The number of bars and restaurants in Albania decreased in 2021, although COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed and economic activity returned to more consistent levels, according to data from INSTAT.
Some 854 restaurants, cafes, or bars closed in 2021, a 5.2% decrease in the total number of such establishments.
Currently, some 15,500 bars and restaurants operate nationwide, almost seven thousand less than in 2015.
This decrease has caused alarm from industry stakeholders, with a representative of the Association of Bars and Restaurants telling Monitor that the situation has been exacerbated by the pandemic. They warned the situation would increase in 2022 due to declining consumption from the general public, a labour shortage, and rising prices.
“Bars and restaurants were the first to close at the start of the pandemic. The drop in quarantine turnover and the constraints on the economy would certainly have these effects. With the crisis that has plagued and with the increase of raw material costs and the reduction of consumption, there will be other closures of these structures,” they said.
Albania’s tourism and hospitality sector is currently suffering from a labour shortage due to a number of factors. Low wages are one such issue, as is mass emigration of young people, the educated, and those with experience. Other issues include women unable to take on certain roles due to stigma or having too many responsibilities at home.
Businesses struggle to pay higher wages to entice workers as price rises in areas such as food, energy, fuel, and other materials continue to impact profit margins.
Consumption also declined last year due to the pandemic as many consumers got used to taking coffee and meals at home or in the office, leading to a change in patterns of behaviour.
Furthermore, the association noted that there was no increase in revenues reported from owners in central Tirana following the recent UEFA Conference League Final. The event saw thousands of Dutch and Italian fans descend on Tirana for several days, causing widespread disruption, including brawls, fighting with police, vandalism, assaulting locals, and urinating in the street.
The municipality had claimed it would bring additional revenue to small business owners, but due to the police funnelling and containment of visitors, there was little to no difference in revenue reported.