The sun has almost set on another busy summer season for Montenegro’s tourism industry – and the country’s hotel sector has never been in more promising shape.
Figures released in July pointed to 2019 being another boom year for the industry, with tourist arrivals during the first six months 20% higher than the same period last year. Hoteliers have continued to report exceptionally high occupancy during the remainder of the summer, particularly in the country’s burgeoning luxury market.
“Luxury hospitality in Montenegro continues to go from strength to strength,” says Petros Stathis, owner of the five-star Aman Sveti Stefan resort. “The last few years have seen the country firmly cement its reputation as a world-class destination for visitors seeking the highest standards of accommodation, service and facilities.”
Stathis’s Aman hotel, which was built on the existing foundation of a 16th-century village and opened in 2011, was referred to as "the first signal of Montenegro's revival on the high-end scene" by the Financial Times. The 80-acre resort has become a haven for celebrities and other wealthy foreign visitors, hosting Novak Djokovic’s wedding in 2014.
Following Aman’s lead, last summer, Meliá Hotels International made its debut in Montenegro with the 144-room Meliá Budva Petrovac. That property joined Porto Montenegro in the Bay of Kotor—a UNESCO World Heritage site and once an Austrian naval base—that was developed into a marina capable of taking super-yachts by a consortium of investors including Jacob Rothschild. Hotel giant Marriott International has also just signed a “milestone agreement” to bring the Ritz-Carlton luxury brand to Montenegro in 2023.
“Quality rather than quantity is the name of the game,” continues Petros Stathis. “Tourism is one of the main drivers for Montenegro’s economy and its future growth depends on careful, considered nurturing of the luxury sector.”
According to numbers recently published by Montenegro’s Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, there are currently 453 hotels in the country and nearly 55% are four-star and five-star establishments. This year alone, 38 high-end hotels have been opened, with even more planned before year-end.
The potential of the country’s luxury hospitality sector is not lost on the Ministry. The government has publicly stated it has set a goal of creating favourable investment conditions that will foster a continued increase in the quality of hotels and facilities for tourists.
"We are very satisfied with the current structure of our hotel industry, as the number of high-end hotels exceeds the projections envisaged by the strategy," said a representative of the Ministry.
The strength of the country’s tourism industry is also having broader effects on its overall economic development. Credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s recently published a new report on Montenegro, which confirmed the outlook of the country as "stable", while preserving its B+/B rating.
Assessing the factors contributing to the growth of Montenegro’s economy, Standard and Poor's emphasised the significant results achieved in the tourism sector and the considerable inflow of foreign direct investments it had attracted.
The strong performance of the tourism sector supported economic growth of almost 5% in 2018, which is the highest growth that Montenegro has recorded in the past decade. All signs point to this trend having continued in 2019.
Foreign investments have been a major contributing factor to the improvement in Montenegro’s credit rating. According to Standard and Poor's projections, foreign investments will amount to an average of 10% of GDP per year in the next four years. Many of these are concentrated in the hospitality sector, including several high-profile coastal resorts and hotels in the increasingly popular mountain regions.
“With over 300 kilometres of stunning Adriatic coastline and rugged mountainous landscapes in the north, Montenegro has always been primed for tourism – it’s just taken a little longer to manifest itself than in neighbouring countries such as Croatia,” says Stathis.
He adds: “The government has been instrumental in driving growth in the sector by opening up the economy to foreign investors and removing any impediments to doing business here. Montenegro is officially open for business and the future looks very bright.”
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