To do list for the Western Balkans – Kirsi H.


To do list for the Western Balkans  Editor’s Note: This article was written by Kirsi Hyvaerinen of National Tourism Organisation of Montenegro and features the ATTA’s Chris Doyle, Executive Director of Europe.

Kirsi (far left)

Kirsi (far left)

ATTA's Chris Doyle

ATTA’s Chris Doyle



Gastronomy & Wine – Montenegro 1.

The story…

The basic idea started with brothers Micky and Zee who own “Portofino” restaurant in the old town center Herceg Novi.


Zee (left) and Micky in front of Porto Fino – Bela Vista Sq


Bela Vista at night

Bela Vista Square

They collect natural foods for the restaurant and buy organic produce from Vesko  in nearby Kuti. Vesko is renovating his family home 150 – 200 year old Ethno-House, as a traditional working, organic farm.  The three friends produce their own wine and olive oil at the farm.

Ethno House Kuti, Vesko and Jeep :-)

Ethno House Kuti, Vesko and Jeep 🙂

The ‘farm’ produces only organic foods, there is a wine cellar, and room for catering to groups of up to 40.  Vesko is also renovating an old stone mill in a steep wooded ravine behind the property. The property is supplied with its own potable fresh water springs.

The Mill

The Mill undergoing renovation

With network and marketing help and advice through  the REG. Western Balkans product,  development project – Ethno House Kuti will open in 2015 as a high end – Gastronomic Holiday retreat offering classes and active training  in the collection and preparation of traditional Adriatic coast foods – such as eels, wild herbs, seafish and shellfish. The farm streams will be re-stocked annually with eels, the brothers already cultivate mussels nearby, the whole site is only 4km from the sea. Seasonal wild herbs grow in the hills close to the site and can be reached by long (1 day) and short (1 hour) hiking paths. The organic farm can supply all necessary fruits and vegetables, there are goats and a couple of horses.  Active excursions include – squid fishing with fishermen in the bay, olive orchards and stone presses on the Lustica peninsular, Trebinje in BiH for wine and honey recipes (*below), smoke houses at Njegusi. Buying produce from local farmers and fish markets.

Ethno House has wine cellars, stone fire pits, iron cooking ranges, and a training kitchen will be added by Zelko .

Ethno House has wine cellars, stone fire pits, iron cooking ranges, and a training kitchen will be added by Zelko .

The waterfalls and streams in the high cliffs behind the house also offer opportunities for some adventurous activities. Other adventure active options will be available.

Yoga courses can also be arranged in combination with herbal teas therapies using locally collected plants.

The cookery courses will be linked to Portofino restaurant – with guests preparing a final ‘graduation’ group meal in the old town

Gastronomy and Wine – Montenegro 2. Hiking the Bay leaf forest.

Tour Features

  • Bay of Kotor
  • Flight connections – Dubrovnik, Tivat.
  • Links to: Trebinje BiH  in 1.5 hours, Albania via Lake Skadar. Kosovo and Serbia.
  • Main attractions – Ethno House, Traditional food gathering and cookery lessons. Sea food and wild herbs.

Local Connections


  •  A German company is building a large  accommodation complex  500 meters from Ethno – House. The buildings follow traditional architectural styles and contain only traditional, locally sourced building materials. We want to set up a joint meeting and include this business in our plans. Ethno house can provide a major year round attraction to fill the new accommodation.



Through our project we will facilitate cooperation and joint promotion between the businesses.

  • A number of large, high value developments are taking place close to Kuti – the super marinas at Porto Montenegro and Kumbor for example. The project will create connections so that these larger developers can help Ethno House to be more sustainable (for example, providing hessian sacks for compost, recycling etc.) In turn Ethno House can provide an attraction of  these developments and a source of organic produce.
  • A local travel agency partner will be invited to create a range of excursions and activities – such as white water rafting.

Regional / W. Balkans Connections.

We are assisting in the preparation of a short 3-5 day program which can link to complementary Gastronomic and Wine attractions regionally to create multi center holidays.

The first of these supporting attractions has been identified in Bosnia at Trebinje (1.5 hours by road). Here we will create a similar ‘cluster’ of local businesses to deliver the following guest experiences:  honey production and cookery, domestic wine production, fresh fish dishes (using trout from the Trebinjica River), greenhouses for organic salads, horse back riding and village monasteries to learn about sacred foods and church wine making techniques.

Other countries in the Western Balkans  will add – Muslim, Turkish cuisine, Serbian smoke houses, outdoor cooking (in the ground) in Macedonia, mountain cheese production and much more.

How is REG and the Western Balkans Network helping?

REG Logologos finalatta-logo-250w-nourl

We offer : advice, ideas, best practice examples and fact sheets. We meet with the businesses and find connections. We help the businesses to develop a product plan. We use the product development model developed by the Adventure Travel Trade Association (because they are the best) . We explain target markets, customer preferences and market planning. We help businesses overcome  vital issues like – sustainability and safety. And when everything is ready, we will help our partners to sell these tours to support local communities and to give our guests  life changing , memorable and sustainable travel experiences.


