Nestled along the stunning Adriatic coast in Durrës, Albania, the Adriatik Hotel beckons as a symbol of luxury and historical richness. At its helm is Nevila Dudaj, not just a tourism and hospitality expert, but a fervent champion of her homeland’s cultural treasures and historical wonders.In 2003, she purchased the Adriatik Hotel and has since transformed it into one of the most luxurious and sought-after hotels in Albania.
In this exclusive conversation with WAWW, Nevila opens up about her iconic hotel, the allure of Albanian traditions, and the ever-evolving landscape of Albanian tourism.
The Adriatic Hotel: A Blend of History and Luxury
Originally constructed in 1957 and subsequently refurbished in 2003, The Adriatik Hotel embodies timeless elegance that welcomes travellers seeking a taste of history without compromising on modern comforts. Offering private lounge suites and luxury car transfers, it stands proudly as Albania’s largest and sole 5-star historic hotel. Nevila Dudaj’s vision for the hotel is anchored in preserving Albania’s rich heritage while providing contemporary luxury.
“Our spa pays homage to Queen Teuta, who ruled the Illyrians over two millennia ago. When we revitalised our spa at the Adriatik Hotel in 2003, our aim was to preserve ancient names and traditions, underscoring our commitment to honouring Albanian heritage,” explains Nevila Dudaj.
The Adriatik Hotel’s location bears witness to Albania’s history, and Nevila Dudaj delves into its significance, “Constructed during Enver Hoxha’s communist regime in the 1950s, meticulous studies by Hoxha’s architects and engineers deemed this spot ideal for a luxury hotel. However, this unique luxury resort was exclusively reserved for foreigners from 1957 to 1991, while Albanians were prohibited from entry. It served as a restricted enclave for government officials, living separately from the rest of the population residing in apartments outside this zone.”
Reflecting on her family’s experiences during that era, she shares, “Both my parents were engineers, and despite a comfortable income, spending was a challenge. These were challenging times, but I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in Tirana, where we had everything we needed. However, the landscape has dramatically changed since then.”
Albanian Tourism: An Evolutionary Journey
Nevila has emerged as a prominent figure in the world of Albanian tourism, both locally and internationally. Her accomplishments include being recognized as the “Best General Manager in Albania” in 2022. Beyond awards, she has contributed significantly through various articles, podcasts, and speaking engagements.
Notably, Nevila also holds a seat on the board of the World Association of Albanian Women (WAW), highlighting her commitment to promoting Albanian women’s roles on a global scale.
Discussing the transformation of Albanian tourism in recent years, Nevila reflects, “The past five years have seen significant changes. Five years ago, our focus was on engaging foreign travel agents and tour agencies to promote our vacation packages, including summer and conference packages. We aimed to draw attention to our hotel and our country, reflecting a different landscape.”
However, the pandemic catalysed a positive shift, she notes, “COVID-19’s impact provided an unexpected boost. Albania stood as one of the few countries welcoming tourists during the crisis, which particularly appealed to Americans, resulting in a significant influx. Many decided to make Albania their home.”
Nevila also highlights the surge in Italians and other nationals from Western Europe seeking a more affordable and less restrictive lifestyle, stating, “Italy’s high costs and restrictive environment led many Italians to choose Albania, where living and doing business are a fraction of the cost. A recent comparison of holiday expenses between Italy and Albania demonstrated Italy to be 250% more expensive. Consequently, Albania has become an attractive destination for both Italians and UK tourists over the past three years, starting from 2020, reshaping the tourism landscape.”
Albania’s Gem Hotel
The Adriatik Hotel is the landmark of Albanian hospitality, the most famous spot for weddings, corporate & private events & first choice of VIP and Influencers. It beckons visitors from around the world with its stunning sea-views of the Adriatic sea from its beautiful beach location. A reliable vacation spot throughout the year due to its mild climate even during winter months making it a pleasant and sought after destination for those wanting to find warmth in Europe. The Adriatik offers something for every vactioner allowing some rest and relaxation with an adults only pool whilst appeaing to families with its outdoor seawater kids pool. Adorned by luxury rose gardens, an abudance of indoor, outdoor, kids, saltwater and wellness spa and pools, beach bars, tennis courts, gyms – this hotel really is a gift from Albania. They own and operate a tour agency and concierge ready to recommend you the best Albania has to offer. See Nevila Dudaj’s handpicked top 10 recommendations here.
Looking Ahead to the Future
In the midst of Albania’s ever-changing tourism scene, Nevila Dudaj and The Adriatik Hotel are committed to preserving Albania’s heritage while providing travellers with memorable experiences. Albania’s transformation from a hidden gem to a popular tourist spot is a tribute to people like Nevila, who work tirelessly to share the country’s enduring appeal with the world.
By Lena Leo