Some good connections

People who can help create amazing travel experiences in the Western Balkans.


Kela Qendro – Auron Expeditions Albania  kela@auronexpeditions – Hiking, Horse Riding, Active- & Gergana Nikolova REG (at the controls)

Vlatko Bulatovic, Zalas. Montenegro. Hiking, Sustainability.

Vlatko Bulatovic, Zalas     Montenegro . Hiking and Conservation.


Micky, Vesko, Zee – Porto Fino, Belavista, Ethno House Kuti. Montenegro Herceg Novi. Gastronomy, Wine, Sustainable living  and traditional lifestyles.


some Albania connections – we hope



Blue Eye at Butrint

Blue Eye at Butrint


Gyrokastra town meeting place





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

“One of our Land Rovers isn’t coming back … ever”


‘110’ in happier times 😦

One of our client instructors, parked a 110 Defender,  facing downhill, not in gear, didn’t turn the wheel. It rolled, then fell 450 m and is now caught in a tree, about 1,200 m above a popular white water rafting route, in Europe’s deepest canyon. Two of our guides have abseiled down to it , and checked that the fuel tank is intact, thankfully. The debris trail and the cliff above suggest that the car was airborne quite a bit. With fire season coming on, we had to notify the police who are happy for us to devise our own retrieval solution. ‘Good luck’ they said.

One suggestion was to anchor it now, then leave it free, for the winter snows to carry lower, it maybe possible to navigate a log raft closer to it, but that will mean pollution of the site. The 4×4 club of Montenegro have a plan to lift the lot, in return for all the salvage, its a good deal, on condition the site is left ‘pristine’.  Probably using some big machinery/tractor, we can create a safe working area, where a mechanic can double click on, then dismantle the best and most detachable parts, to lighten the eventual load.


Its the way land rovers should die, not rusting behind a hobby shed.

I visited the site and saw his last ever tracks in the grass,  as he started downhill. I did worry that he managed to swerve through so many trees before reaching the cliff edge, it looked almost deliberate. I hope we didn’t overwork him too much this summer.


Janko realises that much of his CD collection is inside.


The car and mechanics will all have to be anchored to the rock before we begin to dismantle.

Some observations regarding success and failure in Aid funded Tourism Development.

A couple of years ago I was invited to chair the innovation session at an EU parliamentary summit in Brussels. The summit discussed projects to support SME’s in tourism.  I was the only SME representative in a hall full of ‘experts and project heads’. Frustrated at the lack of understanding of Tourism businesses, I set aside my prepared script anf  I took the opportunity to tell them where they are going wrong, ( perhaps a little rudely) which directly led to my work for the European Council.

The main points of my speech were as follows…
In Montenegro, throughout the Balkans and with projects in Ukraine and Moldova I have seen lots of different approaches, all designed to achieve similar outcomes. The reasons for success or failure are many, but there are a few issues common to all.

1. Motivate local partners. 

Example: A failed project in Montenegro – lack of local support was the main reason for the failure.

Rather than embrace the opportunities in the project, potential local partners became outspoken critics. The problems began when the donor agency publicized the amount of money (millions of Euros), that the project would be spending. The intention was to generate interest and support, but the way the announcement and press coverage was handled, created an expectation that there would be easily obtainable cash grants for SME’s. I attended the first meetings and found that many would-be project supporters had come with a ‘shopping list’ of items (equipment, marketing support), that they expected the donors just to provide. Their expectations were dashed and they were lectured about their shortcomings as businesses and their ‘unreasonable
attitude’. The atmosphere turned hostile and the project looked unlikely to succeed from then on. The situation was compounded by the project team spending ostentatiously on their work, cars and drivers, a helicopter trip to tour Montenegro etc. etc. The predictable comment was ‘so that is where the money is being spent’.

My take away from this debacle is that development agencies can lack tact and have a poor understanding of the people they wish to help. The donor agencies also share the blame for creating a dependency culture here in the past and they still like the kudos and publicity of giving money. (I do appreciate that favorable publicity is one of the main intended consequences
of aid money).  If you tell people you have millions of Euros in aid for them, it is not ‘unreasonable’ that they might expect to directly benefit in Euros.

Before donor agencies lecture potential supporters about ‘wanting something for nothing’, they should look at their own failings in this regard. Time and again projects have approached my business asking for our suggestions, our product ideas and our contacts. I am always asked to attend meetings at their convenience and to support their project. I am a business man and I want something in return. The development ‘experts’ are receiving a salary and all expenses, what do I as a business get from the project?
Normally our ideas just end up in a final report, to win new project funding for the ‘experts’ themselves.


I. Approaches to potential partners should be personal. As any good salesman
knows you need to go out to your prospective partners, to their place of
work and to learn from them, about their business, their problems and their
needs. You do this before you make any claims about what your project will
be and what it will deliver.

II. Tailor the project. If you listen, the businesses will tell you what is
required to bring them success, don’t rely on academic theories and best
practices elsewhere, they are a guide not a one size fits all solution,
every situation is different.

