The event that has marked first half of the year – Bridging Tourism Destinations, Budva – May 2023 Montenegro – a world in a nutshell?

The event that has marked first half of the year – Bridging Tourism Destinations, Budva – May 2023
Montenegro – a world in a nutshell?

The Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism has demonstrated that Montenegro,if only for a moment, can be a world in a nutshell. The International conference “Bridging Tourism Destinations” that took place on May 11-12made Budva a single gathering spot of key tourism stakeholders of Montenegro, Maldives, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Albania, Hungary, Lithuania, Israel, Croatia, Great Britain, Turkey, Serbia, Bulgaria, Portugal… The conference was jointly organized bythe Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism, the National Tourism Organization of Montenegro, the Ministry of Tourism of Maldives. What was the cornerstone for the start of this cooperation and what do Montenegro and Maldives have in common?

Our partner on this project was the Ministry of Tourism of Maldives and high-level delegation of the tourism industry of Maldives who shared their experiences and views of the current tourism-related topics.
The very presence of our partners from Maldives feels rewarding given that Maldives is globally recognized and labelled as one-of-a-kind tourism destination, says Goran Đurović, Minister of Economic Development and Tourism for Diplomacy&Commerce.

“All features of a small and unique travel destination is what Montenegro and Maldives have in common. This Conference has been a perfect opportunity to exchange experience with all the participants and representatives of Maldives in particular. Striving to put Montenegro on the map as an elite destination, we have tried to absorb their knowledge and experience and taking Maldives as a role model to make our country as much attractive to the high-end customers. When organizing this first international event of a kind, we also had in mind its potential contribution to the development of sustainable and modern tourism trends and practices. Moreover, the underlying idea is to turn this conference into a traditional event that would facilitate positioning of Montenegro on the map of important destinations in terms of tourism networking and collaboration“, said Đurovic.

„Tourism represents one of the key enablers of economic growth of the country, in first line because of the natural potential, cultural and historical sites and other resources pertinent to tourism development but even more for the multiplicative effect it has on almost all almost every economic activity”, he adds.

“It takes only few indicators to demonstrate the importance of tourism to the economy of Montenegro – directly and indirectly – tourism contributes to the Gross Domestic Product and employment at the level of 20 – 30 percent. Characteristics of Montenegro reflected in its favorable geographical position, which makes the country close to major European centers, along with the abundance of natural and cultural diversities concentrated in a small area and allowing for visiting most of the tourist attractions within a single day altogether form an attractive tourism product of Montenegro. Naturally, one of our goals is for Montenegro to become a high-end tourism destination. In the forthcoming period we need to conduct market segmentation to include the high-end tourism. The impressive growth of tourism as a leading branch of economy in terms of both volume and financial effects has launched Montenegro as a unique tourism destination. The future of Montenegrin tourism lies in the luxury hotels which is another encouragement for pursuing the vision of Montenegro as an elite tourism destination”, said Minister.

This Conference, he observes, has gathered a great number of tourism industry experts. Thisevent offered an excellent platform for panel discussions, presentations and networking with the focus affixed to the most recent trends, challenges, and solutions in the tourism industry.

“Through a high-level professional interaction, we have exchanged experience with peers and representatives of the developed tourism destinations. Numerous sessions and panels were the opportunity to agree further steps towards interinstitutional cooperation and promotion of tourism destinations. We expect our cooperation will be continued and intensified at the forthcoming conferences”, said Đurović.

The topic of air connectivity attracted considerable attention at the BTD in Budva. In this context and bearing in mind that Montenegro as a tourism destination aspires to extend the summer season, one of the priority activities certainly includes improvement of air connectivity, above all with the countries of the Central, Western and Northern Europe and key markets during low season and off-season.

“Exactly. The Ministry in cooperation with Airports of Montenegro and international partners remains committed to undertaking activities that can facilitate improved air connectivity and accessibility of our country. These activities naturally include cooperation with the leading low-cost carriers with an aim to maintain continuity and increase frequency of operations on the routes between Montenegro and number of countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This year, three new routes have been added to the original list of 14 strategic routes, these being – Podgorica-Marseille, Podgorica-Dublin and Podgorica-Weeze (Germany, close to the Netherlands). Establishing strategic routes is an important step in terms of granting incentives to airlines operating to/from key outbound markets, so as to stimulate growth of tourist arrivals”, he explained.

The dilemma faced by the executive branch of Montenegro is taking a final position on the strategic direction of development and promotion of Montenegro as a tourist destination. The Minister himself has no dilemma whatsoever. He believes that Montenegro as a relatively small tourism destination with modest transportation infrastructuremust set its focus on the high-end customers.

“The peak season bottlenecks once typical of the south, have started extending to the north of the country. Against such background it is not possible to provide a high level of service or expect to have a satisfied visitor. Apart from the transportation infrastructure, another challenge we are facing is capacity restraints in terms of beaches, basic accommodation, car parks etc. At the Conference held in Budva the case of Maldives was used to demonstrate the importance of the high-end customers – though reporting lower number of annual visitors compared to Montenegro, Maldives record by far higher revenue from tourism by example of Maldives. I believe we should follow the same course”, he said.

“Naturally, we cannot but mention the middle-income consumers, who generally choose private accommodation, thus significantly impacting our tourism revenue. It is of a paramount importance to mitigate the pattern of seasonality and extend the tourism season if not to a year-round period than at least to nine to ten months and to establish a sustainable air connectivity with as many outbound markets as possible”, sad the Minister of Tourism and Economic Development.

Viewed against the available budget, it seems the results of the Ministry have exceeded the expectations. For example, the 2021 budget of the National Tourism Organization was 2 million EUR, to be then downsized to a humble 300 thousand in the following year. Any intensive promotion calls for a much deeper pocket.

“I agree with you on the point that NTO needs bigger budget for promotion and marketing purposes, as obviously without an effective promotion and visibility we stand no chance of attracting visitors from western and distant markets. Having recognized the importance of the destination promotion and marketing, the Government has allocated a 3 million EUR budget to NTO in 2023. I have to say that notwithstanding the budget constraints, NTO has worked diligently to promote our tourism destination, to come up with innovations and changes in the marketing approach. A new website has been developed as a prerequisite for a high-quality online promotion and managed towon the Web Excellence Award in the category of the destination portal supporting the principles of sustainable development. Revenue from collection of tourist tax represents a significant source of funds for the NTO in terms of development of marketing plans and better promotion of Montenegro as a tourism destination.

Considering that the Tourist Tax Act (Article 8) provides that 80% of the tourist tax revenue shall be used for financing of the local tourist organizations and 20% for financing of the NTO program, we will make sure that the NTO actually receives the share to which it is entitled under the Law”, he emphasized.
Discussing the tourism slogan of Montenegro – “Wild Beauty”, he said that the Montenegro Tourism Development Strategy by 2025 provides for rebranding of the tourism destination.

“Lessons learned from COVID 19 suggest that safety and security of destination and nature-based destinations attract considerable attention. Bearing this in mind we are trying to keep up with trends. It is worth mentioning that the promotional destination video entitled ‘Nature & Me’, released by the National Tourism Organization of Montenegro has won the silver award at the III International Tourism Film Festival Africa (ITFFA), in the thematic category of Tourism Destination – Countries. Building on this, it is reasonable to expect a new destination tagline in the coming times”,Đurović concluded.