Creating new tourism attractions in the Western Balkans

How do we create the best travel experiences in Europe’s most diverse destination – The Western Balkans?

Albanian Mountains at Gjirokastra

Lake Orhid in Macedonia

Lake Orhid in Macedonia

This week marks the launch of a new project and an entirely new approach to tourism development in the Western Balkans region.  Already more than 130 companies and experts from across the region are collaborating to promote a new image for travelers. We want to tell the world about this region’s incredible diversity:

Cultural diversity – In a relatively small area we see Europe’s greatest range of  languages, religions, traditions, cuisine, customs and dress.

Serbian Dancers

Serbian Dancers

Biodiversity  – More than 75% of Europe’s bird species, the highest plant species to land area diversity in Europe, the last truly wild un-fenced populations of Europe’s ‘BIG 5’ Mammals, the Lynx, Brown bear, Wolf, Chamois and Wild Boar.

Hiking the Coastal Transversal Montenegro

Hiking the Coastal Transversal Montenegro

Diversity of Activities – The landscape ranges from lakes and deltas to high mountain peaks, the climate ranges from Mediterranean semi-topical to temperate continental and Alpine. The region can boast a full range of winter sports, outdoor recreation, water and sea based activities, (from paragliding to pot-holing, from mountaineering to scuba diving),  in some of Europe’s most dramatic locations, surrounded by amazing culture.

Jajce Bosnia

Jajce Bosnia

In association with the Western Balkans Geotourism Network, the USAID funded Regional Economic Growth project wants to identify, fine tune and then promote world class travel experiences.

logos final                                                                                                             REG Logo

During the next 5 months I will visit 6 countries, identify at least 5 companies in each and link them up with partners in the neighboring countries, to create regional routes, framework  tours of the best themes , attractions and activities available there.

I am looking forward to working with all interested businesses to help them create sustainable, life changing and unforgettable travel experiences. We have the people and we have the potential attractions in this incredible region.

As this is a new approach, based on empowerment, mentoring and marketing – I shall be using this blog to keep an online record of our ideas, of the people we meet and the places we visit.  After each set of meetings I will post details of ideas and opportunities so that I can easily share with our network and with other businesses who can help.

I am also hoping that if anyone should read these journals, you would be happy to share your ideas, feedback, comments and criticisms.

Please also feel free to contact me if you wish to take part in the project.

Jack  – 8th April 2014

A Destination Brand for the Western Balkans ?

mini mapguide logo  Creating a Destination Brand for the Western Balkans  Conclusions from the ‘Western Balkans Tourism Network’ meeting in Prishtina February 2012.


  1. Introduction
  2.  Branding and identity concepts
  3.  Recognition of need                                                                                    Western Balkans Tourism Network MISSION Statement                Western Balkans Tourism Network VISION                                        Review of Identity – Current internal perceptions of the Western Balkans as a tourist destination. Current external perceptions of the Western Balkans as a tourist destination. Trends in tourism. Understanding our customers needs.Strengths weaknesses opportunities and threats
  4.  Competitive Analysis. How do competitors promote their destinations?
  5. Which key brand attributes/attractions should we communicate?How are the nations in the Western Balkans marketed already?Which attributes/attractions have the most appeal to our customers?
  6. Key Brand Messages – defining our Brand
  7. Branding Graphic Suggestions. Logo & slogan ideas
  8. Suggested Next steps

