Tourism as propaganda

The People’s Socialist Republic of Albania was established in 1944 and it officially lasted until March 1992, year of the first democratic elections. During these fifty years, the country has been ruled by a Marxists-Leninist government, which deeply transformed and affected local communities, history, culture and territories.

Main map and first page of the travel guide ‘Albania: con 7 carte geografiche, 6 piante di citta e 2 piante di edifici’, edited and published by the Consociazione Turistica Italiana in 1940.

In the last few years, Albania has invested significant resources in the tourism sector and it represents a “laboratory for tourism development”

Göler and Doka, 2018, p. 89

Tourism played an important political role both at international and national scale, meant as a proper tool of propaganda. Indeed, tourism was strategically used for showing abroad the wonderful values of the socialist society, while it actually acted as discriminatory factor for local communities, generating class inequalities. Who could travel and who could not was strictly regulated by politicians and members of the socialist party, which had full control over the entire population.

This research aims to explore how socialism – but also previous governments-, used tourism as tool of propaganda, and how it represents an interesting study case because it somehow controlled the explosion of mass tourism typical of 60s-70s in many Mediterranean countries and preserved the natural and cultural landscapes.

Tourism activities promoted can be considered as avant-garde of contemporary “eco-sustainable tourism”. As the anthropologist Vietti stated, socialist tourism has never sponsored individual departures for merely seaside stays, but collective experiences strongly linked to nature and mainly comprising moments of relaxation in special tourist-health facilities and open-air excursions, on foot, by bicycle, by boat.

Map of the Albturist touristic structures and itineraries (source: Hall, 1984: 545)

Without putting aside the inequalities generated, it is worth to notice that socialist tourism promoted a territorial development tourism model which is unique and let Albanian landscapes arrive preserved until last two decades.

Hotel Adriatik in Durrës. A touristic complex of five buildings on the beach at the city entrance, designed for foreigners and heads of socialist party (source: Albturist, 1958)
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