its host

or archaeological sites or ...

would focus more on value and


I think it would be inevitable that

less on volume, and I don’t want

Who would want to visit a place

Albania would see many hotel and

to see branded hotels everywhere.

overrun by other tourists and

tourism projects on its coast, but

Let us not forget that many of the

souvenir shops? Who would prefer

development of coastal tourism

highly rated hotels and resorts are

to eat some imported food in a

and related infrastructure should

not internationally branded. I can

faceless chain restaurant when it is

be carried out as integral part of

imagine branded properties on

possible to enjoy locally sourced

the nationwide tourism strategy,

the coast, but I would rather like

produce in a locally-run eatery?

and all those inland destinations

to see family-run inns and hotels,

— Berat, Pogradec, the mountains

or concepts like albergo diffuso in other locations.







Still Heavily Impacted and Doing Our Best for our Passengers” BY RUDINA HOXHA & JOSE PINTO


onstantin von

According to him, “we are


rather still heavily impacted


and doing our best to

CEO of Tirana

provide convenient and safe


services to our passengers.”

Airport (TIA) since

However, Constantin von

September 2, 2019, talks with

Alvensleben confirms that


TIA is also preparing for the

about the current challenges

post COVID tourism boom.

of TIA in pandemic times.

“It is key to establish

“If you ask me what has

good and regular working

changed in our operation

connections with the tour

– then the most important

operators. In the end they

TIA welcomes all airlines to do the same as Wizz Air: to base

aspect is that we are strictly

organize the incoming traffic.

one or several aircraft here in Rinas. The conditions are good

following the health rules

For this we are very happy,

here, and TIA provides efficient service. The key to attracting

applicable in this situation,

because the Albanian tour

further airlines to do the same is in my eyes the lifting of the

such as regular disinfection,

operators have been fast

travel restrictions of the European Union for Albanian citizens

keeping of the physical

in the last few months to

as well as the quarantine rules of many countries (upon

distance, taking of body

organize charter traffic from

returning back from Albania or other West Balkan countries).

temperature etc. We have

those countries which did not

Once we have overcome such rules and restrictions, I expect

not at all passed this crisis,”

have travel restrictions such

to be rapidly back to old traffic levels.

Alvensleben says in this

as Belarus, Ukraine, Poland

exclusive interview.

(at least for a number of



T R A N S P O R T, A I R P O R T S



airport. However, TIA is doing very

weeks) and so on,” he said.

12th March of this year. We were

Marketing the Albanian tourism at

left only with humanitarian, cargo

What is the strategy of TIA

well developing its point-to-point

international conferences, such as

and repatriation flights for three

management and operations

flights, but also feeder flights to

ITB in Berlin – if it takes place in

months. Since mid-June, TIA opened

on medium and long -term

other hub airports. Even under the

2021, or otherwise in 2022 is another

up again for commercial flights.

transformation of the airport to

conditions of the pandemic, Wizz

aspect of TIA’s efforts.

However, we are currently still at

be the new hub in the Southeast

Air based three aircraft here at TIA

less than 50% of our 2019 traffic, and


in June and has added a lot of new

The TIA’s CEO also encourages the

– if you ask me what has changed

It would be nice to establish a

destinations to our airport, such as

other airlines to do like WizzAir

in our operation – then the most

hub here at Rinas, and I thank you

Berlin-Schoenefeld, Paris-Beauvais,

did: to base one or several aircraft

important aspect is that we are

for the compliment. However, a

Brussels-Charleroi and so on. This is

here in Rinas. “The key to attracting

strictly following the health rules

hub requires connecting traffic,

just an example for what is possible.

further airlines to do the same

applicable in this situation, such as

so passengers changing at TIA

Other examples are Albawings to

is in my eyes the lifting of the

regular disinfection, keeping of the

from one flight of an airline onto

Hamburg or Belavia to Minsk. The

travel restrictions of the European

physical distance, taking of body

another flight of the same airline.

more destinations we have here, the

Union for Albanian citizens as well

temperature etc. We have not at

This would require that one of the

better. And at one day I also hope

as the quarantine rules of many

all passed this crisis. We are rather

local based airline can offer hub

that we will have connecting traffic,

countries (upon returning back

still heavily impacted and doing our

services. Unfortunately, we have not

or so-called self-connecting traffic,

from Albania or other West Balkan

best to provide convenient and safe

reached such stage yet, and cannot

where a passenger changes from

countries),” he said, adding “Once

services to our passengers.

compare us with an international hub

one airline to another.

we have overcome such rules and restrictions, I expect to be rapidly

Thinking of the future post-COVID

back to old traffic levels.”

tourism, that is expected to be a new boom in a new era, what is

Since your taking over, what have

TIA preparing to have ready for

been the quick, medium-term and

that time?

future improvements on services?

Indeed, TIA is preparing for this. It

After the record-breaking year 2019

is key to establish good and regular

with 3,33 million passengers TIA was

working connections with the tour

faced with the COVID-19 pandemic,

operators. In the end they organize

which led to a nearly complete

the incoming traffic. For this we are

lockdown of TIA’s activities starting

very happy, because the Albanian 58


T R A N S P O R T, A I R P O R T S



tour operators have been fast in the

to be rapidly back to old traffic

As regards ticket prices, the airlines

If one lesson can be drawn, then

last few months to organize charter


are responsible for fixing them. And

it is the lesson that the situation

ticket prices as a matter of fact are

can change from one moment to

traffic from those countries which did not have travel restrictions such

TIA is known to have been an

higher if there is no competition on

another. Who would have thought

as Belarus, Ukraine, Poland (at least

expensive airport to the airlines.

a route, and much lower, if there is

that after 2019 we would be down

for a number of weeks) and so on.

Do you think TIA will be more

competition. Therefore, the most

to practically zero traffic in March

We will also contribute to marketing

flexible on the fees to attract

important instrument to drive down

up to 15th June. But that we would

the Albanian tourism at international

more low-cost airlines?

ticket prices is the promotion of

also be able to start up so fast again

conferences, such as ITB in Berlin –

TIA is not an expensive airport to

competition. Here, TIA is very active

thereafter, even considering the

if it takes place in 2021, or otherwise

the airlines. Its pricing is very close,

as you can see from the acquisition

many restrictions which we are now

in 2022.

or even identical or lower than

of Wizz Air.

facing due to COVID. It is indeed a challenge to run this

comparable regional airports. Also, Given the concession to Wizz

one should never forget, that the

This month, you complete

airport and to run this company, but

Air to use Tirana as a base, is

airport charges only constitute a

one year in Albania since your

TIA has a capable staff and people

TIA ready for other airlines to

very small portion of airline costs.

appointment. How do you find the

here are working hard. All of us,


The most important cost factors for

challenge of running TIA? Can you

we are proud to work here, and we

TIA welcomes all airlines to do the

airlines are kerosene, crew cost and

share any other experience you

feel responsible for our airport.

same as Wizz Air: to base one or

aircraft cost.

have had in Albania besides work?

And besides work? I appreciate

several aircraft here in Rinas. The

the opportunity to discover parts

conditions are good here, and TIA

of Albania, which I still don’t know,

provides efficient service. The key to

even after I have stayed here already

attracting further airlines to do the

in 2006/ 2007 for the first time.

same is in my eyes the lifting of the

Albania has many beautiful but

travel restrictions of the European

somewhat hidden place such as its

Union for Albanian citizens as well

National Parks – in addition to the

as the quarantine rules of many

wonderful coast.

countries (upon returning back from Albania or other West Balkan countries). Once we have overcome such rules and restrictions, I expect



T R A N S P O R T, A I R P O R T S


Luxurious Pool Suite at Gabbiano Azzurro




Sharon runs 3 businesses from home in Tuscany, Italy: • Arthouse PR: A leading international PR and Communications Agency working in the luxury, lifestyle and travel industries. • Envy Italy: A luxury lifestyle and travel magazine which showcases the very best travel experiences in Italy • Bella Terra – A garden design and

Sharon and Gary Kilby, the motor

landscape architecture business.

behind ARTHOUSE’s success.

She lives in the countryside (miles from anyone and

Arthouse PR,

anything) in Tuscany with her husband Gary who is also her business partner in Arthouse


PR and her 2 children aged 20 and 15. Her life in Tuscany


is always busy with work, gardening and restoring

Sharon Finnigan Kilby, Creative Director of Arthouse

the house.

PR, Tuscany, Italy talks about her company, its business model, the major brands it advertises and how she is coping with such abnormal times we are living in due to COVID-19 pandemics. Villa del Golfo Lifestyle Resort Interior




running too but on a smaller scale.

We have arranged 100s of press

Since that time the hospitality side

trips around the world including

of our business has taken priority

numerous group trips to desirable 5*

with many of our clients being

destinations including Great Britain,

hotels, resorts, wineries and travel

Iceland and of course Italy. Our


press trips are unique and authentic and include cultural experiences

Thank you Sharon for taking our

side of the business grew, and

questions! Tell us a little about

we then also started working with

Arthouse and its history?

hospitality clients such as golf clubs,

I established Arthouse PR in the

hotels, spas, interior designers for

UK in 2001. After spending several

hotels etc. From 2007 the business

years working in PR, I had made

has supported both these industries

some good journalist contacts in

and we now focus on the following

the Interior Design industry and

sectors: Interior Design and

decided to go freelance with a

Lifestyle; Travel, Luxury and Lifestyle.

handful of small clients such as

More often than not, these

kitchen designers, architects and

intertwine and most of our clients

bathroom companies. Arthouse PR

fall under the ‘hospitality interiors’

grew quickly, and we soon had a


portfolio of 10 plus clients and an

In 2015 we opened our office in

office with several key staff. From

Italy (we moved to Tuscany full

2001 onwards the Interior Design

time in 2007) keeping our UK office


What is the mission of Arthouse and

such as gastronomic events and

can you mention some of the results

outdoor adventures.

achieved until early this year?