1. Introduction This document is intended to summarize the work conducted so far in establishing a brand image both for the Western Balkans and for the tourism business network, (working title : ‘Sunny Balkans Network’), which will collaborate to promote the region.It is intended as a discussion document to guide our next steps in formulating a brand image. The process of creating a ‘brand’ is ongoing, it is important that the conclusions and decisions listed here are reviewed and reaffirmed at our next meeting. It is necessary to draw attention to the following caveats: 1. Not everyone connected with the W.Balkans business network was able to attend the most recent meeting. It is important that we reach the widest possible agreement from stakeholders in this process. 2.  There is lack of relevant research upon which to base decisions. To my knowledge no data exists which looks at International and Internal perceptions of the region and its image. The conclusions made come from the collective experience of the tourist businesses involved in the recent brand seminar 3. We are attempting to create a brand image for two purposes; the region and the regional network of tourism businesses. Although one brand can be created it will need to serve these two roles. 4. The meeting was held with the support of the USAID Regional Competitive Initiative. On behalf of the tourism network members I would like to express our gratitude for invaluable assistance.   2. Branding and Identity Concepts Brand A brand is much more than just a graphic logo or a slogan. To create a Western Balkans brand, we need to create an expectation among a targeted audience that a visit to the Western Balkans will deliver a unique and meaningful benefit. Our brand will give potential visitors an expectation about the experience of visiting our region. Identity For destinations, brand is effectively the same as identity. Most potential visitors will already have an idea of the identity of the Western Balkans, this would include ideas about: what the people are like, the standards of accommodation/tourism infrastructure, climate and landscape. These ideas are based on history, cultural stereotypes and guesswork; they are often inaccurate and often negative.         Brand Promise To create a regional brand we need to create an inspirational promise which holds true to the experience (and the value) that our region can reliably deliver.  As tourism businesses we need to ensure that we only promise what we can deliver. Once we have decided on the image we wish to promote to the world we need to work hard to ensure standards and the quality of the customer experience. Brand Attributes The benefits or attractions which entice visitors to our region. The Western Balkans has many and diverse attractions, to promote them all would risk confusion in the minds of potential visitors.  We need to consider a brand image which captures this idea of diversity in one clear message, or we need to concentrate on just the most attractive attributes. We need to work together to promote the most appealing or key brand attributes, those which are the most to potential visitors at this time. Targeted Audience In deciding which of the many attractions we wish to promote (the key brand attributes), we need to consider which are the most important markets for tourism growth. The markets could be defined by type: beach and sun holidaymakers v adventure travellers, free and independent travellers (F.I.Ts) v packaged tourists. We could define our target audience by age, demographic or by geographical location (should we promote to Europe, or the new emerging markets in Eastern Europe, South America and the Far East (BRIC economies)?   3. Recognition of need Without a position, an identity (brand), it is almost impossible to achieve a meaningful and sustainable point of differentiation. “A unique, own-able position will give our destination gravitas. It has pull. It will make people want to get up off the couch, pack their bags, and travel”. As a tourism network we have set ourselves a mission and agreed a vision for our organisation and for our region. In both we have identified the need for a joint marketing effort to promote the Western Balkans.


MISSION Statement of the Western Balkans Tourism NetworkWe are tour operators; we cover all the destinations within the Western Balkans. Our aim is to substantially increase our competitive advantage by raising standards and joint marketing.

Our VISION To position the Western Balkans as a leading global destination for tourism.

The Western Balkans needs to create a new brand image. The region is not as well known as other less attractive tourist destinations. Many potential visitors are not aware of the attributes or attractions of the region. Many people, in Europe in particular, still have a negative view of the region. To understand the existing image of the region we looked at both international and local perceptions.   3.1 Review of identity Current internal perceptions of the W.Balkans as a tourist destination. It is the local businesses, communities and individuals upon which we ultimately depend to deliver a tourist experience. It is important to understand our own perceptions. There is a lack of data to help us answer some of the key questions: What are local people thinking and saying?  How do they act?  What do they really believe? What do they really think of the travellers that find their way here? From our discussion and from anecdotal evidence it would seem that some of the following attitudes can be found in the wider community:

  • The region lacks modern tourist infrastructure, (roads, hotels, airports, activities). It is felt that to attract tourists the region needs to be more developed.
  • Local customs, traditions are respected and valued but have only a local appeal.
  • The continued existence of traditional lifestyles and agriculture show the region as undeveloped and are not seen as an attraction to visitors.
  • The true value of the natural environment, the landscapes, bio-diversity and unpopulated areas as tourist attractions is not widely understood.

Current external perceptions of the W.Balkans as a tourist destination. In this session we discussed our place in the world, from an outsider’s perspective.  Where did it originate? What does it offer of value? How has it been represented in the past? What is our current positioning in the mind of the traveller? What is our current market position? Here we were able to look at some collected data as well as anecdotal evidence. Some of the following current and historical perceptions were considered:

  • The region is the original Europe, the term “Europe” was used by the ancient Greeks to describe the lands immediately to their north west.
  • From the Ottoman period the region was considered to be the beginning of Asia – the Near East.
  • The region is now often considered as South Eastern Europe
  • The Balkans has negative connotations.  “Balkanization” – National caricatures and cultural stereotyping since the 1870s. The perception remains that the region is war-torn and unsafe”
  • The region is actually little known, e.g.: 52% of English people think that Montenegro is in South America
  • Great beaches – Yugoslavia was a budget destination in the 1980s
  • It is a former communist region with heavy industry and lots of grey concrete architecture
  • Wild and mountainous

3.2 Tourism Trends In order to identify our targeted audience we looked at some of the important changes in tourism demand. Economic

  • North Americans and Europeans accounted for the largest groups of travellers in the last 30 years. Travel experts expect that to change in the next 30 years with more people from Russia, India, China, and Brazil travelling.
  • Polarisation of markets between low-cost and premium segments.


  • The more life speeds up, the more people will want to step off for a while. Hence the growth in spa experiences, personal indulgences and stress relief holidays – or stress relieving activities.
  • Increased interest in roots or cultural heritage, connections with the lifestyles of the past.


  • Impact of ageing (growth in number of 55-65+).
  • Declining fertility – smaller families with less time and fewer kids.
  • Boomers/seniors take longer holidays but low overall spend.


