“Just like in childhood memories in which reality seems to shine with living colours,” says the website of Montenegro Adventures, a well-respected tour operator, “Montenegro is a land of contrasts and natural beauty… a fascinating combination in which the tiny and the grandiose are tangled.”
Apparently, that same website has been instrumental in capturing some of the same sense brilliance in “this small but fabulous destination.” Late last year, it was awarded the country’s Wild Beauty Award 2010 for Best Tourism Website.
“We are aware that our work has just begun, and we have so many plans for the future. We hope that we will be able to attract a growing number of independent travellers to Montenegro, to explore new markets. But we still have a lot to learn – the whole project is a big learning exercise for our team,” said Slavica Vukcevic, Executive Director of Montenegro Adventures. “The plan is to expand by working with a much larger number of accommodation providers, and to add various other products and services, but also we would like to post more content about different regions, traditions, culture, events, etc. We have been listening intently to all the feedback we received from our clients and will respond to many of the given suggestions in the next year.”
Wild and Beautiful
First organized in 2005 by the National Tourism Organization of Montenegro under the auspices of the President of Montenegro, the Wild Beauty Award was created with the aim of improving the image of Montenegro by promoting excellence and raising the quality of the county’s tourism sector. The awards cover everything from hotels, tourism companies and campaigns to events, projects, websites and more.
The 2010 award ceremony was held in the Government House (Vladin Dom) of Cetinje, the historic capital of Old Royal Montenegro. The building was built in 1910, the same year in which Montenegro was proclaimed a kingdom, making the awards of 2010 part of a centennial celebration.
Despite the importance of the year, the awards this year were relatively understated. In a break from routine, the National Tourism Organization decided to donate part of the resources budgeted for this occasion to the Rijeka Crnojevica community, which suffered terribly during recent floods.
Montenegro Adventures was established by the Centre for Sustainable Tourism Initiatives (CSTI), a local Montenegrin NGO founded as a lasting actor in the development and promotion of tourism in Montenegro. CSTI went on to develop more than 40 unique tours, most of them adventure-based or eco-cultural in orientation, some in remote parts of the country; high-quality promotional materials; and strong partnerships on the ground with local communities, national government bodies and key organisations abroad.
As demand for CSTI-developed tourism products grew, two needs were identified. First, independent travellers and small groups were asking to travel, but, second, “All of our tours were just sitting around unused,” said Vukcevic. “We had tested the tours – advertised them, taken a few people and journalists on them – and we thought local operators would carry on the tours. But they didn’t.” And so, Montenegro Adventures was born.
Whereas CSTI is an NGO that develops responsible and sustainable tourism products, Montenegro Adventures is a for-profit tourism agency that sells those products. However, their desired end result – using sustainable and responsible travel practices to improve the quality of life in Montenegro, preserve cultural heritage and protect the environment – is refreshingly the same.
Montenegro Adventures went on to sign a contract with the International Finance Corporation (IFC is a member of the World Bank Group) and whl.travel, for which it is the local partner in Montenegro and oversees three accommodation- and tour-booking destination portals covering Montenegro’s capital city of Podgorica and its surrounding mountains, the elegant seaside Budva and southern Montenegro and the Bay of Kotor.
It was “during our work on these destination-management portals that we realized how important it is to cooperate with different institutions and businesses,” explained Vukcevic. “So far we have invested huge effort in travelling throughout Montenegro, working on different products and services, and working with different accommodation providers. In 2011, we plan to focus on transfers and tours, but also we would like to continue supporting the efforts of local tourism organisations and event organisers to promote local traditional events throughout Montenegro.”
As a young but conscientious company with lots of momentum, Montenegro Adventures is also committed to improving the business environment in Montenegro. “We are a relatively new company (almost a startup), but we think helping to streamline administrative processes and promote operational improvements for the benefit of all small and medium enterprises is a must,” concluded Vukcevic. “For that reason, we are actively participating in several working groups organised by the National Tourism Organization or the Ministry of Tourism, such as the Hiking and Biking Development Project, the Montenegro Convention Bureau and, lately, the MOA (a very informal name for a group of Montenegrin outdoor agencies). We have also recently been recognized by SNV (the Dutch Development Organization) as one of their ‘local capacity builders’ – trainers/consultants active in different projects related to enhancing the economic potential and capacity building of small enterprises in the tourism sector.”