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Montenegro’s trade performance in January: Notable declines in energy and metal exports

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Montenegro is losing its tourist recognition due to limited availability, small number of flights and large crowds at border crossings during the summer season. Without adequate air availability, it is difficult to achieve an extension of the tourist season and successful tourism during the winter months. This is an especially important issue for winter resorts, which can hardly attract high-quality guests. A big advantage is that the Podgorica airport is located in a climate zone that allows it to function all 365 days a year, and this should be used to the maximum. We need to work on creating conditions for the operation of the airport 24 hours a day throughout the year – said Ranko Jovović, president of the Tourism and Hospitality Association Board of the Chamber of Commerce, for Pobjeda.

It is necessary to act urgently

As an airline destination, we are far from important emission markets, so the existence of direct airlines, regular, charter and low-cost airlines to important emission markets throughout Europe is important for the positioning of our country as a tourist destination. Jovović warns that the Committee has repeatedly warned that it is necessary to react urgently.

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It is crucial to recognize all the challenges arising from the situation we are in and to solve them quickly. In order to prepare for the season, as well as to improve air availability, it is necessary to adopt an air transport development strategy that would provide strategic directions and guidelines for solving this very important condition for the further development of the tourism sector. It is necessary to carry out an analysis of the current situation, the existing infrastructure, the number of flights, passengers and destinations. After that, define goals that should be measurable, realistic and aimed at increasing the tourism industry, economic growth or connections with other destinations. Air carriers, airports, hotels, travel agencies and local authorities should be included in the process itself – says Jovović.

And that everything is feasible is shown by our neighbors and the airport in Tirana, which, with an impressive 652,270 passengers in January of this year, ranks first as the leading airport in the region, surpassing Belgrade’s as well. There is no Podgorica airport on the list of eight places.

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What is crucial is that the increase in flights requires a strategy at the national level, planning, resources and a long-term approach. It is important that the strategy be flexible in order to adapt to the changes in the aviation industry and the changing state of the market – explained Jovović.

It is known that Montenegro is dependent on air traffic in order to make the most of its potential and improve business in all sectors. However, this dependence can also be a fundamental weakness that limits potential growth and development.

Modern technologies and digital marketing have enabled us to quickly and very often at the last moment implement modern marketing activities that have helped us achieve results. Efficiency would be significantly better if the tourism industry had a pre-defined plan and coordinated activities at the level of Montenegro as a unique destination – says Jovović.

Hotels, he added, take a long view of the challenge they face, which is related to strong seasonality.

Through business associations, direct communication with airports and NTO, we pointed to the challenge, but also to possible solutions with the aim of a stronger business result. However, we still need to understand the challenges of all actors in the dialogue. The national airline Air Montenegro should strongly influence the improvement of air connectivity between Montenegro and Europe, and when defining priority markets and strategic routes, it must be a partner of the Montenegrin tourism industry.

Changes that happened with the shutdown of the previous national airline, as well as the initial development phase of the new national airline, still do not indicate inventiveness or initiative for cooperation, or more precisely, the modeling of a private-public partnership that would bring results to everyone – says Jovović, adding that the reduction in the intensity of Air Montenegro’s traffic results in the non-establishment of regular lines to Western Europe during the winter season, thus affecting the availability of the destination and the reduction of tourist traffic.

We see the participation of business associations as a key mediator-intermediary in order to strengthen the dialogue, exchange and potential consideration of a win-win solution – says Jovović.

He says that in order to increase the number of visitors to the destination and extend the duration of the main tourist season, it is important to improve traffic accessibility and create all the necessary conditions for a faster, safer and more pleasant arrival of tourists.

Of great importance is the issue of valorization of Podgorica and Tivat airports, i.e. the final decision of the Government regarding airport concessions. The airport infrastructure is insufficiently developed. The state must urgently consider investments in the expansion and modernization of the airport in order to increase the capacity to receive flights, build new terminals, improve technical conditions (the lack of which is particularly visible during the winter period when temperatures are lower), extend the runway, etc. – emphasizes Jovović.

According to him, any planning and decision-making on state incentives and other measures, which especially concern air traffic in Montenegro, should be discussed with the tourism industry before adoption and possible implementation. In particular, he is referring to the strategy of the national airline, the policy of cooperation with low-cost companies, the organization of charter flights, operations and pricing policy of the Airport of Montenegro, etc.

