Balkan Secrets

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Focusing on private and small group tours of Albania and the western Balkans, with an emphasis on village tourism and off-the-beaten-track travel.
Member since: 05 May 2016

How the minimum criteria of the responsible travel standard was met...

Economic responsibility

  • We have opened an office in Tirana - DTB Travel - with a small staff of an office manager and full-time driver-escort recruited locally. Albania is one of Europe's poorest countries and we are mindful of this in everything we do.
  • Although we try not to compromise on comfort, where possible we stay in smaller, family owned hotels and guesthouses. Sadly there has been a glut of new, often poor-quality, construction in Albania since the fall of Communism – we try hard not to stay in properties which we feel are architecturally unsympathetic to the local surroundings. Likewise, we make a point of eating at smaller restaurants, or with local families in villages en route.

Environmental responsibility

  • Although Albania has no recycling scheme, we do everything we can to minimise office waste.
  • On our 4x4 tours we do not churn up virgin countryside. We stick to established roads. We make sure the vehicles we use are well-maintained and don't belch out clouds of black diesel smoke. A 4x4 is obviously not the most environmentally friendly vehicle, but without them we would not be able to access the more remote areas of Albania, which do not usually receive tourists. We think bringing tourists to these areas does more good than harm. However, there are some areas where we do not take motor vehicles (even though this is possible), because of the possible impact on local fauna.
  • We believe mountain bike tours are one of the best and most environmentally sympathetic ways to see Albania - for fit and adventurous travellers, at least! In 2016 we're working to develop MTB trails across Albania with the intention of creating itineraries that take riders through some of the most wild and difficult-to-access areas, particularly Dibėr, the Mati and central-eastern Albania. These tours will have an emphasis on wild camping and homestays and will offer a true "off-the-beaten-track" experience.
  • Albania, like most of the Balkans, has a trash problem. We leave no plastic or paper waste behind on our tours – we take only photos and leave behind footprints. We try too to educate locals on the importance of responsible waste disposal (an uphill task…). On trekking tours we provide zip-lock plastic bags to keep toilet paper till it can be disposed of properly.
  • Most of Albania has an abundance of water. However, in the lowland areas water shortages can occur in summertime. We advise clients if a tour is entering an area with water issues.

Social responsibility

  • We offer a trek in the footsteps of the Special Operations Executive in central-eastern Albania - the Ēermenika massif. This is an area with virtually no tourism and we are proud to be helping locals develop a tourism offer
  • Albania is a majority muslim country, though this is not immediately apparent. We let our clients know if they are entering a religiously conservative area, and the likely religion of their hosts, which in Albania could be sunni muslim, Bektashi (a sufi sect), Catholic or Orthodox.
  • By their very nature, most of our tours travel through extremely remote areas. Here we make a point of buying services from locals. This makes a small but positive impact in the villages, and makes for a better experience for our clients.

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