Ambassador Delawie’s Remarks at the Via Dinarica Trail Inauguration, June 15, 2017
Thank you very much. I’m really excited to see so many enthusiastic mountain climbers – real mountain climbers and amateurs, like me – today to enjoy the beautiful mountains and beautiful weather. It is absolutely terrific.
This is actually my first opportunity to see the trail first-hand, and it’s already clear what makes it special, and why the National Geographic and others are so keen to highlight it as a key destination.
All too often we have to talk about the things that divide people and nations in the Balkans. But today we get to talk about this extraordinary trail that connects people from every nation in the western Balkans over a path that stretches for almost 2000 kilometers, filled with breathtaking views and new discoveries around every bend.
More importantly, today we inaugurate the 120KM Kosovo portion of the trail, joining Kosovo’s incredible natural beauty to seven other nations, and ensuring that more people will have the opportunity to witness the beauty of Kosovo, and enjoy its landscape, mountain ranges, culture, heritage, and incredible food.
For way too long, Kosovo’s image has been synonymous with a post-conflict society. While I recognize that a hiking trail isn’t a magic cure-all, over time we can change the perceptions of travel throughout Kosovo and encourage tourism to thrive here. In fact, in just the past three years, tour operators in the Rugova valley are reporting a 100% increase in bookings. This is incredible. And through the common marketing platform of the Via Dinarica, we can join forces to reach an even larger global audience than would be possible by itself.
One of the true pleasures and privileges of getting to live in Kosovo is the opportunity to go exploring. As many of you know, whenever I have free time, I head out to discover a new part of Kosovo, and it’s truly a special occasion today as we open up even more of her beauty to a whole new world of explorers.
So many different individuals and organizations have helped to make all of this possible, and we are so proud to be a part of something so wonderful.
Let me thank in particular our EMPOWER Private Sector partners, who together with the Kosovo Mountaineering and Alpine Federation, SIDA and probably many others that I would forget to mention, have worked hard to include Kosovo’s western and southern trails in the Via Dinarica. Everything from mapping and marking the trail to promotional materials to training local tour operations and so much more. Thank you all.