LUXURY IS A MATTER OF VISION
A lot has already been written about Montenegro becoming “a Monte Carlo of the Balkans” and we are constantly alerted to news of giant investment projects that will be delivered by wealthy Arab or Russian investors. As Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Đukanovič has stressed several times already, the fundamental reason for the rapid development lies in the fact that they have one of the most liberal economies in Balkans. Well, whatever that might actually mean, Montenegro is clearly changing rapidly and throws up new surprises from year to year. The facts speak louder than any words could: a 75-metre yacht in the French Antibes pier will cost around one million euros for a yacht quay, but such yacht in the Tivat pier will have the access to the same level of services and only pay 130 thousand euros per year for a yacht quay. Porto Montenegro is working in the direction for the owners to “leave” this amount with them, and with such a simple plan Montenegro is turning from mass tourism to elite travel.
We decided to verify this information and see for ourselves how the new investments have actually been progressing in 2017. We visited all of the listed facilities and construction sites in early June and discussed the progress with leading representatives of individual companies.
The first wave of major investment in Montenegro began in 2004, reaching a peak in 2007, and it could be said that the story of the Montenegrin luxury tourism started with an investment in the Splendid Conference and Spa Resort located in Bečići.
The construction of the five-star hotel cost from 80 to 100 million euros and the ownership is linked to the family of the former mayor of Moscow, Yury Mikhaylovich Luzhkov. Montenegro Stars, a mixed Russian-Montenegrin company, is headed up by Žarko Radulović, who is an influential tourist worker. The hotel is well run and after a decade of operating it is in extremely good shape and remains the symbol of luxury tourism in Budva. The congress element of the hotel works extremely well, as Hotel Splendid is the first real convention hotel on the Montenegrin coast that succeeded in bringing significant corporate and other events to Budva, which have left their mark on the last ten years of the destination.
The Gilded Early Birds
The fate of Tivat was once again in the frame when the picturesque bay caught the attention of Peter Munk, a Canadian businessman with Hungarian roots. In 2007 he sailed into Kotor Bay with his yacht, Queen of Drachs, and was immediately impressed by the position of the bay, so much so that the idea of a mega-yacht marina for vessels of up to 160-metres was born. Munk assembled his own friends who were all willing to invest: Lord Jacob Rothschild and his son Nathan from the renowned Rothschild banking dynasty, the French tycoon of luxury brands Bernard Arnault, and the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. The construction of the Adriatic Monte Carlo was immediately up and running and the first part of the Porte Montenegro marina was opened in 2009.
From Mass Tourism to Elite Travel
The Porto Montenegro project can be considered as the first step towards the transformation of the Montenegrin tourism industry, especially together with the opening of the newly constructed hotel by the Regent Hotels & Resorts company. The hotel has for four decades already been synonymous with luxury, sophistication and flawless service and the beautiful building in a Venetian style is also the first five-star hotel in Tivat.
This year the project will be expanded to the Regent Hotel Residences. As Roko Palmić, the Director of Marketing explained, the interest for residences is ‘outstanding’. As of last year, the new owners of Porto Montenegro is the investment company ICD (Investment Corporation of Dubai), which is the main investment company of Dubai. To date, there have been 447 million euros invested in the project, and approximately 40% of it is already completed. In the future, we can expect a further build of a smaller shipyard, a casino and new commercial buildings worth 100 million euros.
In the true spirit of their tradition, Aman Sveti Stefan remains at the top of the interest chart for tourists from all over the world with the deeper kind of pockets. The renovated Sveti Stefan hotel together with the Miločer Villa, which is managed by the world-famous tourist company Aman Resorts, offers high quality and a unique tourism experience for visitors with high purchasing power. The Aman company leased the island for 30 years and pays an annual rent of 2.1 million euros. After its opening in 2014 the hotel has been operating quite well and according to Marina Radjenović, the hotel’s sales representative, the hotel has also been attracting event organizers. Last year, the world premiere of the Jaguar F-Pace was held in the resort and the venue is also popular for weddings and exclusive, special incentive events.
A Revolution in the Capital
Once a sleepy town, a lot has also been happening in the Montenegrin capital city and today it offers the excellent Hilton Convention Hotel, which is a first-class conference hotel with 180 rooms and with the largest convention centre in the city. The Crystal Hall is suitable for 435 guests and it captivates with its sense of detail, including photographs of famous Montenegrin painters such as Lubarda, Stanić, and Milunović.
Quite the opposite but still a positive surprise is to be had in the urban CentreVille Hotel. Decorated in a modern industrial style it attracts the younger generation of guests and congress organizers. The trendy and urban hotel has brought a fresh breeze into the congress and hotel offer of the capital.