III. Develop relationships by adopting the stance of an equal, not an
expert. So you have money to spend. (It is not your money it belongs to a
tax payer somewhere). So you have been successful in another market or
destination, that doesn’t make you automatically smarter than a businessman
who is struggling in THIS market or destination.

IV. The project goals have to match the stake holder’s own goals. This is
particularly true if the project is to be part funded, or rely on support
from tourism businesses. For example, many projects aim to develop new
signage, produce guides, and publish information sources, these are all
great for increasing the volume of independent travelers but the benefits to
supporting businesses need to be thought through and explained. A tourism
business which has invested time and effort identifying attractions and
gathering information will be reluctant to provide this information freely
to a new ‘visitors information portal’  Thought should always be given as to
how these new resources can be used to generate revenue for the individual
businesses not just to the destination economy as a whole.

The above are all time consuming but worthwhile. In Moldova rather than call a large  initial meeting and launch straight into a two day training seminar, we facilitated a structured discussion based around Moldova’s brand attributes, the experience visitors have in visiting the
country, good and bad, and used this discussion to identify needs. I stayed an extra week at my own expense and travelled with the local businesses, stayed with local family home stays etc to get a real understanding of what was needed but also to build relationships necessary for the project to succeed.

2. Set worthwhile goals.

A detailed final report, a training seminar, a web site or an inventory of tourism assets are not goals in themselves, they are a means to an end.

Why are so many projects afraid to say that they will achieve a measurable increase in bums on bus seats, or new tourist visits? I guess because it is hard to achieve and too measurable.   It is much easier to concentrate on delivery of specific elements within a project (boxes ticked), than the overall goal.
In my media days, the marketing director of one of the UK’s largest advertisers told me
that he wasn’t interested in what his ads looked like, whether they formed an association with my TV shows, or even how many people saw them, what interested him was how many units he sold. Most tourism businesses feel the same way. For example, if you want businesses to be more environmentally friendly you have to explain how this improves their bottom line.


Develop a business strategy for the project, in most cases, with the clear
aim of attracting specific market segment(s). Take time to set an
achievable, measurable goal which has the support of stake holders. Each
task within the project should be directly relevant to achieving the goal.

3. Be innovative (break with tradition).

Example: The DEU (European Union) responsible for IPA funding are too risk
averse in my view. They award grants to the same kinds of projects time and again. They
are so predictable that an industry has grown up teaching businesses how to
complete the application forms, which terminology to use, how to get points
in the scoring process. This means that the same approaches are tried again
and again. It also means that the same people are awarded the grants time
and again, often because of their political affiliations. I appreciate that
some checks are needed but the system still allows for money to be wasted.
For example, I can cite grant funding for projects which are just directly
duplicating previous work, (developing a mountain guide book, when one
already exists, training seminars which are identical to those given the
year before). There seems to be no consideration given to other projects
already in place, hence overlaps and duplication.

I do understand the requirements of the donor agencies, to ensure that they are legal and fair but the system creates many distortions in the design of projects. In general the emphasis from the EU for grant support is for:

Class room based capacity building training, whether appropriate or not.

Tourism cultural routes development, whether these are desirable/ marketable
or not. (One example, the much trumpeted Balkans ‘Routes of the Caesars’
based on the fact that some of Rome’s more obscure leaders were born in the
region, in my view the money spent on the project is not justified by the
potential consumer interest in the theme, yet the website and leaflets
produced look so good that the whole project is considered a success).

Emphasis is given to supporting Government or NGO’s rather than businesses
or business associations. I am afraid to say that in our part of the world
many government institutions and NGOs are not fit for purpose. (USAID also
seem to have a fear of any project which can clearly bring financial gain to
businesses).  This usually means that the project is not sustainable once
the grant money has been spent.

There is a general uneasiness about directly funding marketing efforts or
the staging of new events.

Aid support goes to those who are best at lobbying for it, not to the most
deserving or those who can really make a difference.


If the objective is to develop and grow tourism, marketing should be at the
center of any project. (Instead of a ‘limited print run leaflet’ tacked on
the project objectives as an afterthought).

New approaches to capacity building training are needed, much better to
support and coach stake holders to work together to deliver a catalytic
event as a marketing tool than to kill them with power point in the

Do not be afraid of building a project which generates an immediate profit
for the stake holders, this may be hard to explain politically but it is the
best guarantee of sustainability.

Be prepared to bypass internal political and cultural blocks to change,  where these
stifle development. (For example in Montenegro the Govt. had been insisting on their own national guide’s qualifications, but, they have been too slow to act and anyway, international tourists want to see internationally recognized qualifications).

There is a cultural ‘condition’ in government departments in many Eastern Europe’s transitional economies that kills innovation, avoids risk and is resistant to change!! It is not true that for change to happen Govt. has to be in agreement/support. 

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

Anti-hangover recipe from Moldova

Thank you Lords of the Drink, I am in Moldova now, enjoying the great wine, will be cooking this tomorrow

Lords of the Drinks

We already gave you some tips and tricks to get rid of your hangover. But every country has its own traditional dishes to make the process go faster. We like to give you a taste of the international anti-hangover cuisine. In this episode a dish from Moldova: zeama.

