Kosovo Hopes Tourism Will Follow Political Stability

Kosovo Hopes Tourism Will Follow Political Stability

PRISTINA, Kosovo -- Standing in front of an aerial photograph of Kosovo's biggest ski resort, Kirk Adams gets visibly excited. "You'll get half a meter of powder here" -- he points to a ridge on the mountain -- "and you have it all to yourself. You're skiing fresh tracks all day." The resort, which Adams frequents, is a former Yugoslav ski area in a remote town called Brezovica. The whole complex is slipping into disrepair. Only one of nine lifts is functional. The two hotels are shabby, functional at best. "As a resort it's a nightmare," Adams concedes. "But it has extraordinary potential."

Adams is the director of privatization of the Kosovo Trust Agency (KTA), the authority charged with managing and divesting Kosovo's socially owned properties, the remnants of its communist past. This means it's his job to sell the Brezovica resort, and more generally to sell the idea of tourism in a place most Westerners would never think of visiting. Needless to say, this has been a tricky task. But there may be light at the end of the tunnel. With the U.N.'s Feb. 2 compromise plan making some sort of conditional independence for Kosovo seem all the more likely, the push to launch a tourism industry is gaining traction, however odd the project might seem.

Brezovica, the dilapidated ski resort, is the crown jewel of a would-be tourism industry; it is also a case study in the obstacles undermining efforts to draw investment. Adams suspects it would take 50 million euros ($65 million) to transform the place into a first-rate regional ski resort. He points to the Bankso ski resort, in Bulgaria, as a model for how quickly a resort can be turned around -- in five years, and with a 35 million euro ($45 million) investment, Bansko was revitalized and now serves over 150,000 British tourists a year. So far as selling Brezovica is concerned, Adams says KTA is currently engaged in talks with four or five major corporations interested in purchasing the resort, though he declines to name the parties.

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