From Snowmobiling on a glacier in

Arthouse PR’s key to success is

Iceland to Scuba diving in Sardinia,

introducing our clients to influential

Truffle-Hunting in Tuscany to Wine-

journalists worldwide. We bridge the

tasting in a Venetian Palazzo, our

gap between our clients’ brands and

press trips are fun-filled and truly

the global media. This interaction


“We organise authentic experiences for journalist”

What are the main brands Arthouse advertise and what do you offer to the new brands that are looking to promote themselves? Why should they choose Arthouse?

allows our clients to be represented

Our portfolio is varied but includes

in magazines and online all over the

some prestigious hotels, interior


design brands and wineries, our

One way of showcasing our clients to

latest projects include:

their potential client/customer/guest is through exclusive press trips. We

Monterosola – Award winning

organise authentic experiences for

contemporary wine estate in Tuscany

journalists and B2B connections

Villa del Golfo Lifestyle Resort –

such as travel agencies and wedding

5* luxury hospitality property in







Has the current situation made you

local foods and wines.

when travel is permitted freely and

rethink of your business and the new

We are upping or level of online

safely again. We are working with an

ways to revive it in the future?

communications and phone calls

award-winning English film-maker in

Yes absolutely. Many of our annual

and using Linked-in to meet new

Florence to offer this service to our

press and B2B trips have been

contacts (we normally attend lots of

clients in the future.

postponed to 2021. We have

industry events).

Sharing knowledge and experiences through tutorials is massive, so for

had to diversify our methods of communications. This is two-fold:

We are also planning much further

example we are encouraging our

we have reverted to some more

ahead. For example, we are

clients to share recipes, wine tasting

classic forms of communication and

formulating new and exciting press

and creative/cultural experiences.

adapted to more advanced modern

tours for 2021 – the post COVID-19

Following a phone-meeting with

Marrone + Mesubim – Designers of

forms of promotion.

period will be a chance to showcase

Monterosola winery this morning

super-sleek Italian kitchens

With very few face to face meetings

new and diverse travel experiences.

they have agreed to produce a guide

Gabbiano Azzurro Hotel and Suites

and limited press tours we have

We are now running press tours

to wine tasting at home. A video

– Sophisticated hotel property in

been utilising video and virtual

within Italy for those journalists

tasting for each wine they make will


tours. For example, sending travel

based here but are not actively

be drip-fed to press and customers

agencies and travel writers videos

encouraging international travel

over the next few weeks.

Arthouse PR has exceptional press

of properties, regions, experiences

until the New Year.

I’m finding Linked-in very useful

and B2B contacts globally and

which helps them to identify with

therefore we can specifically match

the client’s offering or property. We

What is the one technology trend

clients too. Instagram remains

clients with journalists that will, in

are setting up interactive online

within your industry that cannot be

important for travel stories and

turn, write features that showcase the

wine-tastings, cooking classes and


positive inspiration.

client’s brand to the ‘right audience’


Video is very big at the moment;


More classically, we are sending

mini travel docu-films are a great

How do you keep yourself updated?

We now have over 20 years’ plus

wine samples to press contacts

method of sharing inspiration. They

What are some of the websites

experience of working in the

with tasting notes so they can

can be shared quickly and can really

or magazines or apps that you

hospitality and interiors market. Our

enjoy a virtual ‘Taste of Tuscany’.

help a hotel property convey the

subscribe to or read?

detailed knowledge allows us to

We are also creating ‘goody bag’

atmosphere of a place. Those hotels

I read so many different sources

generate exceptional press and media

experiences from hotels where we

that have drone footage are in with

of information, for example every

coverage for our clients.

are mailing hampers of traditional

an advantage. We will be pushing all

day I read the Italian and English

for connecting with potential new

travel businesses to invest in video






Newspapers. I read many travel

influencers that approach our hotel

blogs, magazines, face-book feeds.

clients for a ‘barter’ are authentic

Trade travel and hospitality press.

and have genuine and valuable

Most enjoyable and favorite

followers. We spend a great deal

magazine reads include:

of time authenticating the value of

Attitude Design – Portugal;

influencer reviews. We always advise

Wallpaper Magazine – International

our clients that it’s not the number

Interior Design; Food & Travel

of followers a person has but the

– UK and Italian versions; CN

value they bring. We are only

Traveler – UK version; How

interested in reviews and features

to Spend It – Financial Times

that ‘hit the mark’ and attract

supplement; Architectural Digest –

real interest from possible future

US and Italian Version; ENVY ITALY

customers worldwide.

Magazine – My own publication – a

We want to see real results and

good prompt for new features to

focus only on PR activities that will


benefit our clients in the long term.

A big debate is going on regarding

(Courtesy of Follow Business Albania)

fake media and real media. How far and near do you find yourself amidst this debate? We work only in the high-end luxury industries which is a good place to be. Our contacts are all genuine journalists and the fake news aspect does not influence our business too much thankfully. One area of ‘fakeness’ that does impact on our clients is the issue with influencers. We have to be very careful that bloggers and 68


CARL CRAEN: LOOK FORWARD TO WELCOMING ALBANIAN STUDENTS TO THE EU COMMUNITY BY RUDINA HOXHA Carl Craen, Vice President and Managing Director of EU Business School invites the students all over the world and the Albanian ones as well to come and study at EU Business School which combines the best of on-campus and virtual learning as well as a maximum flexibility for fall 2020. “We have several start dates and the opportunity for students to start online and then come to the EU campus of their choice (Barcelona, Geneva, Montreux, Munich) at a later date. Alternatively, students can study 100% online,” Craen says in an exclusive interview with TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE. Parallel to that, highlighting that the top priority of the School is the health and safety of its community, Craen assures that the EU Business School strictly follows all the health and safety measures in all its campuses.






At EU Business School, students can look forward to a great experience at

Please can you elaborate more on

EU this fall. “Experiential learning is what sets EU apart from other business

“We are ready for October 2020”

schools. We regularly organize conferences with top business leaders to

- Flexible Solutions, Join us

give students privileged insights into company operations and strategy,” the

this Fall?

EU Business School senior representative says, adding “This fall, we have

At EU Business School campuses,

an exciting line-up which includes the Vice Chairman of Hoffmann-Roche,

our programs will be delivered

the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Manchester City F.C. and the Chief

through our innovative on-campus

Executive Officer (CEO) of Adecco, among others. Recent speakers have

hybrid learning approach. This

included Christian Clerc, President, Global Operations at Four Seasons Hotels

combines the best of on-campus

and Resorts. To have an idea of what’s in store for EU students this fall, have

and virtual learning to give students

a look at our recent EU leader conferences here.”

an all-round engaging study experience.

We offer 11 MBA programs whose course content is tailor-made to align to the latest business needs. From finance & global banking, international marketing and sports management to blockchain management, entrepreneurship and leisure & tourism management, students are assured that they will gain the knowledge they need to succeed in their chosen career path.

We are offering maximum flexibility for fall 2020. We have several start dates and the opportunity for students to start online and then come to the EU campus of their choice (Barcelona, Geneva, Montreux, Munich) at a later date. Alternatively, students can study

I really do look forward to welcoming students from Albania to the EU community. I am sure that they will find the experience at EU fulfilling and fruitful for the next step in their careers. For more information, I suggest you contact our admissions counselors They will be delighted to help you and explain more about the EU experience. They can be contacted at


“Students can look forward to a great experience at EU this fall”

100% online. Our top priority is the health and safety of our community. We have strict health and safety measures in place across all our campuses. These include temperature checks at our campus entrances, the mandatory use of hand sanitizers, frequent hand washing, mask-wearing on campus at all times, measures for social distancing and a campus doctor whom students can consult if they are showing Covid-19 symptoms.





of Adecco, among others. Recent

and leisure & tourism management,

speakers have included Christian

students are assured that they will

Clerc, President, Global Operations

gain the knowledge they need to

at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

succeed in their chosen career path.

To have an idea of what’s in store for EU students this fall, have a look at

Above all, we aim to foster an

our recent EU leader conferences

entrepreneurial mindset: we prepare


our students to think outside of the box to prepare them to face the

“Above all, we aim to foster an entrepreneurial mindset”

everyday challenges of business. I am proud to say that we build entrepreneurs and help students develop their business personality. This is what helps build great business leaders.

How can you describe this fall

and moreover, in the virtual classroom

for the students at EU Business

they will participate in live webinars,

School? What should the current

Underlining that EU Business

teaching philosophy of the EU

forums and chats, among others.

School is a great fit for the future

Business School and what are

CEOs, CFOs, entrepreneurs and

the aspects it makes a difference

Experiential learning is what sets EU

business leaders, please can you

among the other schools?

Students can look forward to a

apart from other business schools.

tell us about the MBA’s Programs

EU stands out for its pragmatic and

great experience at EU this fall.