Incentive measures

In this sense, the proposal for incentive measures may include the abolition of airport and other taxes outside the main season, in order to attract tourists and travelers who travel outside of peak periods, the introduction of special benefits to increase the availability of air transport during the off-season period, the introduction of incentives for aviation -carriers that fly throughout the year, such as special discounts and additional facilities and services at airports, to ensure the operation of the airport 24 hours throughout the year for the airport in Podgorica, which has the potential for continuous operation, and has a sufficient number of employees, etc. – Jovovic suggests.

He recalls that, during the previous summer season, Podgorica and Tivat airports were connected to around 40 destinations. Seasonal air carriers are: Air Astana, Alba Star, Enter Air, Flynnas, Transavia. Regular carriers are: Air Montenegro, Air Serbia, Aegean Airlines, Austria Airlines, LOT, Pegasus Airlines, Ryanair, Wizz Air, Turkish Airlines.

For the economy, it would mean a stronger connection with the countries of Southeast Europe in order to generate a stronger income through stronger ties with the region, especially in the domain of the corporate and MICE segment. In this sense, a stronger promotion or opening of opportunities for airlines with Romania as a growing business destination may be of importance. Greece, although it has a direct airline a couple of times a week, still does not bring the desired result, so stronger promotion of this market would be important. The countries of Central Europe are indirectly connected through LOT, Austrian Airlines, Wizz Air, but it remains to see the possibilities of stronger promotion, well-done business analysis in order to connect more strongly with Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Warsaw and bring a stronger result in the corporate and MICE segment – said Jovović.

He emphasizes that it would be extremely important to look at the possibilities for the seasonal air carrier, after the summer season and flights at the airport in Tivat, to direct seasonal flights in the autumn-winter period to the airport in Podgorica.

We are talking about the market of the Nordic countries, whose residents are traditionally the biggest travelers who highly value destinations where active tourism is practiced. The Nordic market represents the most important market that, with smart, long-term planning, can strengthen the share of Montenegrin tourism in the domains of active tourism.

The share of the Montenegrin diaspora in Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm can contribute to a better result – says Jovović, adding that the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg remain the desired markets from which with strong, long-term promotional activity, a significant business result could be obtained in the domains of active-sustainable tourism, corporate and MICE segment.

South Korea is also a desired distant market. An example of good practice from the region is the Korean LCC T’way, which comes to Zagreb from June to October.

In the end, Jovović points out that it is of great importance to do a serious business comparative analysis for the airports in Podgorica and Tirana in order to find the optimal model and reduce the asymmetry between these airports.

It remains to be seen whether the airport in Podgorica will be able to register a slight growth in the following period with the increase of working hours during the full season, strategic planning of the opening of new airlines, and careful selection of air carriers. One of the hypotheses remains that, through the connection of the airports in Podgorica and Tirana, a joint approach to airlines or cooperation through the Berlin process, an optimal model or example of good practice can be reached in order to reduce business asymmetry – Jovović concludes.

The position of Tivat airport is particularly negative

Tivat and Podgorica airports, as Jovović points out, must increase their capacities, as well as the number and frequency of air connections to key emission markets, and the inoperability of the Tivat airport when it comes to night flying is also a challenge.

In addition, the access infrastructure to airports must be designed in such a way that its capacity can successfully respond to potential surges in the number of guests (this includes an increased number of buses and vehicles in that period from and to the airport). The position of Tivat airport is particularly negative here. Competent institutions, in their development concepts, should harmonize road and air traffic development policies in such a way as to obtain a synergy effect (implying the condition that one development study does not negatively affect another – especially for the case of Tivat) – says Jovović.

25 new airlines from Tirana and Dubrovnik this year

New routes from Tirana airport this year are: Aegean (Rhodes), airBaltic (Riga), Iberia (Madrid), Pegasus (Antalya), Smartwings (Katovice and Wroclaw), SunExpress (Izmir), Transavia (Amsterdam and Lyon), and Tunisair (Tunisia). Wizz Air is opening two new routes, and Ryanair has 19 new ones in total this year.

A large number of companies with existing lines will increase the number of frequencies and capacities for Tirana this year. All of the above indicates that it will be a good year for the airport in Tirana – said Jovović.

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