Blerina Ago: “Albania Adventure Resort” welcomes anyone to contribute

After developing a new touristic market and remaining a strong promoter of sustainable adventure tourism in Albania, many may wonder: what is next for Albania Rafting Group (ARG)? In fact, there is a big surprise coming from ARG: The creation of Albania Adventure Resort!

Albania Rafting Group ( ARG ) is the first tourism and sport organization in Albania with full member rights of International Rafting Federation. 

“We are working on Albania Adventure Resort which is a very ambitious project that aims to build the largest adventure tourism hospitability center in the Balkans to promote all year round sustainable eco-friendly tourism featuring 15 sports and activities,” said Blerina Ago, Vice-President of ARG in an exclusive interview with Tirana Times.

Ago welcomed everyone who wants to give a contribution to the development of this new center. The 28-year old professional lawyer is happy that ARG has never been alone in all these years. “Through the years, ARG has been very grateful to all its direct and indirect supporters. I must mention that USAID has been a constant help and support through these years, especially in the early growth phase,” she said.


Albania Rafting Group is a project, which is being developed for many years now. Please can you make an updated picture about this project and what are some of its major highlights?

Albania Rafting Group (ARG) was the first organization in Albania to introduce rafting more than a decade ago, both as a sport and as a touristic outdoor activity. ARG has been developing a new touristic market and is a strong promoter of sustainable adventure tourism in Albania.

In 2011, ARG founded the Albanian Rafting Federation which is a part of the International Rafting Federation and a member of Adventure Travel Trade Association.  In 2012, ARG represented Albania for the First time in the World Rafting Championship and achieved substantial results by ranking in the 4-th place in one of the competition disciplines.

What is the latest innovation Albania Rafting Group is about to launch?

We are working on Albania Adventure Resort which is a very ambitious project that aims to build the largest adventure tourism hospitability center in the Balkans to promote all year round sustainable eco-friendly tourism featuring 15 sports and activities. We have already set our goals and objectives and we are working hard to achieve our first milestone of establishing the visitor welcoming center and basic accommodation facilities within the year 2017. The AAR project is being implemented in three phases over the period of 5 years, so we expect to unravel one by one each one of the surprises that this centre hold and to list a few that we are working hard to develop within the first two years: 1. developing 5 new outdoor sports/recreational activities besides rafting (kayaking, hydro speed, mountain biking, snow-shooing, climbing) in the area around the centre within the first phase; 2. developing student spring-summer-winter break programs  for high-school and university students. 3. offer tourism professional and tour guide certification for young people that want to invest in a career in adventure tourism, tourism management, etc.If you were in front of a foreign audience, what would be your invitation to them about Albania Adventure Resort and would you address any remark or request to them?

We are now being supported by a lot of people through funds and capacity building because the AAR project is a very big project for Albania, the Balkans and outdoor sports. We welcome anyone who wants to give a contribution to the development of this center to join us, or come and visit us in a rafting trip in Vjosa River, Permet or for Osumi river canyons exploration, in Skrapar. We are still fundraising for this project and any contribution or volunteering engagement is very welcome and highly appreciated.

Who have been some of the conspicuous personalities who have been part of the unforgettable Albanian rafting experience?

 We have had the privilege to host many personalities in our activities such as the current Albanian Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament, heads of the major international embassies in Albania, former ambassador of USA and I’ll take this chance to make an open invitation to his Excellency the current ambassador of US Mr. Donald Lu who is a renowned nature lover. Ambassador of Slovenia Lea Stančič has been part of our rafting trip in Osumi Canyons this June, surprising our team with her sport and energy behavior. The Czech Ambassador Mrs. Bronislava Tomášová is as well one of our biggest supporters, enthusiast of adventure activities. All of them have helped us not only in promotion of this new tourism destinations for Albania, but in the meantime to increase awareness about environmental protection and better management of these nature parks and monuments like Vjosa river and Osumi Canyons.

Over this decade, has Albania Rafting Group been alone or a constant supporter has followed it?

Through the years ARG has been very grateful to all its direct and indirect supporters. I must mention that USAID has been a constant help and support through these years, especially in the early growth phase. The GoA has been a very big help as well. It helped reconstruct the current road that connects the city of Corovoda to the Osumi Canyons, and now in cooperation with the ADF is making a considerable contribution to ARF-s newest project Albania Adventure Resort.  Also very important supporters have been the Swiss Embassy, Albanian Development Fund and EBRD. I would also express a very special “thank you” to our greatest supporters, the Albanian media community in spreading the culture of sustainable tourism, love for the nature and wellbeing though sport.