We regularly organize conferences

you provide at EU Business

hands-on approach to business

Every week, on-campus students

with top business leaders to give


education. Classes are delivered by

will enjoy classes in reduced class

students privileged insights into

We offer 11 MBA programs whose

outstanding faculty members and

sizes on campus as well as some

company operations and strategy.

course content is tailor-made to

working professionals. We use case

classes online. We have prioritized

This fall, we have an exciting line-up

align to the latest business needs.

studies, business simulations, group

dynamic and interactive study in

which includes the Vice Chairman of

From finance & global banking,

work, projects and discussion to

both environments. Students will

Hoffmann-Roche, the Chief Operating

international marketing and

ensure that students gain practical

interact with their peers and faculty

Officer (COO) of Manchester City F.C.

sports management to blockchain

experience and the business

through discussion and group work

and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

management, entrepreneurship

skillset they need to succeed in the

and prospective students must know in advance?


How would you define the





multicultural understanding. They

to get ahead in the business world

will also have the opportunity to

and make a difference. For more

attend conferences from some of the

information, I suggest you contact

world’s most outstanding business

our admissions counselors They

leaders such as André Hoffmann,

will be delighted to help you

Vice Chairman of Hoffmann-Roche

and explain more about the EU

and Omar Berrada, Chief Operating

experience. They can be contacted

Officer of Manchester City F.C.


At EU, we look for talented and

I really do look forward to

enthusiastic individuals to become

welcoming students from Albania

part of our student community. For

to the EU community. I am sure that

our foundation, bachelor’s, master’s

they will find the experience at EU

and MBA programs, students should

fulfilling and fruitful for the next step

not only have a good academic

in their careers.

record and proficient level of international business arena.

internationality, an example of this

EU’s internationality also sets us

being the recently published QS

apart from the rest of business

MBA 2021 rankings where our MBA

schools. All classes are delivered

figures in the top 140 globally.

in English and our student body and faculty comprise over 100

What should Albanian students

nationalities. Through interaction,

know to adhere to the EU

students gain multicultural

Business School programs? At EU, students will gain a hands-on

understanding which is essential in today’s globalized business

and pragmatic approach to business

world. Let me also add that our

education. They will interact

internationality is recognized

and learn from peers and faculty

globally. We regularly rank

alike in a dynamic international

number one worldwide for our

environment to gain an advanced


English, but they should also show

With regards to course content,

they wish to rise to the challenge

our MBA programs combine

“At EU, we look for talented and enthusiastic individuals to become part of our student community”.

fundamental business knowledge with specializations allowing students to gain an advanced skillset in business and in their chosen discipline. At EU, we also offer great opportunities for networking through our 27,000+ alumni. We are proud that our alumni members of 162 nationalities actively help our graduates around the globe.

















TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE about what is all about Sacher Hotel that gives to its guests the kind of authenticity they are looking for. An epitome of Vienna, Sacher Hotels are deeply rooted

for generations in the cities’ economy, society, politics, art and culture. “To us, the Gürtler and Winkler family, Sacher is home – and we are happy and proud to open our doors for every single guest, welcome him or her in, and make them feel right at home,” he says.



Nevertheless, travel behaviors changed since pandemics. “At Sacher we had

During the last century, what are

What is the Viennese Art of

to react: Especially in a time, where Covid-19 keeps the world in suspense,

the changes that Sacher Hotel has

Welcoming at Sacher Hotel

our main goal is to ensure a carefree and safe stay for each of our guests. All

achieved and in what way they have

according to Matthias Winkler?

of our employees are tested weekly, we do offer testings for our guests too

made this Hotel so unique?

To us, the Gürtler and Winkler family,

and put our hygiene standards to an even higher level,” Winkler says.

Sacher’s roots reach deep down

Sacher is home – and we are happy

Asked about competition, Winkler said that Sacher Hotels have always

within the monarchy, we are

and proud to open our doors for

been pioneers in the hotel industry: the first electric chandeliers, the first

consciously ensuring that we

every single guest, welcome him or

bathrooms in the room, the first spa in a city hotel, the first with free Wi-Fi.

conserve such a unique heritage.

her in, and make them feel right at

Today, we keep moving with the times by implementing digitalization which

Nevertheless, tradition to me does

home. However, our hotels, cafés

is, of course, very highly demanded. In 2020, we introduced a mobile phone

not mean worshiping the ashes,

and restaurants are not only part of

app that can unlock the room doors and offers a 24/7 chat function.”

but passing on the fire – a principle

our personal family history, they have

we have been living by since 1832!

been deeply rooted for generations

Digitalization helps us keep the

within their cities’ economy, society,

fire burning: of course, computers

politics, art and culture. This gives

cannot provide as excellent a service

our guests the kind of authenticity

a human being can. However,

they are looking for – and leaves us

“Digitalization helps us keep the fire burning”

incredibly proud.

moving forward within the digital

Original Sacher-Torte: one day in

realm helps us better understand

1832, the court of Prince Metternich

our guests’ needs. I am sure, that

wanted a dessert to be created

modern technology will not flourish

for discerning guests. It just so

at the cost of such a cherished

happened that the chef de cuisine

history. Indeed, it supports us as we

was ill at the time and 16-year-old

Hotel Sa c h e r W ie n , B il d e r g a le

r ie

Hotel Sacher Wien, Wagenmeister Front

Has the famous Original SacherTorte made the Hotel or has the famous Sacher Hotel made the Original Sacher-Torte? We have a historical accident to thank for the success story of our

head towards an exciting future. 80





chef of the Manufactory do know the

house where the traditions have

original recipe to this very day.

been kept since many years. Thanks to its intimate connection to the

You can buy the Original Sacher-

history of its surroundings, Hotel

Torte at Sacher hotels in Vienna

Sacher is truly beloved among

and Salzburg, at Sacher cafés in

guests coming from different

Vienna, Salzburg, Graz, Innsbruck and

areas of the world and various

Parndorf, and via our exclusive partner


Heinemannn at the airports in Vienna, Salzburg and Frankfurt. Lastly, you

Nevertheless, travel behaviors

can also order it via the Sacher online

changed since pandemics. At Sacher


we had to react: Especially in a time, where Covid-19 keeps the world in

Sacher Hotel is seeing more and more

suspense, our main goal is to ensure

international clientele. How is the

a carefree and safe stay for each of

apprentice Franz Sacher filled in

Talking about the Original

Hotel adapting to that?

our guests. All of our employees are

for him. The young man created a

Sacher-Torte what makes it so

Sacher Hotel in Vienna is the only

tested weekly, we do offer testings

wonderful cake that left nothing

internationally known? How can VIPs

family owned hotel in the city of

for our guests too and put our

to be desired. This night marked

or other top people order one?

Vienna and one of the few in Salzburg,

hygiene standards to an even higher

the birth of the Original Sacher-

Since 1832, the Original Sacher-

thus, it is important for us to welcome


Torte – and until today, the recipe

Torte is made per hand in 34 steps,

our international guests in a private

of our Original Sacher-Torte never

approximately 360.000 Original

changed. The son of Franz Sacher,

Sacher-Tortes, many different

Eduard Sacher, who opened the

Original Sacher Products and nearly

Hotel Sacher Wien in 1876, also

1 million Original Sacher Cubes are

contributed to its success, as he

manufactured per year. The secret

was a gastronome who worked

recipe has been passed down from

internationally. He helped to extend

generation to generation and kept

the fame of the Original Sacher-

securely locked away in a safe.

Torte to a wider and more global

Only the family and the head pastry

market as a result.


“Sacher Hotel in Vienna is the only family owned hotel in the city”

What do you recommend to the new investors of the top or high deluxe hotels to do so as to achieve high standards and top services like Sacher Hotel? At the end of the day, luxury is not only about marble, historic wooden panels or about crystal chandeliers – real luxury is always connected to





in the room, the first spa in a city

of any event with a customized

hotel, the first with free Wi-Fi.

offer for guests who should seek

Today, we keep moving with the

such an experience. Both hotels,

times by implementing digitalization

in Vienna and Salzburg are littered

which is, of course, very highly

with Christmas decorations, flowers,

demanded. In 2020, we introduced

festive background music, scented

a mobile phone app that can unlock

candles to suit the occasion and

the room doors and offers a 24/7

personalized menu cards for that

chat function.

extra touch of care for our guests.

Can you already share some of the

Moreover, we introduce special

highlights of your program for the

opening hours of our outlets, in

incoming festive season?

order to share the festive sensations

The Festive Season is always a

with more guests. One can also

highlight of our year. In the build

invite his or her dearest by ordering

up to this very special season, we

a gift voucher available at the

have Pre-Christmas reception with

Sacher shop in Vienna and Salzburg,

people. This is why my first question

within the same category?

punch, which leads onto a Christmas

as well as at Café Sacher Graz and

to future employees always is: do

Hotel Sacher started in 1832 with

Party and a very exquisite Grand

Café Sacher Innsbruck and online via

you love guests, do you love being

the Original Sacher-Torte. We

Gala evening. We are very happy

their host? And yes, we all do: we

are an establishment with a lot of

to support any individual planning

Additional Information: “Sacher –

love our guests and we want to

tradition as well as, very importantly,

make everybody’s dream come true.

a focus on the future. Reinforced with a rich history behind us, we

Being in the heart of Vienna, where

are aiming at a balance between a

the cultural and social life beats,

luxurious institution central to the

how is it to be among the high

local history and culture of Vienna

luxury branded hotels? What are

and digital savviness. Sacher Hotels

your key cards to compete with

have always been pioneers in the

these key international hotel chains

hotel industry: the first electric chandeliers, the first bathrooms 84

for Safety’s Sake!”

