Q: The readers of Kongres magazine chose you as one of the most influential people in the South East European Meetings industry. What does this recognition mean to you?

The most valuable thing for me is that it is coming from other professionals who I believe cherish the same values, characteristics and standards. In my opinion, this is proof of trust in the first place. It would be a lie not to mention this is a personal satisfaction, especially now when I am away from home and I need to prove myself in a destination I knew nothing about, and nobody knew me.

Working in tourism is really like a psychological phenomena. You always put your own needs last and push for other people’s happiness, letting your obsessive complex disorder play with the symmetry of tables and glasses on the tables and praying for others to see it. There is endlessly something else to improve, another detail to organise, to make better… And at the end of the day you expect nothing; you are just so happy if people smile back at you.

So, this recognition comes with a huge smile. It does have a certain weight for me, because I still feel very young and I want to accomplish so much more and do great things in this beautiful industry.

Q: If you look back at the 2016, what would you say were your major achievements?

My dear friend recently told me: you love your job so much that you would pay others just to do it!

At the end of 2016 this sentence really sums up my major achievement. Seen and felt by others, this love and dedication towards my job will always be my biggest gratitude. In June 2015 I moved from Croatia to Montenegro with the goal of “putting together“ Hotel Budva. I told myself that we need to become the landmark of the city of Budva, the first and only hotel to choose when deciding about this destination. I wanted us to become a recognized brand. Independent, yes, but brand. I am always driven by passion, so I would not tolerate moving to another country and not being able to achieve what I came for.

Coming to this country, even so close to my homeland, the crucial thing was to learn from domestic professionals. Everything was so different for me. I stayed completely open to the culture and habits, but I did not step away from my standards and work discipline, and of course my beliefs.

Budva is a specific destination, a seasonal destination, and being open all year round is not an easy task. Finishing a year with more then 70% occupancy and average rate above the city average for 4 star hotels in the destination, after just 2 years of operation, is our biggest achievement. Shaken by some traditions and habits, facing obstacles like infrastructure, air connectivity, roads, lack of work force, I was thinking whether to adapt to the “easy“ way or to stay loyal to the “high“ way. When it was hardest I turned to my staff, gave them the power they needed, we made decisions together, and our relationship grew day by day. Sometimes they would come and say that I press them, but at the end of the day they are aware why I am doing this and they told me they are grateful because they learned a lot. At the same time they are not aware of the fact of how much I learned from them.

Hotel Budva is very stylish hotel, contemporary, with young energy and a good atmosphere all the time. It represents me in every aspect, and my philosophy. Smiling is not hard for us, as I have taught them that to have fun is the most important thing. Becoming friends with so many people in Montenegro, and the way they have accepted me, is very rewarding.

I am not sure if it is a good thing or not, but my 10-year old girl told me recently that she does not want to be a fashion designer any longer, but rather a hotel manager. Plus, she gave me some advice on the minibar – to add some more sweets to it, because we have only one sweet item and two salty items (and there is no balance in it)!

Q: 2017 – New Year, new plans, new business objectives?

The biggest plan is to finish our congress centre in the following month or two.

Everything we have earned this year basically went into this huge investment. We are developing the most contemporary conference area in Montenegro with state of the art technical equipment and design. I jokingly say this is a room with a view, as the whole meeting space overlooks the marina, sea and mountains. Due to this additional facility in our hotel, we have changed our business politics completely compared to 2016. We are all excited for the new era ahead at Hotel Budva and my staff is looking forward to developing in this field as well. We are now dealing with some other issues, like planning the execution of events, number of chairs, how many additional plates we need, what kind, which tablecloths to choose, how to name a room…

With this conference room we are definitely becoming a Montenegrin leader in the hospitality industry and our main goal is to keep up with high standards, to grow MICE business and to open to niche markets as Montenegro is finally getting many more low cost airline companies and direct flights. One thing that will always be top priority is to keep satisfying our guests and providing them with exceptional service. Not to mention that I always want to beat the competition!

Q: Which event are you looking forward to attend next year and why?

The first event I will attend this year is Conventa, of course, as I believe it is the most important platform for business exchange in our region. It is one of the investments that pays off well. One cannot only develop new relationships, but we also get the insight of new trends and issues in tourism in the region and worldwide. It is also a great way to promote your business and to spread the word about the destinations.

Other ones that are very close to my heart are conferences related to students. I am proud to have been part of the International Conferences of Students in Tourism and Hotels in 2016, in Budva and Novi Sad, and I am expecting those in 2017 will bring even bigger success. The most rewarding thing is when you are able to transfer your knowledge to youngsters, when you are able to transfer your passion and dedication to others. When 400 students are actively listening to your every word, when they participate in Q&A sessions, when they encourage you to tell them stories, you realize that there is so much more behind the numbers and statistics.

Q: Which trends do you believe will shape the meetings industry in 2017?

Unfortunately tourism has become a perishable thing – you can be amongst the top destinations and then the next thing you know is you have empty airports and empty hotels. Some other, very bad and ugly things have started to shape tourism and the success of specific destinations.

In my opinion, the one and only trend that will be most important of all will be safety, safety and security. While other destinations will be completely shaken by terrorism threats, the others, maybe less known or developed, will experience its rise. People are saying that when one is down, the other will rise. Montenegro is definitely a country on the rise and I am happy to be a part of this experience now.

Other important political influences, or better to say unexpected political developments, like Great Britain getting out of EU, and a US hotelier becoming the US president, are also affecting and shaping new trends, while the world is still adapting to those changes.

A more tangible fact that is influencing the meeting industry is the Millennial generation and their habits. They grow together with technology and technology is moving beyond the basics. More and more data is collected through different apps, and more experiences are now gathered online. There is a continuous trend in using modern technology in the meeting industry and meeting planners have become professionals in the field of IT as well. As much as it is crucial to cope with these developments, I strongly plead to stay focused on one to one meetings, in person, while looking the other person in the eye and being able to shake their hand.

Q: What is your wish for 2017?

Hmm…I do not want this be a cliche, but there is one wish at the top of the list – and it is indeed world peace.

Besides that, there are so many personal and business-wise wishes, for myself and for others. The biggest would be to regain trust in the world. To have the possibility of feeling safe. To be able to explore the boundaries without fear and restraints. I wish for simplicity of affiliation, and ease in all kind of relationships, supported with strong values and ethics.

When walking through hotel corridors worldwide I would like to hear so much more love making, instead of fighting and negative feeling…so, let’s feel good and make more love, not war!