There have got to be some startup challenges you faced trying to get this business started. What were some and how did you overcome them given that you are a female entrepreneur in this field?

It is challenging for women, especially young women everywhere in the world to assume a leadership position, mainly because of how societies have been built. I have been through a lot as a young women working in Albania and I am trying to inspire other young women like myself by giving a positive model, a model of hard work and perseverance as the right way to succeed. We have been doing great with rafting, almost every season, for over 15 years, we have accomplished a lot! Here, I am not just talking about promoting and standardizing rafting but also promoting adventure tourism, nature preservation and youth employment and participation in our activities. It didn’t happened overnight…It started over 15 years ago when after so many requests from our friends and family members we started to do our first rafting trips in the Osumi canyons.  Zamo Spathara who is now the president of the Albania Rafting Federation (ARF) was the one of the first rafting aficionados in Albania, so he had the idea to transform his passion and the many requests that he was getting into an actual experience. He acted upon his dream of making rafting accessible, safe and enjoyable for everyone and he pushed me and a few other young rafting fans into becoming certified guides. Ever since, the ARF was established and has been doing a lot of work to guarantee that rafting is exercised according to international standards in Albania.

You obviously are doing what you love but what is the ultimate goal in this business?

I believe it is possible to make Albania on the world scene as an advanced, world-class and professional adventure tourism destination. This is my dream and I will do my best to see it come true. I love everything about rafting…and I take great pride in touring visitors around with our rafts. We have been given a great opportunity to show to the whole world that Albania holds remarkable treasures ready to be discovered. To add to that rafting is one of the best activities to meet and bond with people.  There is so much positive energy, laughter and friendship involved around rafting and I get to do that every year, every season! It really motivates me being around people and that’s what I believe enjoy most about rafting.

July 8, 2016

‘Let me show you all about The Plaza Tirana’

The newest hotel in Albania is The Plaza Tirana which has opened its doors since last April. It cannot be missed even for its nice architecture which has the name of the Belgian company, “51N4E” in Brussels, managed by the architect Johan Anrys.

This Hotel is a 100% Albanian investment highlighting two big companies – TID (Tirana International Development sh.p.k.) and Agna Group.

But its management is Italian and Albanian. Carmelo Franco Lentini, the General Manager of this hotel, alongside with his Team is constantly working in the management of The Plaza Tirana in the best way possible. Using his 30 years in the hotels’market, Mr. Lentini explains in the following exclusive interview with Tirana Times why clients should choose The Plaza Tirana which comprises 190 rooms, 3 restaurants, 3 Bars, a 24-hour Gym, Wellness SPA, meeting rooms and many more.

– What is the story about The Plaza Tirana Hotel?

– I arrived in Albania in April 2015. But the construction of this hotel started some 5-6 years ago. Only two years ago, the owners of this building decided to go for a 5-star hotel. Then, I was asked alongside with my team to come over for the opening of this hotel.

– How does the beginning look like?

– Last year, the building was polished off. We are giving our experience to organize all the management aspects of the hotel and its positioning in the market. We started to take care of the process since last year. My experience is directly linked with the hotels. For 30 years, I have worked with big names in this field such as Hilton, Intercontinental, and others. This is the seventh time in my career when I deal with the operation of a new hotel.

– How is the feedback of the clients so far?

– We are open for one month and a half. So, it is a short time. However, the clients are happy. Most of our clients are from the other countries. If you read their comments on TripAdvisor or, the big satisfaction for us is to know that they appreciate the quality of the building, the quality of rooms and the quality of service. I think the owner has done a very good job with the project.

– Can you tell us some interesting facts about the people who stay behind the architecture and the design?