“The Festive Season is always a highlight of our year”

Covid-19 turned each and everyone’s life upside-down. Many travelers feel uncertain: Will I be able to travel? Am I safe to stay healthy? What is done to make my vacation secure? And: How can I look forward to a holiday if I can’t be 100% sure that it will even take





Tourism of Adventure • Walking - Hiking, trekking, outdoor activities Ecotourism & Geotourism Agriturism, Culinary & Winery Tours

Where are we located?

ETT headquarter is in Tirana, the vibrant city and capital of Albania, which is very popular these last years for the large numbers of tourists that visit Albania. In the meantime, with the objective to extend its activity, in 2011 ETT opened its branch in Tirana International Airport “Mother Teresa”, which give us the opportunity to serve better to our clients in personalizing services, especially offering them touristic information, check-in procedures, reception and escorts, transfers, booking cars for rents,.etc.

Our Travel Styles Working day by day and year by year, with the main scope not only to keep the financial stability in balance, but also to extend our portfolio of services, our main services, but not limited to, are as below: Cultural / History • Cultural heritages; • Special interest Tours (Communism regime, Religious Tours, Archeologi cal Tours)

Shore Excursions and city breaks • In the most attractive places in Albania and Balkan Peninsula Grand tours Customized Tours

Other Services:

Staff & Collaborators

We want to assure that staff working in our travel agency is dedicated to get the best deal and to offer high standards of services to our clients. This is also thanks to our associates working in the tourism sector as licensed travel guides, hotels, restaurants, transport or partner deployed in numero-us attractive point all over Albania Contacts: 1) Head Office Street “Mujo Ulqinaku”, Nd.11 (mbrapa Kishës Katolike) Tirana, Albania (Tel)+355 4 2247572, (Fax) +355 4 2247572, (Mob): +355 696060342 / 696060344 2)Mother Teresa Airport (Tel) +355 4 2381906 (Mobile) +355 696060344 / /

place? At Sacher, there is no need to

voluntarily gets tested on Covid-19

worry! This is why:

once a week • We can now offer a Covid-19

• Our hygiene-standards have

express test for our guests, directly

always been very high and nowadays

run in the Hotel Sacher

exceed the requirements of Austrian

• Our employees are hygiene-


heroes! Internal training, ongoing

• Sacher is the only 5*S Hotel in

updates, new measures and safety

Austria, where cancellations are

checks help us maintain standards of

possible until 12 pm at the day of


arrival. We adapt to our guests’ travel plans in a straightforward and

Please find all information about

flexible manner.

Sachers‘ hygiene standards on our

• Each and every staff member





This concept has been characterized

accommodation. Not to forget the

by a unique and impressive

local cuisine alongside the delicious

design, unforgettable music and

traditional breakfast with organic

celebrations, welcoming and

products from “Luadhi i Çelos” farm

enthusiastic staff and a diversity of

which remain unforgettable.

unseen products so far.

We cannot stay without mentioning the loving and sweet “Sophie”

The newest hotel of the city,

coffee or the variety of the products

positioned at the entrance to the

available every day, fresh and

old bazaar, consists of spacious

healthy, prepared with a lot of love

rooms with marvelous views of the

by the professional staff.

bazaar and the city’s park, with TV, minibar, free Wifi and very relaxing


Korça, commonly known as “The

Somewhere in the center of the Old

Small Paris” of Albania, is one

Bazaar, there is the latest stop in the

of the most desirable tourist

city – Bohemian Sophie Korçë. Part

destinations in the country. Korça

of the large Sophie Caffe network.

holds immense historical, cultural

Bohemian Sophie comes with a

and artistic values. Korça’s delicious

different style for locals and visitors

cuisine, its distinct traditions and

alike. Now Sophie is not only “a

the variety of events of which the

coffee & snacks” shop. Its vision is

highlight is the fantastic nights

actually being expanded towards

beneath the sounds of serenades,


make Korça a lovely city for

Bohemian Sophie Korçë is not just

everyone, both local and foreign

a novelty in hospitality but also the


newest concept of Sophie Caffe.





Do you have a restless heart in search of adrenaline-driven vacations? Do you seek out full spectrum immersive tours which include culture, nature, fine cuisine and fun? Are you looking for a thrill? Europe’s gem, Albania can meet all of your wildest wishes with the best value on earth. While in Berat, you will witness the combination of the old and new, also the pride and passion that the local people have for their city. Berat, known also as the 2400-year city, or the city of one thousand windows, is one of Albania’s pearls. The UNESCO protected city is well known for its unique Ottoman style houses built around two hills facing each other with the castle above and the river in between. During our tour we will visit the Onufri Museum, Berat Castle and the historical quarters of the city.







deities, Mount Tomorr has been

back will be a feast for the senses

mentioned more than once in the

highlighting the freshness of local

course of history. It was Homer who

products and how delicious they are.

mentioned this Mount in 8th century

You will want to live there forever.

B.C. calling it Tomaros but the myth

After the picnic is over, we will head

is far more ancient. The toponyms

back to our cars and straight to the

Tomaros, Tamari, Tmari appear

Castle Park Hotel and Restaurant

in Strabo and Pliny the Elder´s

where you will enjoy the last part of

documents. Here, our visitors will

our adventure. Guides from Albania

experience the pure hospitality of

Rafting Group will say goodbye to

a local shepherd and his family’s

you over a last coffee at the Castle

Guests will be

You will enjoy a traditional dinner at

members within their home set

Park Hotel, where you can talk about

accommodated in one

Castle Park and sleep soundly there

within the beauty of unspoilt nature.

the adventure and the magical

of the best locations,

for a night.

Surrounded by deep forest with its

memories of the day.

at Castle Park Hotel

Day 2 starts with the best breakfast

unique aura and animals, this unique

and eat at its excellent

you ever tasted! A table full of

landscape lies gently in the palm of

Restaurant! Natural beauty is all

delicious food with various mouth-

your hand. If all this wasn’t enough,

around this hotel—from the sound

watering kinds of marmalades and

experiencing nature’s beauty while

of songbirds and the smell of pine,

jams to make your stay even sweeter.

riding a mule and hearing about

to the amazing views of the sunrise

Then it is time for some adventure

the vast legends and stories that

over the mountain.The Castle Park

with the Albania Rafting Group.

are part of this mountain will make

Restaurant is the epitome of Berat’s

After you are safely inside our 4x4

memories you will cherish for a

Traditional warm Hospitality. The

cars, we will drive for about 1 hour

long time. While you are riding your

Castle Park Hotel was awarded by

and 45 minutes to our destination -

mule you will discover the pellasgs

Albania Tourism annual conference

The Holy Mount of Tomorr. Mount

in the Castle of Tomorr Mount.

2012 three significant awards in the

Tomorr, located in southern Albania,

There you will witness the perfect

+355 67 200 6623

field of tourism:

with an elevation of 2417 meters,

landscape and the spiritual energy

has undoubtedly a special place in

that the mount offers you. While

Web :


every Albanian’s heart. Named as

you think that the best day ever is


the throne of Gods or home of the

that day, the picnic lunch on our way






AHMED BAKI: Our Collection Keeps Growing


Ahmed Baki, the Founder & CEO of Claviger Middle East (ClavigerME) talks with TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE over the rapid development of his company, its projects and the key impact of marketing in hospitality market nowadays. ClavigerME ( is a Hotel Representation Company covering the Middle East & North Africa Regions. One of the key renowned bespoke companies in the tourism and hospitality industry, Claviger services range from personalized sales meetings, roadshows, public and private events with the royals, government, high net wealth individuals, corporate organisations and travel trade to Marketing and PR for a comprehensive 360-degree plan and reach.





Baki states that the ClavigerMe collection has grown to include 50 luxury hotels around the world over the last four years while it represents Dubai Tourism Board and Dubai Parks & Resorts. For him, the partnership with Emaar, an important player in the luxury hospitality market, is key. “We value our partnership with Emaar as this partnership has allowed us to accentuate what we can actually achieve not only for global well-established hotels but also local businesses,” Baki said. In the future Baki says trends like private villa rentals, RV’s luxury trips and the increasing demand for yachts will play an important role for travelers. “As a consequence, we expect to increase our customer base of these accommodation types, in addition to the traditional hotel and destination representation,” he says emphasizing once again the pledge to the customer

”to provide them with market-specific expertise that grow their business.”

e d ro o m T h re e B e esidenc Ocean R

Based on your experience and that

Do you think marketing for hotels

of your team boasting over 100

has become complex now? What

years of hospitality experience

are the pillars of hotel marketing?

in the market, how important is

Marketing for hotels has become

marketing in hospitality market?

dynamic and rather complex with the

In this competitive digital era, it’s

digitization revolution leveraging on

vital for hospitality players to stay

all the digital channels that connect

ahead of the curve and compete

with potential guests while they

for guests in new digital and offline

are sitting back basically anywhere

channels and communities that

anytime. Digital channels have

unfold every single day. It’s crucial

deemed many other traditional

to understand that hospitality guests

marketing channels obsolete while

are using some of their disposable

creating an aggressive competition

income and free time to purchase

between hotels for guests’ attention.

a pleasurable experience that is offered by thousands of global

The complexity arises from the need

players. And this is where marketing

to balance between capitalizing on

comes in to accentuate the

all the new digital channels, while

distinctive value that a hotel or any

still putting the right value emphasis

hospitality provider can offer to their

on indispensable traditional

guests to choose this experience

marketing and most importantly on

rather than a thousand other ones

innovative ways to keep the guest

offered at the same price.

experience unique with a clear competitive edge.

