IT’S the probably the last country in Europe to be developed as a tourism destination, but now a Scottish firm is helping Albania realise its potential to attract visitors.

Edinburgh firm Dunira Strategy has recently received its third Gold Apple award for Innovation from the Green Organisation for its work in helping to convert a former military base in southern Albania into an adventure tourism centre.

Albania has been catching up with other visitor hotspots around the Adriatic after 40 years of isolation under the dictator Enver Hoxha.

One of the problems of the Hoxha era, apart from the one party state that he left, was his obsession with bunkers – it is estimated that 700,000 were built for a country with a population of three million.

Yet vast areas of Albania were left unspoilt, and in the south especially, there are major areas of natural beauty which Dunira Strategy is now helping to make a major asset for Albania.

Dunira had previously won awards for its work on a Scottish Government-funded project on co-operative tourism development in India and last year won a Green Organisation award for a Comic Relief funded project on heritage tourism in Somaliland.

The company’s international expertise helped gain them the contract for the centre in the environmentally-sensitive Osumi Canyon. The centre offers experiences such as rafting on the waters in the canyon and rock climbing, but perhaps more importantly for Albania’s future, the development has also been specifically designed to be a training base for Albanians keen to learn about careers in tourism.

The Albanian Government backed the Dunira scheme as the administration hopes the country will become a world leader in adventure tourism. With its rugged landscape and development-free beaches, forests and mountains, Albania is seen as a virgin territory for the expansion of adventure tourism which is one of the fastest growing sectors in the global tourism industry.

For the Osumi centre in Albania, Dunira identified hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing and many other outdoor activities as possible activities.

The Edinburgh firm then came up with a feasibility study and comprehensive business plan for a development that will be as sustainable as possible and be used by many generations to come.

Dunira’s programme director Tobias Hewitt said: “Known only by aficionados and the most pioneering operators, Albania has the potential to become the adventure tourism capital of the Balkans.

"This incredible new centre in Osumi will put Albania on the map.”

Benjamin Carey, managing director of Dunira, said: “Scotland has considerable expertise in the sustainable development of tourism, especially in sensitive environments, and it is an immense privilege for the work of Dunira Strategy to be recognised as the gold standard in this area.”