For the past 7 years, JtoV has made reservations, planned trips, given advice, organized up-to-date information, marked trails and basically done everything to look after tourists absolutely 100% for free. We have frequently been mistaken for some kind of funded tourism info service – but I swear to you, I’ve just been doing this to be helpful, because initially there was nothing better to do, and of late – as emails have started to number in the 1000s each year – because I just saw it was needed. However, in the realm of “no good deed goes unpunished,” our success in being helpful has now made us so relied upon that we . . . have costs. Last year it took a gaggle of volunteers to keep the emails answered (but even volunteers have to be housed and fed!). This year we’ve lost our old office (actually just the corner of a desk) . . . so the time has come for JtoV to start to generate some income, in order to cover costs.
On the other hand, we still want to be who we are, so we’ve basically split the new website down the middle – fun and/or crucial information for free, but also a section of more complicated services which we hope will have value, and which you’ll be happy to support (er, financially). Thus there are tours you can book, in which we’ll handle all the bother of reservations (which is actually not inconsiderable, considering how many guesthouses and destinations have no telephone signal (forget internet) or English speakers). There will be downloadable itineraries. We’ll sell our maps online (previously only sold in situ, and even then all the money goes to paying to keep up the trails). We’ll probably think of other ways to sell you things, which are useful, with only a modest markup.
But what I want to make clear is that our primary goal is still, and as far as I can see always will be, to help local people generate income. Tropoja District still suffers from a 79% unemployment rate (2017 municipality figures, based on 2011 census). Although tourism is clearly the bright future for Tropoja, and tourism has been growing at 30% per year since 2005 (UNDP figures), it is STILL locally perceived that “only a few have profited so far.” This is why we have made this nice, shiny-new website. The initial idea was to start listing ALL the guesthouses in the National Park – because without phone service, without internet, or English speakers, without an asphalt road passing in front of their door – it is still too hard for tourists to connect with local families.
We believe that when all 20,000 people of Tropoja can say that they benefit significantly from tourism, then all 20,000 people will become the most fervent protectors of that very nature and old historical culture which is the basis and root attraction of the area. Our long term goal in working to develop tourism is to protect the amazing natural beauty and incredible culture which is Tropoja. We are not trying to become millionaires, or to create millionaires.
So! We want you to know that the services we offer include a very modest markup, in order to support our work. We want you to understand what we’re charging for. We want you to know that you’re welcome to take whatever you find useful on the website, and use it for free – even if it means taking our tours and plans and adapting them to your own use. Please do carry on writing to me, and I will carry on answering. Even if you never end up paying us anything, if in the end you think our help was useful, consider making a donation to our NGO TOKA (The Organization to Conserve the Albanian Alps).
That’s it! That’s our full disclosure. Now ENJOY! Welcome to one of the most beautiful, unusual, and charming corners of Europe.