  • IT enabling further transparency of markets, customers are now more knowledgeable and conduct more detailed research.
  • Impact of mobile web, GPS, RFID on the growth of independent travel.


  • Appeal of newly democratised and peaceful destinations.
  • Increase in regulation and compliance.


  • Increasing eco-awareness and the increasing impact of social and ethical concerns on holiday choices. 62% of European consumers plan to take a more environmentally friendly holiday but they expect companies to address issues on their behalf: Concerned Consumer Index in January 2011
  • Expected swing back to local/domestic travel caused by cost/congestion = Going Local.


  • Growth of cultural tours (edutainment)
  • “Voluntourism” is no longer just a gap year activity.
  • Growth of natural and eco-tourism
  • Impact of inbound CHIME and BRIC tourists
  • Tourists seeking balance between cultural familiarity (safety) and new experiences

  Adventure Travel – The fastest growing form of tourism. (Defined as a mix of Cultural Education, Nature Based Experience and/or Physical activity)

  • Worth 65 billion euros globally
  • 25% of European holidays
  • Higher spending
  • Expanding range of activities but with ‘soft’ adventure as by far the most significant sector.
  • Increased length of trip
  • New destinations

Source: Adventure Tourism Market Report 2010           3.3 Understanding customer needs – Tourism Market Data In order to better understand the behaviours of our customers we looked at some data taken from Target Group Indicator (TGI) charts. (Mintel Oxygen 2011).   Conclusions taken from TGI data tables.

  • Increasing demand for an annual second holiday
  • The growth of independent travel over packaged tours through tour operators
  • The growing importance of activity, historic, cultural and wildlife tourism
  • The dramatic decline in demand for Beach/resort holidays
  • How holidays are taken  – more group, with family, partners, friends
  • How holidays are booked – longer lead times, more destination research etc.

Profile of ‘Activity’ Holidaymakers

  • Most likely aged 20-44 and Male
  • In the last 12 months there has been fastest increase for women.
  • Group adventure market now shows a female bias with single females.
  • 20%  UK holiday makers took activity holiday in last 12 months
  • 37% among 65k+ income group
  • ABC1 Adult group – 58% took activity holiday last year
  • Short intense overseas breaks – dual activity and luxury model.
  • Forecasts: by 2012 – 2.1% growth in pre-families, 6.2% growth in ‘third age’ 11.2% growth in retired.

3.4 SWOT Analysis Using the information we gathered from market data we discussed the relative strengths and weaknesses of the region and also considered opportunities and threats to tourism here. STRENGTH   – Uniqueness – Local to European Markets – Variety – Diversity – big diversity in a small area, regionally and within each country – Friendliness of the People and Hospitality – Authenticity   WEAKNESS   – International Perceptions – Logistics / ease of access and travel – Organized information – managing international media – Negative publicity – Government obstacles to business – Ecological issue / nature management – Weak business cooperation and linkages – Conflicts – Lack of experience in “regionalism” – Lack of common standards – “Red tape” issue   OPPORTUNITY   – Sport success bringing a new spotlight to the region –  BRIC Market – so many cultural experiences in one region – US, North America Australia – the region is an exotic long haul destination – Western Europe – domestic destinations considered as tired and overdeveloped – Eastern Europe – familiarity – New type of Tourist products lend themselves to development here. – Regional Business Cooperation / Networking in the private sector – Linking products in the region – Introducing new destinations – Lack of competition for wilderness and cultural attractions – Perceived as a compact area – Undiscovered region – EU Accession process – New perceptions as a friendly place             THREAT   – International perceptions and stereotypes – Competition – Government / Political Instability – ‘Idiots’ + Drivers – New emerging global Tourism destinations – Overbuilding, congestion, bad management of cities, sites and nature – Waste management – Continuous bad publicity / media coverage – Entering the market unprepared – Failing to meet market expectations – Nationalism bias Patriotism   4. Competitive Analysis How are potential competitors promoting their destinations?       The Mediterranean as it once was for both adventurers and guests seeking comfort. A great natural and historical stage for many unique festivals, one of the ecologically best preserved parts of Europe.         Medieval towns, the romantic Danube Delta, fairy-tale castles and lots more…unique Romania.         Feel the presence of nature. Taste the harmony of European diversity.     Black Sea coastline for beach enthusiasts, great skiing in the mountains in the winter   5. Which are the key brand attributes/attractions which we wish to promote? 5.1 How do nations within the Western Balkans promote their destinations?   Outstanding natural beauty, the cutting edge of cool, simply irresistible…Serbia.   Unspoilt landscapes, rugged outdoor adventures and villages that have barely changed since the Middle Ages. Wild Beauty! The heart of the Mediterranean, unspoiled by globalization, an inspiring mix of civilizations and cultures. Discover New Beauty Timeless       5.2   Which attributes/attractions have the most appeal to our customers? A successful Western Balkans brand will build on existing positive images of the region. These images are already being promoted by tourism stakeholders.  WB Tourism Network members listed the destination attributes which we promote to successfully attract visitors. In order to determine the key messages from a long list, WB Tourism Network members then ranked each benefit in order of importance.