That being said, the value of face-

Family Beach Villa


to-face meetings and relationships

The pillars of hotel marketing rely on

with our customers in Middle East,

experience-based communication

North Africa and China go hand in

that is consistent with the brand

hand with the marketing efforts.

promise. Authenticity is key. With a defined brand promise, hotel





marketing starts from the guest

player in the luxury hospitality

Please tell us a bit about your

How is Claviger Middle East

experience all the way to strong and

market, not only regionally but

Team? How has its diversity

helping the brands to be shaped

geographic-market-specific online

also internationally. We value our

influenced on its overall

for the lifestyle and travel

and offline communication model

partnership with Emaar as this

experience and performance?


that also utilizes travel trade network

partnership has allowed us to

Our team is diverse in geographic

As mentioned before, the hospitality

and other third-party marketing

accentuate what we can actually

experience and background but we

industry is a dynamic one, because


achieve not only for global well-

are unified with a strong passion

players are competing for the

established hotels but also local

for hospitality and expertise that

attention of an ever-growing but

How did Claviger Middle East

businesses. It shows that our model

drive our performance. This blend

also ever-changing market. We

managed to become the most

works and how sales representation

– I believe – is the right mix for

ensure that we are always ahead

well-known and highly respected

can help world-class organizations

outstanding performance, namely

of the game when it comes to

representation companies in the

grow their market share from the

leveraging on what each unique

understanding our customers’ guests

GCC region and how has the

Middle East, North Africa & China.

member has to provide to our

and market needs because no-one-

clients within a frame of a consistent

size fits all in hospitality. In turn, we

partnership with Emaar Hospitality Group impacted in this respect?

What sets us apart is our philosophy

corporate culture that streamlines

ensure that our customers’ brands

Over the past four years, our

and operating model. We work as

our deliverables to our customers.

are translated in the right language

collection has grown to include more

a sales, marketing and PR company

than 50 luxury hotels around the

that operates as an extended team

world, as well as representation for

to our customers in a strongly-



Dubai Tourism Board and Dubai Parks intertwined partnership model. We basically become our customers’

& Resorts. Emaar is an important

team of experts to grow their

“What sets us apart is our philosophy and operating model”

market share from the Middle East, North Africa & China. We know the market inside-out as our team members are based in the feeder markets and their experience range from 14-28 years of on-ground hospitality experience.



en an Resid e c O m e d ro o T h re e B



that speaks to the Middle East

What do you and your team

market and are supported with on-

foresee the new normal era will

ground sales force that connect with

require from you to face it?

the market on daily basis.

The new hospitality era requires flexibility and agility. We always

What do you hire: experience or

need to be few steps ahead of the


game and swiftly shift hats whenever

A hiring decision considers

needed to capture changing market

a spectrum of a candidate’s

needs and trends.

attributes and is decisive to what

In the future, travel behavior and

we promise our clients. Our pledge

consumer journey continue to

to customers is to provide them

change. For example, trends like

with market-specific expertise that

private villa rentals, RV’s luxury

grow their business. But with the

trips and the increasing demand for

wrong attitude, this promise is not

yachts will play an important role

achievable. We capitalize on our

for travelers. As a consequence, we

 Customer’s Satisfaction

team-spirited attitude towards our

expect to increase our customer

 Brand Leadership

partners, so we always ensure we

base of these accommodation types,

 Profitable Growth

hand-pick the right attitude with the

in addition to the traditional hotel

right expertise.

and destination representation.

Avis Albania Avis is a leading car rental company in Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia with more than 45 years’ experience in the car rental industry. Avis Europe serves over 8 million customers annually through a network spanning 112 countries. Avis is a dynamic global organization perpetually trying harder and committed to delivering the very highest levels of services. To be the most valued and successful vehicle Rental Company in its market, as well as for its customers, employees and shareholders, AVIS is continuously investing in the six strategic priorities:

 Cost Efficiency  Employee Satisfaction  People Development  Networking  Technology

Avis has 18 years of experience in Albania. It has been one of the first Rent a Car companies in Albania and one of the most successful in this field. Avis Rent a Car Albania with its highly skilled staff, offers the finest level and wide range of services. Its three main desks are placed in Nene Teresa International Airport, Tirana Downtown and Port of Saranda.



The EBRD is providing

the EU, to help improve the local

a €60 million loan

tourism standards and ensure

to co-finance

women’s participation in Albania’s


tourism value chain.

infrastructure, such as roads, water

Under the EBRD’s Advice for Small

and wastewater

Businesses initiative and with the


EU’s support, the Bank will also offer

and municipal

consultancy services to small and


medium-sized enterprises, which

upgrades, with a

are active in the tourism sector, by

particular focus on

providing know-how on improving

the municipalities of

their businesses.

Berat, Korca, Fier and


Shkoder, the press

To date, the EBRD has invested

release says.

over €1.4 billion in 100 projects in

The EU is also

Albania, while the EU is the largest

providing €40 million

donor in Albania and has provided

in grants through its “Instrument

over €700 million between 2014


for Pre-Accession Assistance”

and 2020.

• EBRD and EU to boost competitiveness of Albanian tourism sector

investments. The EU funds will

• €60 million loan to co-finance municipal and transport infrastructure • Project to increase women’s inclusion and know-how for SMEs

for technical assistance and be used for the restoration, improvement and development of cultural and natural heritage sites in the country.

The European Bank for

formalising the cooperation in the

Reconstruction and Development

sector were signed between the EBRD

(EBRD) and the European Union (EU)

and the government of Albania on the

In addition, the press release

are boosting the competiveness

sidelines of the EBRD Annual Meeting

underlines, the two partners will

of the tourism sector in Albania.

2020, according to a press release of

offer technical assistance and

On October 8, 2020, agreements


training opportunities, funded by






The Next IHIDC



or the last 12 years,

have been born, new ways of hosting


conferences have been discussed.


“It is crucial for the world to come


together to discuss, reimagine and

(IHIDC) in November

pave a new path towards the future

in Vienna has been a fixture on the

of hospitality once the pandemic

international conference schedule.

allows us to. With this in mind we

2020 has certainly proofed a

will keep you posted with our news,”

different year for all of us.

the IHIDC press release added.

Even tough our industry has finally begun showing signs of regional and local recovery, with the ongoing travel restrictions within Europe, we would like to announce that the next

Please stay in touch

IHIDC will be taking place in autumn

2021, a press release of IHIDC

stated recently. We certainly look forward to New partnerships have been formed


over the last few months, new ideas

REMEET in 2021! Tanja Millner & the IHIDC Team






Finisterra Arrabida Film Festival, A GREAT MEMORY OF SESIMBRA!


BY IRENE GIANNAKOPOULOS* n spite of the difficult

for all involved in the cinema line.

period that humanity is

Bravely, I travelled from Amorgos

going through, due to

island in Greece, as a member of the

COVID 19, Carlos Sargedas

Jury, and as the director of Amorgos

and his team in Sesimbra

Film Festival. I am very happy I did.

- Portugal, organized the 9th

It was a great experience, and all

Finisterra Arrabida Film Festival from

safety protocols were followed.

29 September to 3rd October, 2020. The Finisterra Arrabida Festival took Especially this year, with the

place at the beautiful Municipality

difficulties that the Tourism sector is

Theater of Sesimbra, where the

going through, the realization of the

organizers had the full support of

Festival at its original place, was very

the Mayor and his Board Members,

important, as it brought together

who clearly realized the importance

international people from Tourism

of optical acoustic means of

and Culture, and created a network

communication. Local people

JosĂŠ AntĂłnio Marques |






embraced the event with love, and

the chance to enjoy an amazing

watched many of the 130 International

spectacle with dolphins, flying

Films, which participated at the

around us.


Our visit to the Cactus Park in the nearby countryside was really an

Many winners came to receive their awards, while some of them sent a

amazing experience.

video message, with their appreciation

We tasted certain cactus fruit for

and happiness for their prize.

the first time ever. The owners of the place, as all Portugese people

Sesimbra is an amazing small fishing

that we met, are very friendly and

and touristic city of around 5.000

hospitable. They offered me some

residents, with many nice hotels

cactus pieces to take to Greece

and hotel apartments for wonderful

for planting! A great memory of



The sandy beach is white, clear, and

For more information, visit:www.

clean, and the waters are like crystal. email:finister

There are beautiful marinas, for yachts

and fishing boats. The food there is really good. We ate

* Owner & CEO

so much fish and shrimp in different

Aegialis Tours - Aegialis


Hotel & Spa

Diving is their specialty, as there are 8 schools for diving, and some days up to 800 people dive. We were taken on a traditional boat around the coast, where we had




Swedish Stockings was founded in 2013 by Linn Frisinger and Nadja Forsberg. The two ladies, both 25 years old at the time noticed that there were no eco-friendly stockings in the market and decided to launch the company in October 2013, exactly 7 years ago. Each year, two billion pairs of tights are produced, worn a few times and then discarded, helping to make the textile industry the second most polluting industry in the world. Given that, the two innovative youngsters started to think of using different sustainably produced materials in the hosiery industry. For Linn Frisinger, Founder & CEO of Swedish Stockings (SS), “Using different sustainably produced materials means we can create exciting new innovations to push the boundaries of hosiery.” TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE sat with Frisinger to talk about the SS’s modern and future proof approach to hosiery. “We only use recycled nylon and natural fibers in our products. Our production is based in Italy, it’s driven by solar panels and all the water we use we purify and use over and over again. We are constantly looking for new materials that allow us to improve our sustainability to create high quality products with minimal impact on the planet,” Frisinger told in this exclusive interview.

