Hilary & I opened ITS in July 1991 and with a few months of opening we had a knock on our office door and a chap came in and asked us if we would work with him to send people to Albania. At that stage of our development, Timbuktu was attractive!
Our relationship with this fellow was short, but through him we had set up a great network of contacts in Albania.
There was no point in taking out clergy on educational trips! But I started taking out press trips with the cooperation of Austrian Airlines.
You may recall the travel brochure of a company called Yugotours – they published a brochure titled Lakes & Mountains. That is what came to mind when I first visited Albania. Such beauty, a great heritage and a tremendous amount of fascinating sites to visit; it has so much potential
These were exciting days in Albania, it was a new emerging democracy and as far as I was concerned, I thought it was also going to be an emerging tourist destination, with ITS alongside growing with them. Alas there was a civil war which put paid to all our efforts.
But in saying that I am still in contact with Mr Agim Neza, today, a key figure on the political front and a man who opened many doors for me all those years ago.
He was instrumental in arranging a meeting between the Albanian Minister of Tourism and I on a Saturday night within a few hours notice Agim had arranged that the minister opened his office especially for me!
I recall that Agim asked me if there was anything else he could do for me. I said, I would like to meet the British Ambassador socially. ‘No problem’, he said – the same night we met the minister, we had a dinner with the Ambassador. A banquet indeed – with the crème de la crème of the local society, held in a private residence.
I have such fond memories of all those friends and contacts we all made in Albania – especially Agim, and who knows one day?