More than two million tourists visited Montenegro last year and nearly 12.5 million overnight stays were achieved. If we talk about finances, data from the Central Bank show that revenues from foreign tourists amounted to EUR 1.054 billion. All this indicates that last year’s season was more than successful. However, despite the achieved results, the records achieved by the country in 2019 have not yet been broken.
Everyone expects a lot from the upcoming season – both the state and the economy. The announcements are excellent, hoteliers are satisfied with the reservations, and record visits were recorded at the very beginning of the year. And will the results from 2019 finally be surpassed?
The Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism told the portal eKapija that, although the beginning of the season in the north of Montenegro was marked by uncertainty regarding snowfall, now we can already talk about a successful winter tourist season.
– When it comes to the south, there was great interest from the very beginning of the year, and the names of regional music stars and excellent programs of local tourist organizations ensured that attendance was good. Accommodation facilities were very full during the New Year holidays – they tell us from MERT.
According to the data of the Monstat Administration of Statistics, 32,177 tourists stayed in collective accommodation during January, 63.53% more compared to the same period last year, and 19.24% compared to the same period of the record year 2019. Also, since January 21, when the ski season officially started, ski centers have been recording good attendance. Data from the Kolašin 1600 ski resort show that visits to that ski center reached the figure of 80,000 visitors, and the total income from the beginning of the season until March 10 is more than EUR 1.2 million.
– Summarizing all the statistical indicators, we can really be satisfied with the results. This season proved that Montenegro is increasingly becoming a year-round destination, which, even in the absence of large amounts of snowfall, can attract tourists with various contents and be an attractive destination for tourists from numerous markets – the Ministry states.
Expectations from the summer season
Speaking about the season ahead, this government department says that they welcome it ready and with a lot of optimism.
– The expectations are that, if the current growth trends continue, we will reach the record level of 2019, but also record an increase. Bearing in mind numerous planned activities in the direction of better preparation of the season, we expect that there will be an increase in tourist traffic, i.e. the number of overnight stays by foreign guests and income from tourism. In addition to the above, our goal is to encourage more tourists from high-paying markets, increase consumption per tourist, as well as the period of stay at our destination – according to the Ministry of eKapija.
The Chamber of Commerce of Montenegro (PKCG) also has high expectations for the summer season. As they told our portal, the representatives of the tourism industry are satisfied with the booking and have good announcements of arrivals from Western and Central Europe, Israel, as well as the region.
– Based on established guidelines, marketing efforts were aimed at increasing the number of tourists from key emission markets. Good air connectivity is one of the key factors of a successful tourist season. It is necessary to create a portfolio of new products that will attract tourists, above all in the period before and after the season. Attracting tourists with greater spending power needs to be achieved by increasing the number of tourists from priority emission markets, diversifying and innovating products and increasing the number of tourist arrivals outside the main tourist season – say the Chamber.
As they state, modern tourists today increasingly want to experience the unique and authentic elements of a certain destination – people, culture, life, and in that way they definitely convey their experience and recommendations about Montenegro. Top experiences, usually built around recognizable attractions, will become a key component of Montenegro’s positioning.
– It is necessary to significantly improve guest satisfaction with tourist services. The goal is to increase the quality of the offered accommodation through new catering models. It is necessary to create recognizable and high-quality catering establishments that will raise their quality and competitiveness. The tourism sector is currently very diverse and has a low level of global brand recognition. This initiative will create a series of official labels of the Montenegro brand for accommodation, in order to raise awareness, attractiveness and perception of the quality of catering products of Montenegro – PKCG added.
Accommodation facilities in the north
Speaking about accommodation capacities in Montenegro, MERT says that the development of the north of Montenegro is one of the priorities of this department. As they state, this region has a serious potential for growth and competition with the coastal region in the coming years, which is evidenced by the fact that, when we talk about the economic citizenship project, eight out of a total of 12 projects from the development list are located in the north (seven in Kolašin, one in Žabljak ).
– These are high-category hotels, the value of which is projected at EUR 113.8 million, and the plan is to put into operation the total capacity of over a thousand accommodation units to create conditions for the opening of close to 800 new jobs. In the context of the development of tourism and economy, we expect that such a development flywheel in those municipalities will seriously position the north of Montenegro, and the Ministry is continuously working on its promotion and improving the quality of the existing offer – they state.
The Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism says that, among the numerous activities that are carried out in preparation for the upcoming season, there are also those that concern the positioning of Montenegro on international markets.
– In cooperation with the National Tourism Organization and the tourism industry, MERT participated in significant international fairs and exchanges in Tel Aviv, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Berlin and Vienna. The visits to the mentioned fairs were satisfactory, because, based on the contacts of Montenegrin businessmen with their partners and the expressed interest of the visitors, an increased number of tourists from these destinations is expected – they state.
Air availability of the destination – Increased number of flights and new markets
Bearing in mind that Montenegro is the dominant airline destination in relation to the target markets, activities are also aimed at improving airline availability, primarily towards the countries of Central, Western and Northern Europe, as well as other high-paying markets.
– MERT, in cooperation with numerous foreign partners, invests significant efforts in this regard. In this sense, our engagement is characterized by intensive cooperation with Air Montenegro, Airports of Montenegro, as well as with hoteliers, NTO Montenegro and other partners. Also, there is intensive communication with numerous airlines, such as: Isr Air, Lux Air, Air Astana and Flynas. In this way, we influence the intensification of tourist movements, in terms of increasing the number of frequencies during the season and the potential extension of the flight period – say the department.
Speaking about new markets, they say that their goal is to predominantly focus on high-paying ones.
– As a reminder, in the structure of foreign guests, the most arrivals in 2022 were tourists from the region, followed by tourists from Germany, France, Israel and Great Britain. According to the mentioned structure, it can be stated that instead of Russia, from which the number of arrivals decreased due to known reasons, one of the positions among the top five was occupied by Germany. If, in addition to the above, we take into account the fact that over the last few years there has been a continuous high participation of tourists from France and Great Britain, we can say with pleasure that the strategic goal we are striving for is being achieved, which is for the countries of Western Europe to be in the group preferred emission markets for Montenegro – they state.
When it comes to air availability, the national airline Air Montenegro told our portal that last year they connected Montenegro with 16 destinations, including Paris, Nantes, Lyon, Zurich, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Prague , Banja Luka, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Katowice, Yerevan, Bratislava and Cairo.
– In addition to the mentioned destinations, this year the Montenegrin national airline continues to expand its network and introduce new destinations. The number of flights between Montenegro and Poland has been doubled, and in addition to Katowice, it is planned to launch an additional line to Rzeszów, the largest city in southeastern Poland. France remains an important market, so in addition to Paris, Nantes and Lyon, two new destinations in Normandy are planned – Air Montenegro told us.
Airports set records
Montenegro Airport told eKapija that during the first two months of this year, they broke records in terms of the number of passengers.
– From January 1 to March 12, we served 232,000 passengers, which is about 20% more than in the pre-pandemic year of 2019. Of that, at Podgorica Airport we served about 195,000 passengers, 30% more compared to 2019, while Tivat Airport is at about 80% of the results compared to the same comparative period.
In addition, in January 2023, in competition with 44 European countries, Montenegro achieved the fifth growth in air traffic compared to the same period in 2019. This is shown by ACI (Airports Council International) statistics.
They also state that during the last summer IATA season, Podgorica was connected with up to 32 destinations, and Tivat with up to 28. When it comes to the current winter IATA season, Podgorica Airport has 18 active routes, namely Athens, Barcelona, Belgrade , Vienna, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Dortmund, Istanbul, Krakow, Ljubljana, London Stansted, Luxembourg, Manchester, Memmingen, Milan, Rome, Zagreb. Tivat Airport is connected to Belgrade and Istanbul.
– Montenegrin airports have preliminary traffic announcements for the summer IATA season, which begins at the end of March and lasts until the end of October. The announcements are extremely encouraging and, accordingly, we expect better results compared to 2019. However, we traditionally form a clearer picture at the end of March and April when the indication of the season is more visible and when the degree of certainty of the announced traffic is relatively high – they told us from this company.
Also, they add, Brno is another new city to which flights will be made during the summer season.