“We only use recycled nylon and natural fibers in our products” 111




SS is the only sustainable hosiery brand out there. “We take the whole life circle into consideration – from material – to production – and also the “after life”. What SS does consists in a recycling program that grinds down old pantyhose and uses it as filler material in fibreglass tanks, so that the old tights don’t end up in landfills, or in our oceans or to be incinerated.

products. Our production is based

Germany and the US at the moment.

in Italy, it’s driven by solar panels

Albania could for sure be of interest

and all the water we use we purify

for us, but at the moment we don’t

and use over and over again. We are

have any insight into this market,

constantly looking for new materials

first we need to learn more.

Full interview is below:

in order to repair it. Today its

that allow us to improve our

women’s number one wear and tear

sustainability to create high quality

Do you intend to visit Albania and

What is the story behind Swedish

clothing item. The hosiery industry

products with minimal impact on the

present your business model? I

as we know it is very traditional,

planet. We have recently launched

am sure it will stir a lot of interest

outdated and a major source of

our PET bottle tights combining

and inspiration.

documentary film “the light bulb

pollution. Pantyhose are women’s

them with upcycled cotton. Using

We haven’t planned so – but if we

conspiracy” - it’s about how

biggest consumable garment, which

different sustainably produced

get the right contacts and retailers

products are being designed in

is also incredibly harmful to the

materials means we can create

interested in selling our products

order to age quickly to boost

environment. We thought tights

exciting new innovations to push the

then we would for sure.

consumption. They brought up

were a boring product for women

boundaries of hosiery.

thighs in this film, a product that

to buy, we wanted to make it more

once was exclusive and women

attractive in many ways. From the

Stockings? Why hosiery? The idea came from the

start our mission has been

left it to trailers

to change and influence the entire hosiery industry. Can you give our readers

Which are currently your best

challenging to make a business

selling products and which are

case for sustainability. How has

your best markets? Do you intend

sustainability been supported and

to penetrate into Albanian market

integrated throughout the life of

as well?

Swedish Stockings? We are the only sustainable hosiery

Our number one bestseller since we started is Olivia tights, they

brand out there. We take the whole

are black (but now available in 5

life circle into consideration – from

colors) and come in 60 denier, so

material – to production – and

We take a modern and

they are quite thick. Even though

also the “after life”. We currently

future proof approach

we create a lot of beautiful patterns

have a recycling program in place

to hosiery. We only use

and colors – in the end it’s the black

that grinds down old pantyhose

recycled nylon and

ones that always sell the best. Our

and uses it as filler material in

natural fibers in our

best markets are Scandinavia, UK,

fibreglass tanks, so that the tights

some insights about your products, why do they make a


Many businesses find it






that do break (and all tights will

filler material in fibreglass tanks,

- no matter the brand), don’t end

is a great interim solution, but we

up in landfills, or in our oceans or

need to find ways to make it more

to be incinerated. We also don’t

accessible for people all over the

overproduce and are cautious about

world. We are also investigating

which styles/trends we produce (i.e.

alternative recycling or repurposing

we don’t want to produce a style

options. Lastly, our mission is to

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is the institutional

that we know will be out of season

change and influence the entire

representative of more than 45 million companies in over

in a few weeks). We employ knitting

hosiery industry. So, we want to

100 countries. ICC’s core mission is to make business work

techniques that elongate their life,

encourage other companies to do

for everyone, every day, everywhere. Through a unique

making the tights more flexible and

what we do, and we want to help

mix of advocacy, solutions and standard setting, we

more durable.

them do this!

promote international trade, responsible business

We make business work for everyone, every day, everywhere.

conduct and a global approach to regulation

What are the key sustainability

in addition to providing market-leading dispute

issues and challenges looming in

resolution services. Our members include

the horizon for businesses like

many of the world’s leading companies,

yours based on sustainability?

SMEs, business associations and local

We have so many things we want

chambers of commerce.

to do and to achieve! We are working to be as closed-loop as

To learn more or to become

possible. Right now no technology

a member, contact us at:

exists that can separate nylon from

elastane, so old hosiery cannot be turned into new. That’s our goal! We are involved in a research initiative that is investigating this separation, so we think in a few years time we will be able to fully recycle old pantyhose into new. Our recycling program, that grinds down old pantyhose and uses it as 114


Marina Rama, General Manager of “Mulliri Vjeter” sits with TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE to talk in details of the world of “Mulliri Vjeter,” dominated by high quality products and service standards. “To sustain our position in the market and to continue our growth, we will never stop pursuing high quality products and service standards,” the conspicuous entrepreneur says. “We always care about what others think, want and expect from us,” she says. Rama explains that “Mulliri Vjeter” continuously expands its product catalogue, introducing new products of coffee, pastry products, chocolates, teas, etc. “For example, a new specialty coffee is released every month, imported from the best coffee-growing countries around the world, such as Ethiopia, Colombia, Kenya, Honduras, etc. We find this very interesting and unique, and we are glad that our clients do, too,” she says. Because “Mulliri Vjeter” is constantly changing and improving to not only be just a brand, but a part of people’s daily life.




Full interview below:




goal. In order to enjoy a good cup

What is the evolution “Mulliri

the way of serving to self-service,

of coffee, it is also necessary to

and also introduced the take away

What is the mindset behind

Vjeter” has undergone through

provide a cozy and beautiful place.

cup. These changes were shortly

“Mulliri Vjeter” which makes

years in terms of products

Therefore, we take care to offer it,

implemented in every Mulliri coffee

it the leader company in the


by paying attention to every small

Nowadays, Albania

quality and freshness of coffee in


is a place where


the traditional

“There is no difficulty that cannot be overcome”

shop. Since then, we have continuously expanded our

We started this business with a

To sustain our position in the market

coffee business

simple goal “To always produce

and to continue our growth, we will

is rising fast and

quality coffee.”

never stop pursuing high quality

the competition

Our company motto is “When you

products and service standards. We

is at the top. In

work with honesty, devotion and

always care about what others think,

2013, the company decided that it

chocolates, teas, etc. For example,

especially with passion, there is no

want and expect from us. We are

was time to approach a new kind of

a new specialty coffee is released

difficulty that cannot be overcome”.

constantly changing and improving

coffee shop format. Mulliri Vjeter

every month, imported from the best

Our clients are our priority, and

to not only be just a brand, but a

opens the first of its new concept

coffee-growing countries around the

offering them a good quality coffee

part of people’s daily life.

coffee shop where the company

world, such as Ethiopia, Colombia,

changed its coffee shop design,

Kenya, Honduras, etc. We find this

and tasty products is our company’s



product catalogue, introducing new products of coffee, pastry products,


very interesting and unique, and we

In addition, here at Mulliri Vjeter,

to drink specialty coffee! So, it is our

You find a coffee shop everywhere

are glad that our clients do, too.

we are all like a family. Every staff

mission to bring the best coffee to

you go. Also, the coffee shop chains

member gives their best and works

our loyal customers. To achieve it, we

have significantly expanded in the

What are the lessons learned

with passion to ensure maximum

import coffee straight from the origin

market. Albanians love coffee and

since the opening to make

customer satisfaction at the end

countries, such as Brazil. We also

we are here to support and meet

your brand outstand from your

of the day. Not only in our coffee

import green coffee from Italy and

their needs.


shops, but in every city in Albania


In my opinion, seeing how the

Mulliri Vjeter, first coffee shop was open in 1994. Today we count 16 shops in Albania, and 2 in Macedonia. Of course, this journey has not been very easy, and we have gone through a lot

“Albanians love coffee and we are here to support and meet their needs.”

market is saturated with the

sales agents and

How do you see the expansion

current coffee companies, there

production staff

of coffee market in Albania? Do

is not too much space for the big

make sure that

you see space for the big ones

foreign coffee brands. I believe the

everybody enjoys

“Starbucks”, “Costa Cafe” etc.

customer demand would not satisfy

fresh and quality

As mentioned earlier, the coffee

the big companies’ needs.

“Mulliri Vjeter”

market in Albania has expanded a lot.

coffee. Working efficiently as a team is another “secret of

of difficulties to reach our current position in the

and beyond, our

success” of our company.

coffee industry. Nevertheless, what is important is that we have always

From how many countries do you

worked with honesty and devotion

import coffee blends and how

to produce the best coffee for our

important are these blends to

clients and never disappoint with

make your coffee unique?

the quality. Costumers’ needs are

We import only the best green

our focus and we have always met

coffee, monitored and evaluated

them. If you listen to costumers, to

throughout the whole chain,

their needs and suggestions, and

that meets the high standards

if you accomplish them, they will

designed together with academic

always remain loyal and help you

professionals. We all have the right

grow. 120





accepting the invitation from Superbrands as an award winner, is the highest


appreciation for the respective marketing team of the company,” Fuga says.