  37 – Cultural Diversity 41     – Wildness,     Nature, Natural Beauty   53 – (High Quality     of) Food, (Rakija), Wine 59 – People, Friendliness 59 – Hospitality 63 – Relaxed / Pace     of Life 63 – (High Quality     of) Outdoor Adventures/Activities 69 – Variety of     experiences, culture and landscape 74 – Fascinating History   116 – Architecture 115 – Beach
Western Balkans Destination Attributes/Benefits     Ranked in order of importance.

6. Key Messages  – Defining our Brand 6.1 Primary and secondary brand attributes. The above list defines the brand attributes or benefits of the Western Balkans Tourism Destination.  Following discussion it was decided that the key messages should be:


        1. The most Culturally Diverse Destination in Europe/World. 2. Home of Europe’s last unspoiled Natural Beauty.   SECONDARY BRAND MESSAGE   3. A warm welcome and a friendly relaxed way of life.

6.2 Some information to support our key messages. 1. The most Culturally Diverse Destination in Europe/World. One characteristic of the Western Balkans which already has widespread international acceptance is the idea of the region as a meeting point of cultures through history, also as a crossroads of cultural and trade routes linking east and west. We intend to build on this perception, to communicate that the Western Balkans is unique because of the extent of this cultural diversity.   Many Members of the WB tourism network have begun the process of substantiating the claim to Europe’s most diverse region.  We set out to list all of the distinct Cultural Groups, (groups with their own political representation, region, separated settlements, social clubs or surviving cultural traditions).  In a short time we listed 26. 26 distinct Cultural groups in the Western Balkans Kosovan, Serbian, Bosnian and Herzegovinian, Macedonian, Albanian, Montenegrin, Croatian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Greek, Roma, Hungarian, Slovakian, Turkish, Egyptians, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Vlachs, Jews, Ashkali, Torbeshi, Gorans, Epirotes, Armenians, Juruci.                                                                             Plus 16 Influences – other cultures which have left their mark.  Venetians, Austria(-Hungarian), Byzantine, Ottoman, Norman, Angevin, French, Russian, Roman, Gothic, Celts, Bogomils, Illyrians, Thracians, etc. We also considered… 14 Types of Music performed in the Western Balkans : Gypsy, folklore, “Old Town”, Modern, Orthodox music- instrumental & voice, Turkish music, Turbo FOLK, Sevda, Serenade, Gusla, Gange, Seventh/Eighth music style,                                                              Typical dances – Saz, Sharki, Zurla, Kaval Cuisine in the Western Balkans: Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Greek, Hungarians, Italian, German, Middle East, Turkish, Indian, Austrian, Traditional home produce Cheeses, Yoghurt, Prsut. Rakija or Zolta, (Spirit), Vranac, Zhilavka, Blatina (Wine) Languages Spoken in the Western Balkans : Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Greek, Hungarians, Italian, German, Middle East, Turkish, Roma, Armenia, Slovak, Italian, Important Cultural Festivals in the Western Balkans : ALBANIA: Theater Butrint, Folkfest Gjirokastre, , Beer fest in Korce, Film Durres, Tirana Film fest, Human rights film fest                                      BiH: Sarajevo Film Festival, Mess T. F., Bashcarshia nights Sarajevo winter, Jazz, Chimburiada (Omelet festival)                                                                                                                                 MACEDONIA: Film, Jazz, Galicnik wedding, Wine fest (Skopje), Ohrid Summer fest                                                                                   MONTENEGRO:  Bokeske Noch Carnival in Kotor, Mimoza Festival,  Festival of Wine and Bleak,                                                                 SERBIA: Exit, Guca, Rostiljada, Belgrade Beer fest, Jazz Belgrade         KOSOVO: Doku fest, PriFilm, Wine (Harvest day), Jazz, Beer, Miss Cow festival (Lara), Religions practised in the Western Balkans:                                           Christian – Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Jehovah, Franciscans.                                                                                                                     Muslim –   sunni, sufi, rufai, helvecti, bektashi, dervishi, shia.                     Jewish.                                                                                                                                           Animist, Uniat, Pagan. Pilgrimage Sites – Ajvatovica, Medjogurije.

NB. These lists are not exhaustive and may be inaccurate. It would be useful to fill out the detail. It could be a good marketing tactic to run an online discussion or competition to involve the local public in the debate.