Luštica Bay and The Chedi hotel
The Egyptian company Orascom were granted a 99-year lease on a 6.5 million m2 plot on a peninsula, land that was obtained for 10 million euros under one condition – that they would need to invest 1.1 billion euros over 12 years in the construction of hotels, golf courses and villas. The construction site was full of workers on our visit, workers who had labored in the central part of the new Central City and on the site of The Chedi Hotel. Central to all this will be the new centre of the coastal tourist city being built in accordance with the principles of sustainable construction and various residential units will also be on the market. The construction of The Chedi hotel is having a particular resonance among the local scene, as it will be the largest five-star hotel and is planned to be opened next year. Work is also progressing on the construction of an 18-hole golf course that is designed by Gary Player.
Portonovi and the ‘One & Only’
At the entrance to Kotor Bay, the Portonovi tourism complex is being built at high speed. We got a chance to see the construction site and the entire project, and, as it would seem, phases 1 and 2 will be built on time, as scheduled and to the deadline. This already includes the constructed marina, the Lower Village apartments and the One & Only hotel. The resort will bring together a number of excellent brands; One & Only is a superior resort that will offer 120 luxury rooms and villas to the market. It will also include a Health Wellness Spa of the exclusive Espace Chenot brand, and renowned Harrods of London is also participating in the interior design. Furthermore, Winch design is a world famous studio specialized in the nautical part of the story, which will include a 220 pier, a project that is currently in its intensive construction phase and with an army of workers to be found daily on the site. The sale of apartments is running in parallel and we are confident that the first phase of the project will be completed in time by the summer of 2018.
Awakening the Mountainside
The Kolašin 1450 ski resort and Hotel Lipka was recently taken over by the Asian group Arnn. This year they signed an agreement with the Starwood hotel chain and the former Hotel Lipka has been rebranded as a Four Points by Sheraton Kolasin. Its neighboring hotel will be the first of the Westin hotels in Montenegro. The Four Points by Sheraton Kolasin has 72 rooms and a spa area covering 270m2.
The opening of the Westin Kolasin is scheduled for 2020 and the new hotel will be focussed on spa and wellness in conjunction with active and congress tourism.
New Flight Connections
The first flight connection between Dubai and Montenegro was launched on 3rd October 2016. Immediately afterward a regular connection by Fly Dubai, the largest low-cost airline in the Middle East, was established. In establishing these flight connections, Tivat became directly connected to the major markets for luxury tourism and a great stimulus for further new routes is their liberal visa system, which has already seen a number of Russian airlines taking advantage of it for some years already.
Due to the exceptional nature and top accommodation capacity, Montenegro attracts events of global significance. Last year it followed up the world premiere of the Jaguar F-Pace with the promotion of the Bentley Bentayga also being held in Montenegro. This year the producers of Top Gear selected Montenegro as a destination for their record show, with more than 4 million viewers watching the episode where a race between Matt LeBlanc and Chris Harris on Montenegrin roads was shown.
There is no doubt about the natural beauty and the economic development of Montenegro’s luxury tourism. The market for luxury tourism is growing extremely quickly and it could be said that the crisis is enriching those who are already wealthy. The growth of luxury tourism across the world is stable and for the segment of customers who have enough money to make arrangements from a figure starting at 10,000 euros then the crisis has not been an issue.
Wealthy tourists have different needs and expectations than normal tourists and the hotel facilities we write about are just the first part of the story. There are restaurants with superb cuisine also and it is also necessary to appropriately arrange the surrounding environments and the wider requirements of the field, so there is still a lot of work for Montenegrins.
The fact is that the international luxury tourism industry has decided to make Montenegro one of the destinations of the future, with its challenge the marketing of a luxury conservation status of exclusivity. Most of the time, the formula for success is the combination of pricing policy, identity, spirit and status, and the direct route for this is a link with famous brands, mostly in the fields of fashion and motoring.
As luxury brands are selfish and narcissistic by nature, there is a great deal of work for destination managers to ensure the sustainable acceptability of new resorts, most of which are not yet with their own voice.
An article by
Gorazd Čad, Editor in Chief
A long time congress tourism addict, Gorazd has many years’ experience in creating, planning and organizing large congress projects in cooperation with some of the most respected institutions in the region. He is an accomplished advisor for marketing success in corporate events and congress centers and the owner of Toleranca marketing agency. Gorazd has established himself as the founder and editor of Kongres Magazine and the co-creator of Conventa Trade Show.