Tourist businessmen in Boka announce a more than good season that must not be spoiled by anything. They are currently afraid of ferry traffic, which is not operating at full capacity. The crowds are already building, and the season is just around the corner.
As the interlocutors of Pobjeda pointed out, if things do not proceed as promised, the whole of Boka will collapse. However, they hope that the authorities who work on it are aware of this, while they promote the destination and attract guests.
The government has promised a sufficient number of ferries by the summer season, but tourism businessmen appeal that the procurement should be accelerated because larger groups of tourists are coming already in a month.
Crowds in Kotor already
And in Kotor, the crowds have already started. As the residents of this town said, cars and trucks with Herzegovinian license plates never passed by. The old town is still full of foreign tourists.
Bojan Joketić, director of the Forza Mare Hotel, restaurant and pastry shop in Kotor and Porto Montenegro, told Pobjeda that the problem is that this city does not have a bypass.
– As soon as the cruise ships arrive and the trucks pass through Kotor, there is an immediate standstill. In previous years, this did not happen until April 15, and this year it is already crowded – says Joketić, who is satisfied with business during the winter. Also, according to the announcements, they expect a good upcoming season.
However, according to him, the ferry will be a problem if the promise is not fulfilled and more vessels are not procured
– This has always been a problem. Even when everything was working as it should, it was crowded, and now only. You now have two vessels that do not operate at night. If they provide five or six ferries, it will be better, but if they don’t, then the whole of Boka is in a big problem. Kotor has one street and all the trucks that pass by immediately create a traffic jam – says Joketić, adding that cruise ships start arriving on April 1st and the procurement of vessels should be accelerated because larger groups of tourists are expected at the end of April.
As for the season, according to the announcements, he says it will be very good.
– Our hotels are already 70% booked for this season and the greatest interest is from Great Britain. Thus, in the last 10 years, Boka has focused on this market the most – notes Joketić and believes that it would be much better if the airport in Tivat worked in the evening hours, as this would avoid incredible crowds in the summer.
– We hope for a peaceful and good season, however we are afraid of some laws that are passed ad hoc. They just need to let us work – says Joketić.
He also says that among the guests there are a lot of Americans who come via Dubrovnik.
– Unfortunately, we don’t have a large number of them yet, but in the last two or three years it has been growing, thanks to direct flights with Dubrovnik. All these people come to Montenegro. However, there are abnormal crowds at the border crossing in the summer. Now it is not indifferent to the Croats that all those who come to Dubrovnik want to visit Montenegro. In the summer, there are big traffic jams. I know we had dissatisfaction last year because the guests knew they had to wait all day because they travel 100 kilometers in seven to eight hours – emphasizes Joketić, adding that, in addition to all the beauty of Dubrovnik, Americans come through this city to visit Montenegro because we have One&Only, a brand which no one has in the region or in Europe.
– We have something that no one else in the area has, and we don’t know how to use it. It is the best brand in the world. Croatia does not have such a brand. Aman used to have the clientele that One&Only has now – reminds Joketić.
He emphasizes that airlines are a problem for them and that if connectivity is better, hotels would work for them all year round and would be a year-round destination.
Starting this summer, Blue Kotor Bay Premium Spa Resort will operate under a new brand – entering the 2023 season as Hyatt Regency Kotor Bay.
The director of sales of this hotel, Lidija Božović, says that this year is very important for them, because on June 1st they will start operating under a new name and brand. This resort has been open since 2020 and has been operating with positive results.
A large number of guests arrive from Tivat airport, but guests from Great Britain, Western Europe and America arrive from Dubrovnik airport. That is why it is very important to them that the ferry line works well.
– We believe that everything will be fine with the ferry. It is very important for us to have stable traffic, since guests, in addition to promoted natural beauty, quality hotels and local culture, also expect efficient traffic infrastructure. If the ferry line has difficulty operating with a small number of vessels and reduced capacity, I hope we will find out in time so that we can organize and prepare for the season, because there is a possibility to bring guests by sea as well – says Božović.
He claims that the markets of Western Europe and America are primary for them and that they are counting on them this year precisely because of the new brand, which is one of the five most famous in the world.
– With the entry of Hayat, we gain a new position, not only us, but the whole of Montenegro. It will be a big step forward both for us and for this destination – claims Božović.
He points out that with the arrival of Hyatt, they are also opening up to the American market.
– Hyatt is the world’s leading hotel company with more than 1,200 hotels worldwide. They operate in 74 countries on six continents, and this is their first hotel in Montenegro. There are over 37 million users in their loyalty program, which means that Montenegro will become visible to all of them. If only a small part of them come to our country, it will be a success for us – claims Božović.
He reminds that they have been open since 2020 and that they have decided to operate throughout the year.
– The situation has changed since last year. Out of season, regional markets are represented. We also cover the corporate part, because we have developed congress tourism. We will develop this segment even more in the future, because we are building the largest conference center in Boka, which will be ready next year. We are currently preparing additional hotel capacities and expect the best season so far – says Božović, revealing that they have already signed a lot of contracts and are expecting a large number of guests this year.
– Now we mostly have guests from the region, and from mid-April we expect larger groups from Western Europe. We have an intense and interesting season ahead of us in all segments and we expect it to be successful. Airlines are also important to us. It would also be good if the Tivat airport had night flights, which would ease the pressure during the day – believes Božović.
As for the workforce, it makes it easier for them to work all year round, but they also need reinforcements during the season because at one point there will be 500 guests in the resort.