The other benefits or attributes should be used to support these primary messages. The fascinating History and Architecture are part of the story of cultural diversity. The high quality of outdoor adventure activities, the Variety of scenery/experiences and the Beach/Adriatic coast are part of the story of unspoiled natural beauty. 2. Home of Europe’s last unspoiled Natural Beauty. In a similar way that we have substantiated our claim to be the most culturally diverse region, we should also collect data related to the unspoiled natural beauty for example: Incredible biodiversity: This is the last place in central Europe where all the European large mammals can be found in a truly wild (unfenced) nature. These include Dinaric Pindus Brown Bear, Wolf, Chamois, Lynx and Wild Boar. Home to old growth forest: It would be good to list the areas which have never been cultivated or developed – such as BioGradska Gora national park in Montenegro. Home to endangered plant and animal species: Which rare species still survive in the region – such as the Dalmatian Pelikan, Pygmy Cormorant, types of Orchid, High pasture grassland species etc Variety of climates and landscapes: We have Alpine, Mediterranean, Temperate climate zones. How many Mountain peaks do we have over 2000m? Natural Wonders: For example, Europe’s deepest canyon (Tara), Europe’s largest cryptographic lake (Skadar), unexplored Cave systems, the last canyon to be explored in Europe (Nevideo) etc.                                             As a network we should become involved in Nature Conservation, we need to show potential visitors that we value and protect the natural environment in the region. 5. Branding Suggestions 5.1 Brand Promise of the Western Balkans A catchy slogan is needed based on the idea of: Incredible Cultural Diversity amidst Wild and Beautiful Nature. Visitor Expectation: There is an incredible variety of Culture and nature in the region, this diversity is  accessible, preserved and celebrated.   5.1 Logo ideas It would be ideal to include the key brand messages or attributes in a logo. There was not time to develop logo ideas but some useful suggestions were made. 1. JigSaw puzzle/Patch work image. Each piece would include images representing: Countries in the Western Balkans Destination, Cultures, Landscapes/Natural Attractions, festivals, events or activities. The Jigsaw pieces could be modified to resemble the national boundaries, but should all be equal in size.  The jigsaw idea represents variety and the interconnections within the region. 2. A traditional shawl or quilt made with traditional patterns from each culture combined to make one logo. 3. The word BALKANS written with a different style or font for each letter. Each letter would represent a different culture, nature, language etc.   5.2 Slogan Ideas Again time was limited but we did discuss ideas based on a number of themes: Variety- Diversity “In the mix” /  Unspoilt Land of Diversity / WB  defining diversity / Enjoy diversity. Historical mixing of Cultures EUROPEAN FRONTIER /  Whole-All of Europe here / More than just Europe (Together)/ Europe’s living heritage / Cultural crossroads / Cultural melting pot  / Where European history was made Preservation The ‘original’ Europe. /  Your-Europe’s  last chance to see / as history made it / Europe’s last wilderness. Generic –Must see land 6. Suggested Next steps 1. Everyone should review the conclusions and decisions reached in the last meeting which are outlined above.   2. Everyone should produce suggestions for a brand logo and short slogan.  This should convey the brand messages which we wish to promote.   3. Members of the tourism network need to consider how can ensure that the consumer expectations which are brand will produce can be reliably met. We need to consider how to share this brand within our wider communities and how to get the agreement and participation of other stakeholders. We should support cultural groups and festivals and also support nature conservation efforts.   4. We need to produce a simple marketing plan, (uncosted at this stage), to determine how the Western Balkans Brand will be used by us and by partners. This will help us to finally agree upon the brand itself.  This plan needs to consider how we plan to use the brand on web, printed material and which other organizations need to support our brand.     Jack Delf – March 2012

The value of cooperation and ‘adventure travel’ tourism in Montenegro.

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.

Jack Delf

(…Extracts from a presentation to the European Parliament Conference of Innovation in Tourism- 2010.)

Postcards from Herceg Novi

Herceg Novi, (once known as Castelnuovo), has changed little in 100 years. The railway has gone, to be replaced by a pedestrian promenade. One castle fell into the sea during an earthquake, but the town would be still be familiar to a Austro-Hungarian soldier from the 1890’s

Main Square 2011                                                                                   Main Square 1900

Travel in parts of Montenegro often feels like travel back in time. Many destinations claim to be ‘the Mediterranean as it once was’. Few places can live up to that claim.  Herceg Novi,which is often bypassed by tourists hurrying to see Dubrovnik or Kotor, certainly does.

Marina 2011                                                                                                   Marina 1926

The old town is still partly walled and contains 3 castles. Hispaniola was built by Spanish Crusaders, Fort Mare and Kanli Kula (Bloody Tower) were built by Ottoman Turks.

Sea View 2011                                                                                        Sea View 1915

In the quiet cobbled streets of the old town it is easy to forget the passage of time and imagine that the spirits of the past still swap gossip over a rakija or bustle to the market, just as their successors still do today!

So don’t worry if your postcard takes 100 years to arrive, little will have changed.  🙂

Keeping Montenegro’s hiking trails open.

There are thousands of kilometers of mountain hiking trails in Montenegro. The trails were created by local farmers, hiking and mountaineering clubs and by the Austro-Hungarian army in the late 19th Century.  In fact there are so many trails, and they are so rarely visited by tourists that even during the peak summer months it is unusual to meet other hikers on most of them.  Even along the coastal transversal there are so few hikers that in 2 – 3 years the trails would become overgrown and impassable.

