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Green Hub Training in Peja

The Green Hub program is implemented in partnership between Sustainability Leadership Kosovo and Venture UP, and is supported by UNDP Kosovo. This is a program that is leading the change and promoting ecotourism trends in Kosovo. The program targets existing Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the tourism sector for green recovery from COVID-19 and transition towards environmental sustainability;

diversification of other MSMEs in the tourism value chain in areas such as handicrafts and agriculture. Furthermore, the program aims at new tourism initiatives by young people; students of the University of Prishtina and beyond.

The emphasis of this program will be on the adoption of safe practices for COVID-19 and the environment. At the enterprise level, measures to mitigate or eliminate negative impacts and a more financially sustainable operating model.

The project aims to support up to 50 tourism SMEs in their recovery and acceleration towards sustainability.One of the most important components of this program is the training provided to existing SMEs in the tourism sector.

After the successful completion of the training with SMEs in the region of Mitrovica, Pristina and Prizren, it was the turn of the training with the region of Peja. This training took place between 14 - 18 March and hosted 21 participants from different sub-sectors of tourism.

This 5-day training, although it is called such, it in itself is not the same as the classic ways of training, but contains really interactive materials and activities which make individual empowerment in that way to create a journey of personal and professional development and will support the development of participants' 'soft skills' who can then be transformed into positive changers in their community.

Afrim Hasku was the representative of the Hotel Camp Karagaq as the manager of the hotel. The hotel is located in Peja, near the city park. The hotel provides a restaurant and accommodation services.

Ali Vokshi has worked for over 20 years as a manager at the Restaurant Gresa, which was opened in 1990, initially as a café and eventually expanded into a restaurant that now offers various dishes starting from those traditional to sea food. The restaurant’s halls are enriched with kosovan cultural artefacts, making this place unique and very informative for/to the visitors.

Alpa Bojku, one of the youngest participants of this training, was the representative of Outdoor Kosovo, a tour operator based in Peja. With many years of experience in nature activities and adventure sports, this tour operator offers numerous activities, such as: hiking and trekking, alpine climbing, skiing and snowshoeing, rock climbing and Via Ferrata, cave treks, mountain biking, cultural tours and so much more. They operate not only in Kosovo, but also in Albania and Montenegro.

Even though he emigrated to Switzerland at a young age, Armend Delijaj came back to make his contribution by opening a restaurant that now is known as restaurant Freskia, which is located in Istog. During his time in Switzerland, he worked at a restaurant where he took the first steps regarding this profession. At the beginning, he started working as a cook then was promoted to kitchen chef position. At restaurant Freskia, located at the foot of the mountains and surrounded by magnificent natural landscapes, visitors can enjoy fish specialties with the beautiful views that surround them.

Dini Begolli is known as a photographer, a profession that he has been practising for 24 years. He is also the owner and manager of the restaurant Kulla e Zenel Beut (Tower of Zenel Beu). This 200-year-old tower is known as the Peja’s icon, and it is characterised by its cultural-historical features. The special thing about this restaurant is the traditional food and specialties which when combined with the accommodation services, offers the tourists a real experience of the Albanian culture and tradition.

“During this training, I learned a lot about ecotourism and the ways that we can make our businesses eco friendly. I am grateful for all the work and advice that you have shared with us.”

Marigona Gashi, despite being a chemist by profession, is dedicated to developing and promoting tourism as a business and a profession among women. Donika Matoshi is the leading guide for Via Ferrata and the only woman guide from Kosovo in the Peaks of the Balkans. She is an environmental activist and constantly works towards nature protection. The Tourism Services company was established in 2019 in Peja. The main goal of the company is promoting local and adventure tourism in Peja through hiking and various tours in Via Ferrata.

“I really enjoyed the Green Hub training. It was very informative and inspiring. I appreciate your information on how businesses could make a difference through recycling strategies.”

Esat Nikqi is the owner of the Chalet Kujta, which is located in Shtypeq, Rugova. Chalet Kujta provides accommodations, a restaurant, a garden, a terrace, barbecue facilities and a shared lounge. Some villas feature a dining area or a patio. Chalet Kujta offers a continental or à la carte breakfast.

Fetije Nikqi - Hira Helshani dhe Mustafë Nikqi are the owners of the Guesthouse Ariu. They’re both pioneers and environmentalists. Ariu Guesthouse is located in the Reka Allagës village, which is unique in its rich nature. The guesthouse was opened as a restaurant in 2008 and from 2011, it started offering accommodation services as well. The guesthouse was established on the basis of the Albergo Diffuso philosophy, where the tourists can experience local tradition and culture by being involved in doing everyday chores and preparing food. Moreover, the guesthouse has also a farm and greenhouses from where they get provided with organic food. The Guesthouse Ariu is taken as an example of sustainable tourism development.