– Like other hoteliers, we also face the challenge of finding a quality workforce. We are present at employment fairs, we cooperate with schools and faculties for tourism, and since we are recognized as a stable employer, we also have a certain number of workers who are employed seasonally for the fourth year in a row, which speaks in favor of the fact that Blue Kotor Bay is a good place to work – says Božović, who announces that from May to the end of September, she will employ around 300 workers, as required by this five-star complex.
The director of marketing and sales of the Casa del Mare hotel group, Milena Milić, said that their expectations are high when it comes to this season, according to the announcements that are already excellent, so they expect an earlier start of the season when groups from Great Britain and Western Europe come to them while they expect greater interest from the region during the holidays.
– Hotel Casa del Mare Mediterraneo operates all year round, while the other five hotels open at the beginning of April. We are also preparing the opening of the new Casa del Mare Mangata hotel in Budva, our first hotel on the Budva Riviera, which will open its doors to guests at the beginning of the upcoming season. In everything we do, we try to promote, first of all, the destination, and then our hotels as a reflection of the local character and the offer in emerging markets. On the other hand, we believe that the current transition of ferry traffic will be resolved quickly according to the promises of the authorities, so we don’t even want to think about a problem of this nature in the season. We believe and hope that this issue will be regulated as soon as possible, because we are all aware that it could be a big problem for all of Boka. This year we expect an excellent season, according to the announcements, which are much better than last year in this period – says Milić, who believes that nothing should spoil it.
– Even in the winter period, we had a lot of guests from the region, but also guests from Western Europe, Great Britain, guests from China began to return after a three-year break. We are seeing an increase in guests from the market of Turkey, where we have regular flights, followed by Russia, the United States of America, via Dubrovnik. We try to be represented on as many markets as possible, not to rely on just one – emphasizes Milić.
In addition to road and ferry traffic, he emphasizes that airlines are also very important to them, because good air connectivity is a prerequisite for successful tourism.
– In April, we are bringing a group of 30 tour operators and agents from the markets of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They will stay with us for a few days, and it is up to us to introduce them to our hotels and Montenegro as a destination that they say they are not sufficiently familiar with. There has been a huge increase in interest from those markets, the DACH region. These are carefully selected agents, whose interests are close to the sentiment of our hotels, and we will try to show them, in addition to our facilities, the whole country in the best light, through numerous excursions and unique gastronomic experiences – emphasizes Milić.
Before the pandemic, one of their top five markets was the United States of America, this year there is a possibility that they will return in that number, which they consider very positive.
– Since last year, we have had a tendency to increase tourist arrivals from North America, and already this year, if one knows the day by morning, in the first two or three months they are on par with other dominant markets. I believe that there is a possibility that at the end of the year, the trend of arrivals of these tourists will return to the way it was before the pandemic – claims Milić.
Guests must not wait
On this occasion, as they arrive by direct airline to the airport in Dubrovnik, they hope that the problem of long waits at the border with Croatia will be solved.
– It is another hot topic in the preparation of this season. When guests arrive or return to the airport, they complain about long waits. That has to be solved somehow – Milić points out.
Their hotel In Kamenari operates all year round precisely to preserve the labor force, which he says is increasingly difficult to find.
– Good staff and the right team of people should be preserved, because they are the most responsible for the successful operation of the hotel. It is challenging to find quality people, and when we find them, we do everything to keep them as part of the team, to improve their skills. Hotel operation in the winter period is often not financially profitable, but considering that we had positive financial results this winter, our tendency is to leave more hotels open throughout the year, which will certainly affect the increase in the number of permanent employees in our company – Milić points out.
Lighthouse Hotel Director Jovan Vukalović announces a record season.
– The arrangement with the partner with whom we cooperated in 2018 and 2019 has just started to rent the renovated part of the hotel until the beginning of the season in which the entire capacity is sold out. This is the result of long-term cooperation with traditional partners, and the interest that exists on their part significantly exceeds the number of accommodation units at our disposal – says Vukalović.
He hopes that the Initial problems, which arose when taking over the ferry line, have been overcome and that the activities undertaken by Morsko dobro will function in accordance with the needs of citizens and tourists.
There are no workers, and wages are never better
Joketić claims that they still have a workforce problem, even though wages have increased significantly.
– This problem is evident throughout Europe, even in Germany and other much more developed countries. Something is happening. I don’t know how to explain it, but generally people won’t work. We have to import labor and wages are never higher in the hotel industry. However, interest is weak. Before you could choose from the offered candidates, but now we have to accept them all. They used to come from the north to work, and in the last two years there is none of that – said Joketić, noting that they have a domestic workforce, but also the region, and in recent years they have also been turning to the Philippines, Mexico, Turkey…
Vukalović: Difficulty crossing the Croatian border is also a problem
Vukalović notes that what could be a problem is the difficult crossing of the Croatian border for small vehicles and vans, both for ours and for Croatian car carriers, which seriously threatens the quality of service for guests using Ćilipi airport.
– We believe that it would be necessary for the competent authorities to be maximally involved in finding a solution because the number of guests using that airport is very large. Although reciprocity, which we use to protect our market, makes it impossible for Croatian car carriers (small vans and vans) to carry out transportation, we believe that it should not be insisted on because it is not in our interest at this moment – claims Vukalović. He believes that, in addition, a solution must be found for guests who are in transit and who form kilometer-long lines at the border, which leads to the fact that even when there are no legal arrangements for making transfers, they are not made or are made only from the airport to the Croatian border, from where guests are directed to cross the part between Croatia and our side on foot – said Vukalović.