From: Patris Pustina
Government Economic Relief Measures Leave Out Tourism Industry

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Albanian government has introduced several financial relief measures, including wage subsidies and postponing rent for small businesses and their workers.

A Decision of the Council of Ministers (VKM) that went into force on March 29, and will last for three months, foresees the government paying €204, the legal minimum wage, to employees of small businesses, including freelancers and self-employed people. Small businesses are defined as those with a turnover no greater than ALL 14 million (about €11,000).

However, this will only benefit workers of small businesses who are eligible to receive relief. To be eligible, small businesses would have to fall within the categories of economic activity that were explicitly prohibited by order of the Ministry of Health. The same policy will be followed for the government-mandated rent freeze. Businesses who have closed up shop as a result of fear of infection, lack of clientele, or breaks in the supply-demand chain will not benefit from these measures, and neither will their workers.

Oddly enough, even as the pandemic continues to ravage the global tourism industry, and the country is under lockdown, with the borders closed and a curfew imposed on both people and vehicles, the Albanian government has not included ‘travel agencies’ and ‘tourist operators’ in the list of businesses that must close down during the pandemic.

Not being on the list leaves a significant number of businesses in the tourism industry without any government relief, even as the government-mandated lockdown has brought their activity to nil. With the government extending coronavirus preventative measures indefinitely and no certain end-date for the global pandemic in sight, it is not unlikely that these businesses will see little to no revenue this summer season, or even this year.

Even after the lockdown ends, the tourism industry is likely to feel the aftershocks of the pandemic the most, as nations may be hesitant to lift travel restrictions too soon and people may be too cautious to travel. The IMF has already predicted the adverse effects the pandemic will have on Albanian tourism, a blow that comes immediately at the heels of that delivered by the November 29 earthquake.

In 2019, the tourism industry constituted 21.2% of Albania’s GDP, and employed 254,300 people (22.2% of total employment).