Montenegro is now promoting these trails through the government’s Hiking and Biking program for tourism, and yet there is no systematic funding to keep the trails open.  Despite this, the paths are maintained and usually well signed and easy to follow.  How so?  Well last week I found out.

My friend Vlatko is a mountain guide and he asked if I wanted to join an ‘action’ on Mount Rumija, 1800m high overlooking Bar and Lake Skadar. I first met Vlatko through the ‘Leave No Trace’ program, we both trained together as instructors, so I naturally assumed that we would be collecting litter and taking a packed lunch to the summit. Janko who guides for Black Mountain joined us with another of Vlatko’s friends – Marin. I did wonder why they all wore old clothes and brought heavy duty gloves.  The penny dropped when I was handed a machete and given a fuel can to carry for the chainsaw.

Mnt Rumija - 1800m


An ‘action’ as I found out, is the term used by the volunteers who work year round to keep the trails open. They are rarely paid, and have to meet all the expenses themselves. The trail we started to clear had not been repaired in years and the work was hard.   Yet no one flagged and by the end of the day we had climbed about 300m up the trail clearing heavy thorn and fallen trees as we went.

Without repairs trails can vanish in 2 years.

When the light failed we had to finish for the day. Vlatko and Marin pitched camp for the night and passed around a very welcome bottle of Rakija.  Unfortunately I had business commitments the next day (honest),  so Janko and I had to leave them to continue the work. To be honest, I could hardly move the following morning, so I would have been little use.  I have promised to join them for future ‘actions’.

Vlatko sharpens the chainsaw, the Rakija came later!

The day had been great fun and a good work out. Working outside with friends is not the only reward, grateful local farmers provided pancakes and cheese. The scenery was magnificent and the afternoon sun lighting up Lake Skadar below us was spectacular. We had been lucky with the weather today but in the mountains conditions can change in minutes.  I now realise what an enormous task faces these volunteers each year. They do this work in all weathers. They deserve better recognition.

Where only few people have been, yet nine out of ten visitors want to come back.

Sasa Radovic is managing director of Montenegro’s National Tourism Organisation and has supported many of our projects here. The ‘NTO’ has been crucial for the development of tourism.  Tourism growth has been rapid, but too dependent upon beach holidays and a very short season (mid July – mid August). The government and ‘NTO’ are now promoting nature based, cultural and  activity tourism,  (by definition Adventure Travel). The new Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism is a very positive move.  The ‘NTO’ have championed  Hike and Bike tourism and set up the Montenegro Conventions bureau for conferences and events.

This can only be good for guests, I always think its a shame that so many visitors sit looking out to sea with one of Europe’s most amazing destinations at their backs.  If only they knew!

For a concise summary of the government’s work here, I thought I would copy and paste Sasa Radovic’s speech to the ITB in Berlin this month. I hope you don’t mind Sasa)  He makes their case well don’t you think?

small beach, ulcinj, montenegroStrolling by the beach in Ulcinj

“Montenegro – almost as big as Schleswig-Holstein, yet with fewer inhabitants than the metropolitan region of Frankfurt: This leaves a lot of space for nature.  The landscape of this small country in the Adriatic Sea is quite exceptional and vitally important for its tourism.  For these particular reasons the government set up a ministry dedicated to sustainable development and tourism. The establishment of a “Ministry for Sustainable Development and Tourism” – formerly the “Ministry for Tourism and the Environment” – highlights the goals set by the small country with the long beaches, rugged mountains, and wild nature parks: to ensure sustainable tourism development based in an overall concept of economic development, and in combination with respectful protection of natural and cultural resources, some of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Montenegro is an environmentally-conscious state which attributed constitutional status to the protection of the environment and sustainable development already in 1991.  Concrete goals have been set until 2020 in the “National Strategy for Sustainable Development”, an environmental protection law, and a tourism development master plan.  For over a decade various experts from numerous national and organizational backgrounds – including the government-related German GIZ – accompanied the development process.

Sasa Radovic, Managing Director of the National Tourism Organization of Montenegro considers the development of tourism to be very promising: “For several years now, Montenegro is internationally regarded a “place to be”.  In 2010 the New York Times listed Montenegro as one of “The 31 Places to Go”, and already at the end of 2009 the National Geographic Traveler identified the country as one of “50 Places of a Lifetime”.

Economic growth factor tourism: following a continuously increasing upwards trend, tourism already accounts for more than one-fifth of the national revenues (GDP) and providing every fifth place of employment in Montenegro. Those who traveled to enjoy the “wild beauty” of Montenegro understand its important value and why its uniqueness must be protected: the mile long sandy beaches of Ulcinj, the bay of Kotor, mountains reaching over 2500m in height, and five national parks.  Cherishing its scenic value, the country balances its own development between economic necessities and the protection of the “wild beauty” – which was declared as the core of national identity.