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Last week Leonid Rosca walked into the CEED II office in Chisinau, he had heard about our new website and wanted to know why we had no information about opportunities for Kayaking and Mountain Biking in Moldova. The reason was simple, we had not met Leonid before….

The Moldova Holiday website is the most comprehensive list of all that’s on offer in Moldova, for travellers and tourists. We have been building our web site since May and we are quite pleased with our efforts. The site has detailed listings of travel businesses, visitor attractions, accomodation, travel advice and, well, just about anything a visitor would need, or like to know. But, we didn’t have much information about Mountain Biking, Kayaking or outdoor adventure activities in general, thankfully Leonid was about to change all that.

Leonid runs ‘Explore Moldova’ for 6 years they have been organising trips on foot, mountain bike, kayak and boat…

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Roll, Race, and Float through Mountains, Plateaus, and Canyons: This is Montenegro

Roll, Race, and Float through Mountains, Plateaus, and Canyons: This is Montenegro.

Piva Canyon Kayak Stage

Find yourself crossing over, through, and under every imaginable geological feature imaginable when you try Montenegro’s 48-hour Expedition Challenge.  You’ll raft the Tara Canyon (the deepest canyon in Europe) and do your best to avoid flat tires as you race through the Sinjajevina plateau.  Not to mention about 80 kms of trekking,15 kms of kayaking and other unknown surprises thrown into the mix.

Although these feats themselves are worth a few months of bragging rights they are almost incomparable to the raw beauty that each racer has the chance to experience up close through each kilometer that they cover.

Troy Farrar, President of the United States Adventure Racing Association (USARA), noted the growth in Adventure Racing, and took interest in Montenegro’s Expedition Challenge.  USARA has decided to award this year’s Number One Nationally Ranked team, free entry into next year’s challenge.

Adventure Races in Montenegro have been open to locals for a long time. The idea behind the sudden rise in recognition of these many races and challenges being issued out by Montenegro and local adventure enthusiasts is to bring together local businesses, tourism, and non-profits in a way that benefits the entire community and creates lasting value among all participants.

“I have long wanted to do something to protect Montenegro’s ‘big 5′ (Bear, Wolf, Lynx, Chamois and Wild Boar),” says Jack Delf, Director of Black Mountain and Adventure Race Montenegro. “All of the ARM directors wanted a strong conservation goal for the race,” funds raised from the race will fund the first scientific census of large mammals species in Montenegro and continue the work of promoting a national ‘Leave No Trace‘ educational program, dedicated to the responsible enjoyment of Montenegro’s pristine wilderness.

If 48 hours is 24 hours too many, take a look at Montenegro’s Coastal Challenge taking place September 25th around the Bay of Kotor.

These races are all a part of a yearlong Adventure Series taking place throughout Montenegro. Check out past events that have taken place this year and start marking your calendar to participate next year.

If you are interested in registering for the race or would like more information send an email to: or contact the following people:

Hayley (English) +382 (0)67 268 971

Janko +382 (0)67 603 712 (Crnogorski).

To register online visit : Montenegro Expedition Challenge

From – ‘Off the Radar’ Online Magazine for Adventure Travellers

Some of our work for the Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance

Tourism Working Group Forum in Montenegro a Success.

The STARS Program aims to improve Northern Montenegro’s tourism sector by attracting investment, enhancing linkages, increasing marketing capabilities, and developing cohesive regional branding.

On May 25th and 26th 2009, STARS held two Tourism Workgroup Forums in Zabljak and Kolasin for forty-one individuals from private, non-profit, and government sectors. The participants included representatives from local and regional tour operators, restaurants and accommodations, and destination management organizations.

Jack Delf, owner of Black Mountain tours and former advertising executive, introduced the workshop’s goals and explained the emergence of an adventure-driven European market in which northern Montenegro could position itself as a leading destination. Mr. Delf previewed the STARS marketing and packaging workshop that occured in late June 2009 by offering best-practice techniques for running successful operations, identifying target markets, attracting western European travelers, and creating networks for future cooperation among tourism businesses.

Participants wish to continue to discussion in-between monthly workshops. They held interim one-on-one meetings in order to fully prepare for the June Workshop, where they will received further information from STARS tourism development experts, Costas Christ and Christina Heyniger.

The Forum concluded with a frank roundtable discussion on current business needs and their potential solutions, helping to define target areas for STARS project assistance.

As workshop participants acknowledged the need for additional dialogue on tourism business needs, STARS will be conducting small group sessions to further identify business-specific and cross-sectoral assistance opportunities.

“This project will be much help for our future business development. We need assistance bringing more tourists into our beautiful Northern part since we still have not shown them the true beauty of it.”

-Bijelp Polje, local tour operator

The STARS Program aims to improve Northern Montenegro’s tourism sector by attracting investment, enhancing linkages, increasing marketing capabilities, and developing cohesive regional branding.

Taken from the Global Sustainable Tourism Newsletter – December 2009