Full interview below:

possibilities that the Albanian market

Sokol Fuga, welcome to the

Superbrands International is the

TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE interview! How would you describe what you do for Superbrands Albania?


offers. Independent Arbiter of Branding. It stands upon the competition as the multinational organization that applies its formula based on a local

First of all, I would like to

approach but imposes the highest

congratulate you on the initiative

and the most professional standards

of giving life to Trailblazing

that are part of Superbrands’ integrity

Magazine. It is wonderful to impose

for more than 25 years. Initially I

your experience, know-how and

was asked to evaluate if Albania

daily dedication on this project

had the possibilities to organize the

that has found its place in a fast

Superbrands Award Winner program,

evolving market. Your Magazine is a

and I had positively answered to it.

professional way of presenting the

Therefore I have been working as

he Managing Partner of Superbrands International in Albania since 2014, Sokol Fuga underlines in an exclusive interview with TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE that attaining Superbrands status strengthens a brands position, adds prestige and reassures consumers and suppliers that they are buying the

best brand in their category. According to him, being nominated a Superbrands (even not yet receiving the invitation) is a great achievement for the brands and companies as they are already part of the best brands in the specific country. “Receiving and






Managing Partner of Superbrands

identified and this process goes

International in Albania since 2014.

on with brand building and image

Back at that time, Albania was the

integration. All the brands need

only European Country that had not

to communicate their products

organized any edition of Superbrands.

through simple, recognizable and

Starting with the 2015/2016 as the

easy ways and identified logos of

first edition of Superbrands, Albania

products or services, so to be the

joined the European Community of

first choice from the consumers.

countries that organize this initiative

All the marketing efforts of the

yearly. My role within this organization

companies naturally lead to the

includes: advocating the Superbrands

building of brand image and brand

for the market evolvement, advising the invited brands on the services, extending personally the invitation arrived by Superbrands International, following the media campaign for the

“Attaining Superbrands status strengthens a brands position”

name. The marketing team prepares the

be evaluated for their achievements.

Since you started operating in

product to be chosen

Being nominated a Superbrands

Superbrands Albania, how has

instantly as seen by

(even not yet receiving the

the Superbrands ranking changed

the consumer, so

invitation) is a great achievement for

the profitability or market share/

creating the brand

the brands and companies as they

image of the ranked companies?

that communicate

are already part of the best brands

The biggest achievement of the

with as many clients

in the specific country. Receiving

Albanian market is the simple

as possible. From

and accepting the invitation from

fact than more than half of the

this point of view,

Superbrands as an award winner,

companies elected as Award

Superbrands edition and taking care

all marketing teams achieve their

is the highest appreciation for the

Winners in the first edition are

of any details in preparing the book

goals when the brand that they

respective marketing team of the

present in the other consecutive

“An insight to the Albanian’s strongest

present to the consumers build a



brands” alongside with the Gala

high impact and reputation as well

Attaining Superbrands status

Companies have embraced the

Dinner thrown for the Award Winners.

as increase the sales. When these

strengthens a brands position, adds

initiative and have already taken

companies and brands achieve the

prestige and reassures consumers

the benefit out of it by creating

highest standards, they enter in

and suppliers that they are buying

marketing campaigns dedicated

the elite of the brands and there it

the best brand in their category.

to the Superbrands Award Winner

Why being in Superbrands is good for the brands? All the companies need to be

becomes indispensable for them to






and by reflecting this achievement

Superbrands is epitome of big

of Superbrands is the gala dinner

and November 2019 (that forced

in using the seal in their product,

corporates. As I understand,

where Award Winners are getting

Superbrands International to

since the final goal is to orient the

you are working with Small and

together, so they have the chance to

postpone the Award Winner Event

client to high quality products and

Medium Enterprises (SMEs) as

communicate as winners in between,

in the upcoming year). The current

services. Superbrands guarantees

well. How has this resulted?

by offering services and exchanging

year has come with this new

the consumers that the companies

In my perception through more than


situation created in the market and

elected Superbrands are the best

5 years of daily contact with the

in the market in the specific time

market, Superbrands International

What are the biggest challenges

Albania but worldwide. The situation

frame of not less than one edition.

has no intention of differentiating

you are facing with the

has forced Superbrands to postpone

the companies in big, medium

SUPERBRANDS project nowadays

the celebrations and the Gala

or small. In the perception of

when the global pandemic is

Dinner, but on the other hand, we

Superbrands, there are brands

dominating? Can you say how

have offered very good marketing

that perform and achieve high

SUPERBRANDS is helping brands

opportunities to the brands

results and we are here to offer

and clients to manage during this

participating in this joint edition, by

the possibility to the brands with


organizing sponsorship of dedicated

highest achievements to have an

Specifically the Albanian market

TV programs and media campaign

exclusive advantage through the

started to suffer mostly by the end

for Superbrands itself in TV partners.

Superbrands Seal to be different for

of 2019 to follow 2020, facing the

So, the brands see the commitment

the competition. One of the pillars

earthquake events of September

from our part to stand on their

“Superbrands is an open platform toward media and media involvement� 126

in the society in general, not only in




part, despite of the hard situation

the Albanian possibilities that means


that our aim is to build a strong

With the advising policy that we

relationship with media of all kind

are following right now we are

and especially with the ones of your

suggesting to the companies new


approach to the market and on

From that point of view, Trailblazing

the on the hand, new possibilities

Magazine is already part of the

in coordination with the other

Superbrands in Albania and we are

Superbrands Awarded companies,

looking forward in recognising the

in attempting to create a network of

status of media partner that comes

new possibilities within the Albanian

with all the benefits that this status


stands for.

When can you foresee that the

I am


Connected Innovative Entrepreneurial

young but very innovate magazine TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE can be part of SUPERBRANDS? Superbrands is an open platform toward media and media involvement in following the activities of Superbrands. Our Lavinia Arl BA (Hons) Business Management

relationship started with a formal invitation on the last GalaDinner. This was just the beginning of a relationship that foresees different ways of collaboration. The intention of Superbrands is to offer as much as possible new ways of communication with the local consumer. Since your

Business Education for a New Generation Study our three-year English-taught bachelor’s degrees in a global community and become a game changer.

Magazine is an open window for consumers and investors to evaluate


Barcelona · Geneva · Montreux · Munich · Online



Xheko Imperial Hotel ADDING RICHNESS


ni Xheko, General Manager of Xheko Imperial Hotel told TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE that renovation took place at the Hotel during 2020. Due to the high demand of its clients, the Hotel will inaugurate a new SPA and Wellness Center as well as a Meeting & Event

Venue by the end of October. In addition, a rooftop bar on the highest floor with a panoramic view of Tirana will be available soon.

“Despite the fact that 2020 was a hard year for hospitality industry in Albania, we continued with the construction of the SPA and recruited a very qualified staff from Bali and Thailand,� Xheko says in this exclusive interview. The SPA, she said, will not be run by a foreign operator but by the Hotel itself. Hotel clients are welcomed to use the SPA and Wellness Center while guests from outside have to pay a membership fee. On the other hand, the Hotel will offer a new event room of 100 people, named Gold Orchid, on the 14th floor.





Xheko Imperial Hotel has been

Turkish hammam, massage and

further expanding with a Wellness

With the Hotel renovation

Please can you reveal a bit more

treatment rooms. Despite the

and Spa besides a big renovation.

alongside with the Spa and

on the Gold Orchid Meeting &

fact that 2020 was a hard year for

What have you learned during the

meeting facilites, what are the

Event Venue?

hospitality in Albania, we continued

The Gold Orchid is an event room

past years and what stirred this

competitive advantages of the

with the construction of the SPA and

located on the 14th floor and offers


Xheko Imperial and where do you

recruited a very qualified staff from

foresee your niche in the market?

a great view of Tirana. It can be

Year 2019 was a very successful year

Bali and Thailand.

At the end of October, we are

used for different events up to 100

going to open the SPA, a new


for Xheko Imperial and there was a high demand for SPA treatments

What inspired you or your

meeting and event room on the

from our guests. Therefore we

designers in following this spa

14th floor and a rooftop bar on the

decided to work on a 650sqm SPA

and wellness concept? Will you

highest floor with a panoramic view

center where there is swimming

be operating the Spa & Wellness

of Tirana. The main competitive

pool, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room,

Center or will be a foreign

advantages are the location and the


service that we offer to our guests.

We have decided to manage the

We do not target a certain niche

SPA ourselves as it will serve mainly

market therefore we have different

to our hotel guests but also to

rooms categories, many types of

the guests from outside through

meeting and event rooms in order

membership cards, gift cards etc.

to meet different clients’ needs and

“We have decided to manage the SPA ourselves”



“The main competitive advantages are the location and the service that we offer to our guests.” 133




he curator of

Sea does not have a topic, it uses

“Photons from

similitudes but also it works by

the Sky to the

contrasts. What links these artists

Sea”, Donika Çina

together in fact is contemporaneity

exclusively shares

and the influence each of us has


from the pre-produced image of

her experience with this exhibition

what is or expect to be our reality,”

which brought together six Swedish

Çina says in this interview.

artists and nine artworks in Albania.

According to her, the exhibition,

This exhibition, organized by

which stayed open until 24th of

Galeria e Bregdetit, Rradhima,

October, was built as a journey

Vlora with the support of the

to explore the artworks and the

Swedish Ambassador to Albania,

artistic practice of each artist in all

H.E. Elsa Haståd and The Swedish

its complexities. “It is an invitation

Arts Grants Committee, was

to explore not only a geographical

inaugurated on 26th of September,

journey to Rradhima but also our

2020 with the participation of the

reality from a Nordic sky and sea

artists: Johan Österholm, Lotta

perspective,” the talented artist and

Törnroth, Mikaela Steby Stenfalk,

curator states.

