Day I - Peja Outdoor Tourism Festival

As a highlight of the Peja Outdoor Tourism Festival, the inaugural Regional Tourism Conference was held for the first time in Kosovo. The primary objectives of this conference were to present the diverse touristic offerings of Peja and to emphasize the critical importance of environmental preservation. Set against the picturesque backdrop of Cinema “Jusuf Gervalla,” the heart of Peja’s cultural scene, this event welcomed representatives from various ministries, and key players in the tourism sector. Together, they explored the direction to elevate Peja’s profile as a tourist destination while nurturing a commitment to protecting our natural heritage. 

The conference featured two panel discussions focusing on pertinent themes. 

The first panel, titled “Adventure Tourism and its Impact on the Economy,” focused on the economic benefits and opportunities arising from adventure-based tourism activities. The panel displayed discussions with representatives from various organizations, including GIZ, SwissContact, and Prishtina REA, alongside a representative from the Ministry of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade, and the Directorate of Economic Development in Peja. 

Key topics included the significant impact of the Peaks of the Balkans trail, supported by GIZ, which has flourished across Kosovo, Montenegro, and Albania. The panel also highlighted the contributions of SwissContact in developing the zip line and via ferrata in Peja, attractions now highly sought after by both local and foreign visitors. These activities have led to an increase in the average length of tourist stays in Peja, rising to 4.2 nights as of 2023 latest statistics by the Kosovo Agency of Statistics. 

Additionally, discussions covered the efforts to make these adventure tourism experiences more sustainable. This includes the recent initiative from the Tourism for Future project to provide ten accommodation units in Peja with eco-label certification, increasing the overall tourist experience through sustainable practices as well. 

Panelists included Lumturie Geci from the Ministry of Industry, Entrepreneurship and Trade, Lulzim Krasniqi from SwissContact, Ekrem Hyseni from GIZ, Ahmet Jetullahu from Prishtina REA, and Nasret Hajrizi from the Directorate of Economic Development.

The second panel, “Sustainable Tourism Development,” addressed the ongoing environmental degradation and the urgent need for sustainable practices in tourism. National institutes, including the Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning, and Infrastructure, along with the Municipality of Peja, committed to ensuring well-being and economic benefits from tourism for future generations. They emphasized the need for local resident involvement in policy planning, environmentally friendly infrastructure development, and the protection of sensitive ecosystems. 

During the panel at the Peja Outdoor Tourism Festival, discussions highlighted both positive achievements and drawbacks. Key issues included the lack of municipal inspection and commitment to issuing permits in the Accursed Mountains National Park and the Peja municipality territory. Successes such as reducing illegal logging within the national park were noted, alongside challenges like waste management problems caused by the public company ‘Ambienti’ within the national park. These problems pose risks to the park’s further development, sustainable business practices, and have potential consequences for future generations. 

Panelists included Fadil Alija from Accursed Mountains National Park, Lulzim Shala from KRM Ambienti, Urim Xharavina from Let’s Do It Peja (NGO), Arianit Nikqi from Mrika Seven Summits (Tour Agency), and Esat Nikqi from Kujta Chalet (Tourist Accommodation). The panel was moderated by environmental activist Granit Gashi. 

These discussions provided valuable insights and strategies for promoting sustainable and economically beneficial tourism in the region.