– While the national airline will fly to Prague up to four times a week, significantly more compared to last year. This year we will also have direct flights to another important market, so we are already planning traffic to Riga, Vilnius and Tallinn from May – they add.
The national airline company also says that two planes are planned to be leased for this year, which is a necessary prerequisite in order to ensure the best possible connection of Montenegro as a tourist destination.
– The plane with a larger capacity will operate starting from March 31, while the plan stipulates that the fourth plane will fly during the main summer season, when traffic is most efficient. Intensive traffic is already planned in the pre-season, that is, from April and May, and flights on some routes will be realized until the end of October – conclude from Air Montenegro.
Can Montenegro become a year-round tourist destination?
Despite the aspirations to become a year-round tourist destination, Montenegro is still characterized by distinct seasonality. The Ministry of Economic Development tells us that the tourist offer is continuously developing, but it is still not at the desired level.
– Nevertheless, the quality and variety of the offer is growing year by year. Considering the growing number of tourists who, as nature lovers, visit Montenegro in the periods before and after the summer season, we undertake additional efforts with the aim of further diversifying the tourist product, in order to create the conditions for Montenegro to be recognized as a year-round destination on the one hand, as and in order to achieve additional economic effects from tourism, on the other hand – they tell us from this department.
As they state, the plan for the preparation of the summer season in 2023 also includes numerous activities related to supporting the economy through a program of incentive measures in the field of tourism, improving the education of personnel in the tourism sector, improving the offer in the segments of health, rural, cultural and nature-based tourism .
– We look forward to this season, with the obligation that we all be fully committed to the realization of our activities, because only by working together can we contribute to raising the quality level of a complex tourist product, both this season and the following seasons, and all in the sense of not only fulfilling, but also overcoming expectations of tourists – they add.
The problem of seasonality was also pointed out by the Chamber of Commerce.
– Tourism in Montenegro is still a highly seasonal activity, since two-thirds of the income is generated during only three summer months (June, July and August). In this regard, it is necessary to work on overcoming business barriers and designing encouraging measures that will attract guests in the period outside the main tourist season – PKCG told our portal.
As they point out, Montenegro is not only a summer bathing destination, but also a destination that has something to offer lovers of active vacations in the winter months.
– To improve the winter season, it is necessary to define a platform for the sustainable development of mountain centers based on three basic pillars: sustainable development and planning, investments; incentives and public-private partnership, as well as marketing and branding of mountain centers. The development of ski centers and mountains as tourist destinations not only creates new jobs and attracts numerous tourists, but also develops other branches of the economy – the Chamber states.
They are of the opinion that in order to create a complex tourist offer, it is necessary to connect the coast and the hinterland, to extend the season, which would also give the north an additional development impulse. At the same time, additional high-category hotel facilities are needed, which generate the greatest economic effects for GDP, employment, state revenues and the extension of the season.
– Montenegro’s determination is to create a high-quality tourist product, which implies an intensive improvement of the quality of the overall infrastructure, not only of the hotel and catering facilities and the facilities they own. In this sense, large investments of the state and private capital are needed in order to improve infrastructure and traffic availability. Tourism is a very sensitive branch of the economy that stands at the end of the chain of cause-and-effect relationships in all spheres of society, and in that sense we all have to plan it together carefully and long-term – they add.
Year after year, the same problem – shortage of qualified labor force
One of the biggest problems affecting the tourism industry, not only in Montenegro, but also in the entire region, is certainly the lack of qualified workforce. Everyone agrees on this – tourism workers, the state, tourist organizations and business associations. However, how to solve this problem?
– The deficit of personnel with appropriate knowledge and skills is present in almost all segments of tourism. The problem of lack of manpower in seasonal jobs is particularly pronounced and represents one of the business barriers. Although the tourism industry is permanently committed to creating an environment in Montenegro where domestic workers are the priority in employment, the current supply of professional staff in the tourism sector is not satisfactory – said the Chamber of Commerce for eKapija.
In order to alleviate this problem, they say, the Chamber initiated the introduction of the “permanent seasonal worker” category at the competent institutions.