Hiking in DurmitorHiking in the National Park Durmitor

In only a few years and with a lot of efforts, Montenegro established tourism as one of its most important and stable economic sectors.  Travelling to the country by air is the most comfortable and efficient way, although one can also drive there by car.  Montenegro is increasingly developing into a touristic brand for nature-related travels at a very high standard.

The next high-priority goals identified by Sasa Radovic are to position Montenegro both as an all-season destination for demanding individuals, and as one of the most attractive MICE destinations in Europe.  “Our ambitious quality campaign, which forms part of the tourism mater plan, combined with the strongly improved and diversified hotel accommodation, and the extended infrastructure, supported by a unique range of outdoor activities set in an amazing landscape have put us on a very solid path.”

The fortunate combination of endless beaches and high mountains, the historic cultural assets and new hotels, the quality campaign and hospitality, open-minded planners and dedicated tourism specialists both in the country and the source markets have all contributed to the impressive blossoming of Montenegro’s tourism, the largest economic potential of the young country.
The amazing natural landscape between the only fjord in the Mediterranean and the nature parks in the rugged mountains, along with the contrasting marks of living history in churches, monasteries, and mosques are all tourist attractions.  The consistent development of offers for tourists including hiking, biking, and diverse nature-related activities targets successfully the growing group of active travellers.  Unique hotels and resorts, usually located along the coast, as well as seeking out for convention tourism and incentive travels, have all placed Montenegro well on the map of the upmarket target groups.

Specifically in the key markets of sophisticated travellers, including Germany, France, the UK and USA, and even Japan, it was possible to achieve double-digit increments.  For example a 38 per cent growth was reached in Germany – an international peak value.

The solid numbers allow the step-by-step development of Montenegro – also economically – as one of the outstanding Adriatic destinations.  Exploring the wealth of a landscape vested with superlatives – the longest beach, the largest bay, the highest mountain, the deepest canyon, the largest lake, 6000 km of biking and hiking trails, 1700 km of mountain bike trails, and five national parks – first, foremost, and very consistently requires the conservation and careful development of hidden treasures.  This further includes investments into better access – often based on ancient pathways – or the creation of adequate accommodation.

The quality campaign, even though it was set up in an encompassing fashion to address all aspects of tourism, targets specifically the development of a larger offer ranging in up-scale to luxury hotels and holiday resorts, including the top-class revival of the well-known hotel island Sveti Stefan.  All of these are resorts which can compete in the up-scale tourism segment – not just in the Mediterranean.

Even the details display what all this implies for the daily work of the planners: in the last year alone 62 hotels across the country reached their categorization, the thirteen new boutique hotels provided an additional 500 beds, and 19 of the beaches received the sought-after blue flag.  The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) regularly confers the award “Tourism for Tomorrow” for successful destination management – Montenegro was among the three finalists in 2010.  The guests equally confirm all efforts with their rewards: 96 per cent recommend Montenegro as a travel destination, and nine out of ten intend to come back – specifically for bathing and hiking. Quality as part of the tourism master plan includes the establishment of further direct flights to Tivat.  They are on the priority list.  By the way: Montenegro is not yet a member of the EU, nevertheless, the Euro is the local currency.”

Sveti Stefan to reopen

At long last! The iconic island of Sveti Stefan will be re-opening in June 2011 as an exclusive Aman resort hotel. In 2010 Aman reopened nearby Vila Milocer but work on the island dragged into its 5th year.

The painstaking work was partly delayed by the global recession but also by the difficulties of working on the island itself. It is not possible to use heavy machinery on Sveti Stefan. The stone houses and narrow pathways are important archeological sites, many dating back to the 15th Century, when the island was fortified a fishing village. (Some say the island was built to protect locals from marauding pirates, others that the island itself was a fortified pirate base, the truth I suspect, is a bit of both).

Local sensibilities had also to be taken into consideration. Montenegrins value their heritage. On the eastern end of the island stands the Alexander Nevsky Church. This part of the island was once used as a casino and restaurant. Thirty angry local residents recently besieged a planning meeting, to ensure that the casino is not reinstated. As yet the issue is still unresolved.

Its a shame that the island will not be open for day trippers to view, as it was 5 years ago. However, Aman have renovated the island to the highest standards, sparing no detail, using skilled local craftsmen and artisans. When I visited in 2006 many of the buildings were badly in need of repair.

The hotel is sure to be popular once again with the rich and shameless, and add to the glamour which now surrounds Montenegro’s coast. In the past famous guests included: Princess Margaret, Marilyn Monroe, Willy Brandt, Bobby Fischer, Boris Spassky, Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti, Ingemar Stenmark, Kirk Douglas and Claudia Schiffer….to name a few. It was even rumoured that Prince Charles and Diana Spencer planned to honeymoon here, until inevitably word leaked out. It is simply impossible to keep secrets in Montenegro – but that’s another story….