Filonid Gjikolli is the owner of Zade Lounge Bar, one of the unique cafés of Peja, which combines classic and modern styles. The café was built using recycled and reused materials and it offers tourists a pleasant environment.

Genc Dreshaj is the manager of the restaurant Guri Kuq, which is located in the Kuqishta village and it is surrounded by the Rugova mountains. These mountains offer marvellous nature views and peace to the visitors. The restaurant also has 7 villas for accommodation services. Additionally, the restaurant serves fresh food and traditional specialties.

“It was an extraordinary training. I have learned so much from the mentors as well as other participants about improving our businesses financially and at the same time minimising our impact on nature.”

Ilir Shala was the representative of the Shqiponja Guesthouse. Osman Shala has a long experience in teaching and tourism. The Guesthouse is located in Drelaj village and is surrounded by the Rugova mountains. It offers accommodation services and serves fresh food and traditional food. Along with accommodation and traditional food services, the visitors can experience the Albanian culture and traditions, where the owner accompanies them with music by playing folk instruments like lute, flute, sharki, çifteli. Moreover, the Guesthouse Shqiponja is the first one to promote family tourism in Rugova.

Irina Darlyanova comes from Bulgaria, but has been living with her family in Rugova for 12 years. She finished her studies at the Faculty of Philology in Sofie. She has attended several trainings and conferences on different topics relating to regenerative development, project management and policy making. Her husband Dritan Shala and she are very passionate about nature, exploratory trips and family tourism. In 2003, they started their own business by opening a guesthouse which is now known as “Shtëpia e Paqes'' (House of Peace). The guesthouse is famous for its traditional food such as flia, leqenik as well as milk products. The guesthouse also offers spaces for relaxing, rehabilitation and recreational activities. Located in the centre of Rugova, among the Peaks of Hajla and Guri i Kuq, the guesthouse has access to hiking and mountain biking trails.

Jehona Abdullahu Dabiqaj comes from Ferizaj, but lives in Peja. She holds a Master of Science degree in Management and Technology. Currently, she practises beekeeping and counsels young beekeepers about this profession. She started her own business Beekeeping Aldi in 2015. She cultivates 4 types of honey: mountain honey, chestnut honey, flower honey and acacia honey. She has won the golden medal for honey quality.

Nyvit Drançolli practises three professions: car maintenance mechanic, English language professor and financier. In the Green Hub training, he was the representative of Balkan Natural Adventure, a tour operator specialised in adventure tourism. This tour operator is focused on hiking in the Peaks of the Balkans in Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. During summers, Balkan Natural Adventure offers various activities like hiking, rock climbing (including Via Ferrata) and paragliding. While during winters, it offers hiking with mountain guides, snow-shoeing and skiing.

Blerta Begolli, although an economist, is dedicated to tourism and cultural heritage tourism, where has gained more than 20 years of work experience. Virtyt Morina is also an economist. After the war of ‘99 in Kosovo, he started working in different international organisations, mainly working on tourism-related projects. In this training, Blerta and Virtyt were the representatives of the Municipality of Peja, a public organisation established under the law on local self-governance of the Republic of Kosovo, and it operates according to its status approved by the Municipal Assembly. Its main purpose is Peja’s development and improving the welfare of its citizens.

“Sustainable tourism will be the key to Peja’s development, through which we will manage to protect our natural resources for future generations, we will play an important role in preserving the cultural-historical diversity and cultivating the traditional values, improving the welfare of the locals through developing sustainable business and creating job opportunities.”

Vjollca Lajqi comes from Hasi i Prizrenit, but currently lives and works in Peja. Her husband and she are the owners of the guesthouse Drelaj. Vjollca prepares traditional food such as flia, leqenik, pie, etc. The guesthouse may offer accommodation services for up to 10 persons. The guesthouse can also offer tour guides for hiking to Peaks of Guri Kuq and Hajla, it can offer boats for various activities at the Lake of Kuqishta during summers and ski equipment during winters.

Ylber Rudi became one of the mountain tourism pioneers of Kosovo by opening a restaurant-hotel in Boga (Rugova) during the 1990s. He is the owner of the Rudi Alphouse, which is located in Boga, and offers traditional food services and pleasant accommodation.

Zeki Ahmetgjekaj and his wife Teuta are the owners and managers of the Lojza Guesthouse. The guesthouse is located in Bjeshkët e Nemuna at an altitude of 1700m. It is surrounded by picturesque views, beautiful green fields and forests. The guesthouse Lojza uses solar renewable energy. Moreover, the guesthouse offers accommodation and food services that are provided from organic resources of Bjeshkët e Nemuna.

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