Niklas Holmgren, Sjoerd ter Borg and Ylva Carlgren. She says that the idea for this exhibition came during her IASPIS Residency (The Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International Programme for Visual Artists) in Stockholm. The artists in this exhibition, she says, were different from one another. “Photons From the Sky to the


A R T S / C U LT U R E


“Coming to Albania, Vlorë was an amazing experience meeting all the kind people from the Albanian art scene and all the people supporting the art scene. It was also an honor working with the amazing artist and curator Donika Çina, who initiated the project together with Eli from ‘Galeria e Bregdetit.’ Donika really did a fantastic job bringing us to Albania and of course with the exhibition itself that I am proud to be a part of in many ways. Hopefylly this project will lead to further colaboration between Sweden and Albania. It might be a good idea to bring Albanian artists to Sweden , maybe even as a part of the same project.” -

- Niklas Holmgren

“My impressions from this experience in Albania was great. Donika Çina did a great job curating this show and both Tirana and Radhimë were fantastic places I would like to revisit. The experience in whole was great, mostly thanks to all the lovely people we met.” - - Lotta Törnroth


Full interview below:

can be translated as photography or photographic image.

Please how would you describe the experience of curating the exhibition “Photons from the

How did you find the artworks

Sky to the Sea” of the Swedish

of the Swedish artists? Can you

Artists? What can you say about

elaborate on them?

your relationship with the Swedish artists?

The artists participating in Photons From the Sky to the Sea are very different from each other. Having

There are many ways of curating, by profession, I am an artist even

the photographic image as the focus

though artist and curator is a

of the exhibition did not mean that

common practice. What I mean by

the artists are photographers. Johan

accentuating being an artist is that

Österholm uses photography in its

I use my own artistic practice as a method to curate an exhibition, to associate and combine artworks and different artistic practices. The idea of an exhibition with Swedish artists came while I was staying in Stockholm, at IASPIS

“It was a very interesting experience to do the exhibition in Radhimë, and I was especially happy and surprised by the response that we got from people who came to the opening. The audience seemed very curious and interested. I am very happy Donika invited me to be part of this exhibition, which gave me the opportunity to see Albania. Donika did a splendid job organizing this exhibition.”

residency (IASPIS – The Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International Programme for Visual Artists) and of course, being there in the artistic environment but also experiencing as a south European the dramatic changes of light and darkness of the

- Lotta Törnroth

north gave me the input to create an exhibition focused on light and darkness which in an artistic medium



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archaic form therefore there is not

source for her work when she does

a camera but the artwork becomes

sculptures or she collaborates with

itself the body of the camera, as

Sjoerd ter Borg for a film. She is

well as his interest, is not the image

an architect and a designer whose

to be captured in a photograph but

practice is focused in the digital

light itself. For Lotta Törnroth, her

landscape and how its aesthetics

photographs capture a performative

influence us in experiencing

gesture, she reenacts the stories of



people waiting in hope or despair about a loss in the sea and she stays

What was the main topic of this

in front of her camera to embody

exhibition from your view? Why

that moment.

people should come and visit this

Niklas Holmgren and Ylva Carlgren

exhibition? Photons From the Sky to the Sea

are painters and in both Holmgren hyper-realistic paintings and in

does not have a topic, it uses

Carlgren total absence of any

similitudes but also it works by

figurative reference, the influence

contrasts. What links these artists

of the photographic image and the

together in fact is contemporaneity

presence of the camera elements is

and the influence each of us has


from the pre-produced image of

While Mikaela Steby Stenfalk

what is or expect to be our reality.

doesn’t take photographs, she

The exhibition is built as a journey

uses Instagram images as the main

to explore the artworks and the artistic practice of each artist in all

“I’m very thankful to Donika Çina for inviting us to Albania and for letting us get to know the Albanian cultural scene as well as the country itself. It has been very inspiring and interesting. I hope there will be more chances for cultural exchange between our two countries. Donika has also done

its complexities. It is an invitation to explore not only a geographical journey to Rradhima but also our reality from a Nordic sky and sea perspective.

an incredible job in curating the show and I feel proud to exhibit next to such impressive artists. Our works are sometimes very different from each other’s, but Donika has found a way to connect our pieces in a very intriguing way.” -


- Mikaela Steby Stenfalk


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“To me, the most important thing was to shine a light on the poetry of these timeless songs”

ELINA DUNI UNDER THE SPELL OF ALBANIAN TIMELESS SONGS BY RUDINA HOXHA “For the last 14 years I have been experimenting with mixing contemporary jazz with Balkan (mostly Albanian) traditional music. To me, the most important thing was to shine a light on the poetry of these timeless songs and to give them a new life through new sounds and arrangements.” This is how Elina Duni, the world-known Swiss-Albanian jazz singer and composer, starts her interview with TRAILBLAZING MAGAZINE. She was only 10 years old when she left Albania for Geneva, Switzerland. Duni went on to study jazz at the Swiss Jazz School in Bern, but from 2004 onwards Albanian folk music became her major inspiration. At the age of 17, she found herself under the spell of jazz while gaining some interest in Albanian folksong as well. “I began treating these songs like jazz standards, taking the essence of them and experimenting with

The cover of the new Album of Elina Duni & Rob Luft, “Lost Ships”

them in new ways,” Duni said in this interview. Now the singer is living in London whose good vibrations of London’s music scene has widened her musical horizons and has brought new musical ideas.

Photo credit: Rromir Imami 141

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“Since I met guitarist Rob Luft, a rising star of the London jazz scene, three years ago, I have been in contact with London-based jazz musicians and during that time I have also developed several new musical projects. My first album together with Rob, called “Lost Ships”, will be released on the fabled German label ECM records this November and it also includes compositions that we wrote together,” Duni says.

Full interview below:

sounds and arrangements. I was lucky enough to tour this music

How would you define your music

throughout the whole world.

style and why people worldwide

Memories of my childhood in

are so much in love with your

Albania, as well as my experience

music? What has been the role of

growing up as a jazz singer in

Albania in this respect?

Switzerland were both equally

For the last 14 years I have

important to the development

been experimenting with mixing

of the project. What’s more, the

contemporary jazz with Balkan

great musicians I was (and still am)

(mostly Albanian) traditional music.

collaborating with, such as Colin

To me, the most important thing

Vallon, Patrice Moret, Norbert

was to shine a light on the poetry

Pfammatter and Rob Luft have had a

of these timeless songs and to

significant role in the success of this

give them a new life through new

music on stage and on record.



How did you get introduced to

began treating these songs like jazz

jazz music? Do you feel an equally

standards, taking the essence of

strong connection to Albanian

them and experimenting with them

music and jazz?

in new ways.

I was only seventeen years old,

I felt connected to both these

and I came from a predominantly

musical words and being able to

rock/blues background. I initially

bring them together allowed me to

discovered jazz music through

forge an identity as a musician and

legends such as Louis Armstrong,

as a human being. As a person ‘in

Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. But

exile’, you are often torn between

ultimately it was the music of Miles

two cultures, and music helped to

Davis, especially the album “Kind

reconciliate these two worlds

of Blue”, that really struck me. It

within me.

was like a real slap in the face! This is where my love for ‘modal jazz’

“I initially discovered jazz music through legends”

started, and since then it has never stopped. It was during this period that I began to gain some interest in Albanian folksong as well. Some years later, while studying at the Swiss Jazz School in Bern, it became my main source of inspiration and I


A R T S / C U LT U R E


You have moved from Switzerland

London’s music scene has widened

where you have lived and worked

my musical horizons and has

for many years to London.

brought new musical ideas. I truly

Why so?

hope that the catastrophic situation

Switzerland was (and still is) an

that many UK musicians have been

important place for the development

in for the past six months will not

of my career. It is also one of my

last too much longer. It is very

homes, a place where I have loving

sad to see many of these amazing

friends and close family. Since I met

musicians not being able to perform

guitarist Rob Luft, a rising star of the

and all these great, historical music

London jazz scene, three years ago,

venues being prevented from

I have been in contact with London-

bringing people together in the

based jazz musicians and during

sacred communion of music.

that time I have also developed several new musical projects. My

Besides the obvious importance

first album together with Rob, called

of the story that lyrics offer into

“Lost Ships”, will be released on the

music, what more strong points

fabled German label ECM records

do you and your singing reinforce

this November and it also includes

in the band?

compositions that we wrote together

I have always tried to avoid falling

(mostly in English, on this occasion!).

into the clichés of a singer backed

Feeling the good vibrations of

up by a band, and I have always



tried to imagine myself as another

to be creative, you can simply

instrumentalist. To me, the place

lose touch with your creativity. But

given to instrumental solos in songs

how can one to force oneself to

is very important, as well as finding

be creative!? There are two very

space for collective improvisations

different ways that I have discovered

more related to textural sounds.

- the first is to practice the technical

This makes every concert like a new

‘nuts and bolts’ of music, and

journey for us on stage and for the

through such studious exercises,

audience, and it reinforces the joy of

one often finds fresh, new ideas.

music making together every time.

The other way is to let go of things totally and even to allow yourself to

How do you reinvent yourself as

become bored somehow, to ‘let the

creativity leads the way?

void fill you’. Strangely enough, that

The more time goes by, the more

is frequently when ideas begin to

I understand creativity as a tool

kick in.

that you have to practise every

I guess the ideal state is somewhere

day. Unfortunately, a musician’s life

in between these two antagonistic

is made up of lots of other jobs

ways. Some days you do one, some

than simply being creative, and it

other days the other. The most

is incredibly easily to lose oneself

important thing is that you must

in every day requirements such

never forget that you are a creative.

as travelling and administrative planning. If you don’t force yourself


A R T S / C U LT U R E


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