One of Europe’s fastest growing tourist destinations, Montenegro understands that development must be ecologically and socially sustainable for the country’s long-term economic prosperity
Covering just 13,812sq km, Montenegro is endowed with natural beauty and high biodiversity along its 300km Adriatic coastline and across its ever-changing interior. A commitment to the conservation of such rich natural resources has been enshrined in the constitution of Montenegro since 1991.
Over 20% of the country is under national and international protection. Its 28,000 hectares of national parks, virtually untouched highlands and mountain ranges, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a Ramsar Wetland on the European Greenbelt, and a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, are the foundation of Montenegro’s strategy for preserving its environment and culture.
WITH ONE OF THE FASTEST RATES OF TOURISM GROWTH IN THE WORLD, MONTENERGRO RECEIVED MORE THAN 1.5 MILLIONS TOURISTS ANNUALLY, REPRESENTING 21% OF GDP, A FIGURE THAT IS EXPECTED TO INCREASE TO 28% BY 2020
In 2007, the Montenegro government adopted the first National Strategy for Sustainable Development in Europe, encompassing all sectors of the economy, including tourism, which has been defined as a key area of Montenegro’s economic development. With one of the fastest rates of tourism growth in the world, Montenegro receives more than 1.5 million tourists annually, representing 21% of GDP, a figure that is expected to increase to 28% by 2020.
For Predrag Nenezic, Montenegro’s Minister of Tourism, sustainable development is the engine for a growing and prosperous tourism sector. Capitalising on the popularity of eco-tourism, Nenezic aims to align the country’s industry with the new global demand for unique, more personal holiday experiences. At the same time, he insists that new hotel and resort developments are environmentally and socially sensitive to protect the country’s rich natural heritage.
In the coastal region, the luxury hotel island resort of Aman Sveti Stefan, Porto Montenegro and the master-planned resort town of Orascom Lustica lead the way as low density, ecologically sensitive and mixed-use developments. The first phase of the Porto Montenegro marina in the Bay of Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, opened in the summer. Architects and developers have worked with the government to minimise environmental impact with initiatives that include extensive seabed and land remediation work, recycling stone, brick and timber from the old naval port structures, and constructing new buildings, none higher than five storeys, in traditional style using local materials.
The implementation of sustainable construction and operating practices, combining traditional architecture with modern levels of comfort, is also key to its new “Wild Beauty” hotels and resorts, which will be located in or near pristine wilderness areas with facilities aimed at enhancing nature-based holidays.
A Wild Beauty Accommodation Development Handbook, written with the assistance of Hitesh Mehta, an internationally renowned designer of eco-resorts, and Johann Friedrich Engel, the founder of Robinson Clubs (a forerunner of nature-based resorts), has been published to promote environmentally and socially friendly hotels and resorts. It offers private investors, architects and planners guidance, from site planning and landscaping to energy conservation and waste management, about minimising the impact of their developments.
Green tourism initiatives
To reflect the needs of the eco-tourists it wants to attract, the country has developed 6,000km of hiking and biking trails, connecting the coast with the mountains. The accommodation infrastructure along these routes has been expanded and upgraded by licensing B&Bs and “Bed and Bike” accommodation, increasing the network of mountain huts, and building small hotels to international standards (Montenegro now has 100 small hotels ranging from 2- to 4- and 5-star hotels nationwide). Overnight stays by hikers and cyclists in small family-operated lodgings have doubled over the past two years.
Lake Skadar National Park is one of Montenegro’s great natural attractions, where visitors can bird-watch, hike, mountain-bike, canoe and sail. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH is funding a green management pilot project with special attention and incentives given to small restaurants, hotels and boat operators who implement “green measures”.
It will serve as a model for implementing “green initiatives” on a national level. Meanwhile, Nenezic is relentlessly pursuing innovative approaches to sustainable tourism, including a grassroots campaign communicating the sustainability message across different generations that has involved the planting of 650,000 trees, one tree per citizen.
Countrywide awareness programmes such as “Keep it Clean”, “This Land is our Home” and “Leave No Trace”, and the introduction of the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria – a set of 37 voluntary standards representing the minimum that any tourism business should aspire to reach - continue to be the pillars for the transformation towards an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable tourism industry as the country continues to develop into a destination of choice for “green” travellers.
Montenegro is also proving that the move towards a sustainable economy makes good business sense for the tourism and hospitality sectors as the country attracts new business and leisure visitors to keep hotel occupancies robust and hotels profitable.
With thanks to the Montenegro Ministry of Tourism for their assistance.