In an official statement, the Albanian foreign ministry stated that to mark the beginning of the tourist season, “the Council of Ministers has decided on the abolition of visas for citizens of the countries of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Russia, Georgia and Belarus, from May 15 to November 1, 2016”.
The decision was taken after a proposal was submitted by Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Interior, with the recommendation of the Ministry of Economic Development, Tourism, Trade and Entrepreneurship, on issues related to tourism, the Albanian ministry stated. “According to this decision, citizens of these countries have the right to enter the Republic of Albania only with a passport, without a visa. The abolition of visas for these countries aims at attracting foreign tourists in this annual season,” it said.
Albania has announced visa waiver for Oman and other GCC countries a number of times in the past as well. In response to this, tour operators in Muscat said that although there is hardly any interest in Albania in the outward-bound tourism from Oman, measures such as this are likely to prompt people to take interest in the country.
Sujith Srikumar, assistant manager, holidays, Zahara Tours, said that there aren't many enquiries about the country. However, he added that removing visa waiver is a good step that can bolster travel to the country. “Georgia also removed visa barrier for Omanis and for most expatriates residing here, and this has vastly improved its tourism potential. In the past one year, Georgia has become very popular as a tourist destination in the sultanate,” Srikumar said.
He added, “Albania is a new destination for tour operators in Oman. There is a need for destination management companies from the country to come here and make a pitch about their market.”
An official from a leading travel agency also said that there was no interest in Albania among people looking to travel abroad. However, visa exemption is a good move to create a buzz. Albania is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the west and on the Ionian Sea to the southwest. It is less than 72km from Italy, across the Strait of Otranto which connects the Adriatic Sea to the Ionian Sea.