Innovation at its simplest is the introduction of something new. New ideas, new products, or a new approach. In 2006, ‘Black Mountain’ was founded because we felt that Montenegro, as a tourist destination, was falling far short of it’s potential. Montenegro was marketing a homogenous product which was vulnerable to changes in demand. We believed that Montenegro needed new tourist offers to play to its strengths, to differentiate it in the market and to increase tourism revenue in a way that minimised harmful impacts for the country’s wild beauty and unique culture.
Official destination branding
In recent years the rise of ‘Adventure Tourism’ has created a new demand which Montenegro is very well placed to meet. Adventure Travel includes any 2 out of three aspects; nature based experience, cultural education and an activity. The sector now accounts for 25% of European ‘outbound’ holidays, and worldwide is worth 64 Billion Euros and growing.
Inland Montenegro -Black Lake
Montenegro is spectacularly beautiful, very mountainous, rugged and sparsely populated. Of the 660,000 population, more than 3 quarters live along the coast or in the three largest towns. In the winter 50% of Montenegro is uninhabited and during the summer 25% remains unpopulated. Local customs and a traditional way of life still exist,exist; many families move their flocks up to the high pastures and live in the Katuns, without amenities. Add to all this, the deepest canyon in Europe, numerous white water river courses, primary forest and surviving wild populations of large mammals including brown bear, 3 national parks and 2 UNESCO protected areas.
Despite this richness, the Tourist master plan for Montenegro until 2008 took no account of this potential. The stated aim of Montenegrin tourist development was to become ‘a high quality Majorca!’ The antithesis of innovation, to copy, not to develop a new approach.
We determined to make the most of this incredible potential and launched some very innovative products. For corporate and academic training we have developed unique programs such as a 3 day ‘earthquake survival exercise, titled “Escape from Mount Orijen” or the team building program on an offshore island, modeled on the TV show ‘Lost’. We have produced a range of unique hiking, biking and multi-activity tours geared for any level of ability. All of our activity programs contain authentic cultural elements, and we allow our customers to modify each itinerary to suit their own tastes.
'Escape from Mount Orijen'
In order to survive the private sector SME’s who wanted to develop new adventure travel offers had to cooperate to form clusters and to lead change themselves, to find ways to promote Montenegro’s unique offer and to develop their own product.To deliver new product, we needed local partners who are ready to embrace change, who were innovative and able to take risks. Motivation was the key. A number of aid sponsored ‘adventure travel businesses’ existed, but were motivated more by aid funding than the desire to generate tourist income. We discovered that the less vocal, more active businesses made the best partners. The number of customers they serviced told us most about their willingness to adapt. Many outdoor clubs and associations exist; their passion for their sport keeps them informed of the latest developments. They were less motivated by profit but wanted more exchange with international enthusiasts.
Adventure Race Montenegro - 'cluster'
We have sought to bring these two groups together, to form informal clusters which cooperate, share information, joint marketing initiatives and ultimately develop new product. We launched the Montenegro Adventure Race with the voluntary unpaid help of these organisations. This is a charity race has involved SME’s, sports clubs and municipalities. We have all learned through shared experience, and now offer tours based on events. We have been working to establish a leave no trace program and part funded the training of 24 educators among Tourism businesses, National Parks and clubs and clubs.
During the past 10 years Montenegro has been among the fastest growing tourist destinations, inward investments has poured in to the country to develop new hotels, marinas and villas and apartments. Tourism revenue is expected to be 620 million in 2010. But there are still problems.
The tourist season is extremely short,short; July and August account for 70% of overnights, June and September a further 20%. The wealth created by tourism was very localised, 95% of tourist visits are to the coast, one resort Budva, accounts for 47% of visits. The concentration of tourism into such a small area in a short season inevitably lead to capacity bottlenecks on beaches and in high end accommodation.
The opportunities to offer high end accommodation and spa retreats in the mountains are limited, journey times from the arrival airport are longer than in other hiking destinations like Portugal, or Italy. However adventure tourists will accept more limited tourism infrastructure if they gain a more authentic experience. ‘Adventure travelers’ almost by definition are not seeking sunshine and beaches. They want to travel ‘off the beaten’ tourist track and away from the congestion which can be seen in some coastal areas in peak season.
Projected location of Hydro power station ?
And finally… by attaching an economic value to un-spoilt natural beauty and traditional culture, Adventure travelers can demonstrate to legislators and locals alike that both should be conserved.
(…Extracts from a presentation to the European Parliament Conference of Innovation in Tourism- 2010.)