– In this way, we would motivate the unemployed to retrain and have secure permanent seasonal employment and income throughout the year in accordance with the positive experiences of EU countries. The system provides financial support to workers – seasonal workers in the period when they are not working, and in order to ensure the necessary workforce to employers from all industries who during the year have periods of reduced volume of work due to the seasonal type of business. These are persons who have worked continuously for at least 6 months with the same employer and who will work with the same employer for at least 1 more season (at least 6 months) – the PKCG explains.
Also, it is necessary to amend the Labor Law in the part of performing temporary jobs and pass the Law on Student Cooperatives, which would enable more flexible engagement of the domestic workforce and students as a special category, during the summer season.
– It is necessary to approach and draft a new strategy for the development of human resources in the tourism sector in Montenegro, and all this should be accompanied by centers for specialist education of personnel of all profiles. It is necessary to emphasize the simplification and digitization of employment procedures, to create an electronic portal for the registration of seasonal workers, as well as to implement Art. 81 of the Law on Foreigners, which stipulates that when applying for a permit for the seasonal employment of a foreigner, biometric data can be taken at our embassies and consular offices. In this way, a foreigner would come to Montenegro only when he receives a permit for seasonal work, which would shorten waiting times at the counters and reduce the employer’s costs – they add.
As they state, the Chamber of Commerce, as a business association whose basic activity is the representation of the interests of its membership before decision-makers and policy makers, as well as advocating for the creation of a favorable and predictable business environment, has been pointing to the challenges its membership faces for a long time when in the matter of hiring seasonal labor, especially in the tourism sector.
– This led us to the implementation of certain activities through projects financed by international donors. Solving the current problems related to this issue would lead to the suppression of the gray economy and the reduction of informal employment – they point out.
During 2020, the Chamber was a partner in the project “Increasing employment opportunities for seasonal workers in Southeast Europe”, which was implemented in cooperation with the National Alliance for Local Economic Development from Serbia and the Government of Montenegro with the support of German Development Cooperation. Through that framework, they say, an initiative was launched to improve the efficiency of the seasonal workforce engagement system in tourism. As part of the project, an Analysis of the system of hiring seasonal workers in the tourism sector in Montenegro was done, in which a detailed description of the current situation was given in order to identify problems and define recommendations for the implementation of the reform.
– Through this project, a reform model was proposed, which is based on examples of best practices from the countries of the region and beyond, the adjustment of the legal framework in order to create conditions for more flexible engagement of seasonal labor, and the improvement of the information system, i.e. the development of an electronic web portal that will enable a unified electronic registration of seasonal workers, according to the principle of registration in one place – say our interlocutors.
After the completion of the first phase of the project, which resulted from the aforementioned analysis, there was a delay in the approval of the continuation of the project by the Government of Montenegro.
– The Chamber of Commerce recognizes the opportunity to once again put this issue on the agenda and request the full support of the relevant ministries, both in terms of acceptance and support in the implementation of this project – they point out.
In accordance with the conclusions of the Competitiveness Council, the second phase of the project, which was financed by GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation), began. The Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism and the Chamber of Commerce of Montenegro are responsible for the implementation of the project.
– Through the first phase of the project, a comprehensive analysis of seasonal employment in Montenegro, a technical specification of the software and a policy document (current situation, proposed reform and expected results of the reform) were prepared. In order to improve the current practice in relation to seasonal employment in tourism, the project intends to apply the best experiences gained through the implementation of earlier projects in the region, above all the improvement of existing procedures and the development of software for the electronic registration of seasonal workers – they say.
The Chamber Indicates that the proposed reform would contribute to simplifying and shortening the procedures for registering workers, i.e. improving the efficiency of the system of engaging seasonal labor in tourism, increasing the number of formally engaged seasonal workers in this sector, as well as increasing budget revenues based on paid taxes and contributions.
– There is no development of tourism without quality personnel. The business is looking for people who have knowledge and skills and who are ready and committed to quickly learn and acquire new knowledge. What is being worked on, and needs to be continued even more intensively, is to motivate young people, reform the education system in accordance with the needs of the economy and strengthen support for informal education. Also, by providing scholarships to students and giving subsidies to businessmen, activities aimed at affirming deficit occupations and involving companies in the process of dual education should be continued – concludes the PKCG.