American Times with Montenegrin Minister of Sustainable Development & Tourism: Mr. Branimir Gvozdenovic

The American Times Presents: Montenegrin Minister of Sustainable Development & Tourism: Mr. Branimir Gvozdenovic

Montenegro’s grand natural landscape is by and far its most bountiful and valuable asset. Visiting the Ministry controlling the vast tenders accounting for the bulk of the FDI in the country, we take a moment with the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Branimir Gvozdenovic, to discuss what current investments are still out there and how word-of-mouth is the best way to brand Montenegro’s beauty.

 

AT: What promotional activities are you doing for the tourism sector here in Montenegro?

Minister:  Montenegro is a young and relatively unknown country having renewed its independence only 7 years ago [from Serbia] and from that moment on Montenegro has become a matter of discussion. Although the Balkans has been considered a turbulent region, our country has refrained from any wars in the recent years making us a peaceful nation. As such, we became known as a destination which would accept displaced persons during the conflicts in the Balkans. I think the real key is that we are maybe one of the few countries in the world that has sustained independence through referendum adherence rather than through war. These were of course major contributing factors as to why every country in the world recognized our independence and sovereignty within a span of 10 days. So, through all this a message was sent out to the world that we are a different type of Balkan nation, a peaceful nation, and I think that is where our promotion began and continues.

…we would like to see more US investments and we hope that our pending NATO membership will draw in much more interest from that part of the globe

Following this we had a strong notion to rapidly develop and promote tourism. Through these initial efforts we became a leader in FDI per capita in all of Europe. But despite all these encouraging factors we are aware that we are not widely known and needed to engage in further promotional efforts. To that end, we signed contracts with CNN and launched a diverse internet campaign. However, CNN was the primary outlet as it represents a strong reach that especially benefits young states. We’ve scaled back these television campaigns in recent years in favor of the aforementioned internet e-campaigns.

We are just now beginning to expand our promotional efforts to the large Eastern Markets (Middle East & Russia) and in the West towards the US & Canada via joint private and public tourism fairs throughout these regions. Importantly, is the word of mouth from current investors which has the benefit of reaching their internal networks and represents tremendous value to our image; a supplement to our ongoing promotional efforts.

AT: So whether for promotional efforts or investment opportunities the government, as a guideline, is primarily looking at developing PPPs for growth?

Minister: Absolutely. We have many tenders in place to showcase to interested investors.

What are some of the challenges within your sector that we can address directly for our investors today?

There is a seasonality concern in the north where workers only have a certain part of the year when skiing tourists are around. We need to develop more opportunities in the region with a focus on minimizing this issue to keep a steady stream of guests throughout the year. Developing rural areas is a major priority for the government and therefore these mountain area projects are of particular interest. Aside from this, as mentioned earlier, we need to promote our country more broadly as a whole along with the very specific investment opportunities. I think in both areas we are certainly making strides but of course we need private business people to help us obtain our ultimate goals.

AT: We’ve spent a lot of time in the Balkans and it’s unusual to see so many Russian and Middle Eastern investments. Aside from Peter Munk, a prominent Canadian businessman and head of the Porto Montenegro compound in Kotor Bay, why are there so few Western investments?

In the last 10 years, roughly €6 Billion has been invested in Montenegro. Currently within the tourism sector there are 10 contracts signed for a total of €3 Billion with two of them coming from North American firms. Aside from that, in the previous period for investments, 40% came from European Union countries and 15% from Russia. In general, we would like to see more US investments and we hope that our pending NATO membership will draw in much more interest from that part of the globe where they tend to need more security before making any movements.

AT: So you consider near term NATO accession (and eventual EU accession) as the primary confidence factor for investors?

Minister: Certainly. Look at Albania for example, a country less developed than Montenegro but boasts many American investments. So we are highly confident that NATO accession will entice more US capital for us too.

AT: The American Times toured the country with your staff over the past week, from the coast to the mountains in the north, to look at pre-defined government investment sites. Out of these 10 sites what are the top 3 that represent the strongest interest from the government for development?

Minister: A key notion that must be cemented in any investors mind is that we are vigorously promoting the three main regions in the country in order to spread the wealth. This means the coast in the south, Lake Skadar in the center and the mountain region to the north. Our country is small but offers very different opportunities from eco-lodges in the Lake to resorts on the coast and ski-lodges in the mountains. An added benefit of our size is the distance between these sites is relatively minimal. Specific opportunities of unique importance, starting from the coast, is the Velika Plaža (beach) and Valdanos Bay. There is the ancient Lesendro Fortress in Lake Skadar and the mountain region offers ski-resort development tenders near the amazing Durmitor National Park in Žabljak followed by Kalac mountain range.

 

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AT: Let’s elaborate on some of your success stories?

I think it’s important to underline that we have investors from all over the world bringing with them different values and knowledge. That fact also lends itself to the broad appeal that Montenegro has for the worldwide investor community. Peter Munk from the Porto Montenegro investment is a major bright spot and precedence for future investors. I would say following that would be the Lustica Bay investment which has Central European and Egyptian capital. Thirdly, I would mention the recent Azeri investment that has generated a lot of positive energy. Finally, an interesting example that illustrates domestic and foreign capital converging and a project that will raise the standards of investments here in Montenegro is the Atlas Capital Center (non-tourism investment).

Some interesting guests we’ve hosted on our coast are Madonna, Brad Pitt and the Rolling Stones when they played a concert here in 2007.

AT: That’s surely a testament to the services and lodging opportunities available on the coast! Where did they stay?

Minister: They were here at different times but some stayed at small luxury boutique hotels like the Forza Mare in Kotor while others stayed at the Splendid Hotel in Budva and still others at the Aman Sveti Stefan Resort on Milocer Beach.

PERSONAL MESSAGE:

If uniqueness is a quality you hold dear and you recognize that few big life chances come around, then take a deep breath and come to Montenegro. This is where endless beauty will render you speechless and opportunities are bountiful for the seeker at the earliest stages.

 

For More Information: Montenegro Ministry of Tourism

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