– The architecture of our building bears the authorship of a Belgian company, “51N4E” in Brussels, managed by the architect Johan Anrys. The Venice Architecture Biennale 2016 is currently being held. And The Plaza Hotel is being displayed in this prestigious international project for its fine architecture. We are proud of that. Even last year, the project received awards by MoMa (Museum of Modern Arts) in New York, US. So, the Hotel has been highly appreciated architecturally. We also have a group of Italian architects and interior designers who work for all the rooms, the restaurants, the SPA and the furniture. Mauro Margheri company, which is based in Albania, is the coordinator of this group of architects and interior designers: Alessandro Dolci is the architect from Trento, of every room in this Hotel. Two other architects and interior designers from Florence, Camilla Lapucci and Lapo Bianchi Luci have made all the projects about the restaurants: Panevino, Convivium and Savor. All these experts cooperate together to take care of the rest in this Hotel.

– I have heard that The Plaza Hotel comprises the best Spa in Albania.

– (Laughing) I don’t know whether it is the best SPA in Albania… But even the Spa is a work from the hands of Alessandro Dolci in cooperation with an Italian company, called Starpool. The latter is the number one in Europe for the construction of spa areas.

– How about the beds?

– The group of architects and I have chosen “Simmons”, the number one bedding company in the world for hotels. For example, Starwood, Hilton, Four Seasons and others buy beds from Simmons.

There is also a Greek supplier, “Coco-Mat”, which produces beds made of natural products only to avoid allergic reactions.

– And the chef?

– We have an Italian Executive Chef, Marco Pinelli, with a long international experience in the most prestigious hotel chains. We have even a great cooperation with Italian food suppliers to meet all the requirements and the tastes of all our clients. Obviously we also use the best food suppliers that exist in Albania.

– In your view, what makes a good hotel?

– A good hotel is a place where we can combine together the hardware with the software parts, such as the building, the comfort of the rooms and the public space, the SPA, the restaurants, and a high level of services. But the target is not only to provide good rooms and good services only. If you want to win the competition on the market, you have to offer excellent experiences to all the visitors and guests of the hotel. This is the actual challenge of all the 5-star hotels all over the world: to create experience that people must remember, and feel like high value. And this is the only way to go away from a competition based only on prices. And this is the real strong challenge, because it is a combination of comfort with service. The first part is easier to be achieved but the second part is far more difficult. You need to train very well all the staff. We have a lot of people working here. Everyone needs to be conscious that he/she is part of the process. So, all of them share a part of their contribution to guarantee a great experience to the guest. So, this is like a clock which needs to work precisely.

– What is your invitation to the clients?

What we are doing now is that we are offering a nice combination between comfort, service and price as well as a full service hotel to the guest. We make avail to them a variety of food proposals and services.

– Among the several hotel services, which ones would you choose as the strongest points?

– I would choose Food and Beverage proposals and the SPA. We have Panevino, where we offer homemade pasta and homemade desserts, but even Convivium restaurant, which is open for dinner and offers to our guests a real food experience. So from breakfast, room service to bar, we are trying to offer the highest standard we can. For example, “Nespresso”, the most famous coffee in Europe, was missing in Albania. We, along with Agna Group, brought it here.

About the SPA, we chose as our partner ELEMIS, one of the best producers of cosmetics in Europe.

Small things together make a big difference.

July 1, 2016

20 years in Albania, Rogner Hotel Tirana will Reward its Clients in an Unique Way

By Rudina Hoxha

The directors of Rogner Hotel Tirana, the nice German couple which is successfully managing this hotel for some years now, have revealed in an exclusive interview for “Follow Business” Magazine how the Hotel has planned to reward its most loyal clients and its prospective ones on its jubilee celebration.

They confirm that 2016 will bring a new era for the prestigious hotel, located at the center of Tirana.

Continue reading 20 years in Albania, Rogner Hotel Tirana will Reward its Clients in an Unique Way

Robert Rogner: “Hoteli është themeli i jetës sime”

Në 20 vjetorin e “Shtëpisë Austriako-Shqiptare”, – Rogner Hotel Tirana – biznesmeni më i spikatur Austriak, Robert Rogner, na çon mbrapa në ditët e para kur ai vuri zemrën si themel për ndërtimin e hotelit te parë me 5 yje në Tiranë sipas standarteve ndërkombëtare.
Vendosmëria e tij dhe sakrificat për ta parë këtë Hotel të ngritur në Shqipëri, megjithëse ky vend po kalonte një nga periudhat më të vështira të historisë së tij, tregon edhe njëherë kurajon e një biznesmeni të vërtetë, i cili e dashuron Shqipërinë, siç është Z. Rogner.

Continue reading Robert Rogner: “Hoteli është themeli i jetës sime”