Tourism cross-border project connects outdoor destinations in Montenegro and Croatia
Montenegro and Croatia, both popular tourist destinations, share a narrow land and maritime border. Although tourism and the related services are the main inputs for economic development of the area, there has not been much cross-border cooperation between Croatia and Montenegro over the past decades. Investments in the past to promote the exceptional natural and cultural value of the area have been limited. The region lacks well-trained human resources and has underdeveloped communication and distribution channels.
The cross-border project "Development of ICT for Outdoor Destinations"*** started in February 2013 and lasted 2 years. The project specifically focused on improving the relations between Croatia and Montenegro by stimulating local economy in the cross-border area and bringing together the private and public sector in the field of outdoor tourism. The project helped in development of joint marketing and entrepreneurship initiatives through strengthening inter-cluster cooperation and qualifying activity instructors and guides, but it also resulted in joint tourism promotion and common participation at tourism fairs. Among other achievements, the project contributed to the improvement of safety standards in adventure tourism and the introduction of innovative promotion of tourism offer with the aid of information and communication technologies.
The project was financed by the European Union, through IPA funds, specifically the Cross Border Cooperation Program between Croatia and Montenegro. As stated by Viktor Subotić, UNDP project officer, the main goal of the project is to improve relations, stimulate cooperation and rebuild the broken bridges between the two countries. “Not only Montenegro and Croatia, but also other countries in the region share common heritage and common challenges and they should, first of all, cooperate in some soft activities relating to local economic development, e.g. in tourism, environmental protection and promotion of cultural heritage,” said Mr. Subotić.
This is the third cross-border project empowered by EU in partnership with UNDP, and the second one that is focused on cross-border cooperation with Croatia. It is a diversified project that has resulted in a higher level of cooperation between the two countries. Apart from the promotion of the integrated outdoor destination, the technical capacities of the Mountain Rescue Service were improved by providing high-quality equipment for interventions in remote and difficult to access locations, as well as for heavy winter conditions. This was one of the prerequisites for establishing tourism services according to international safety standards. In addition to this, approximately 50 kilometers of mountain trails were marked, allowing easy orientation for tourists and mountaineers. Human resources of the Mountain Rescue Service and local entrepreneurs were improved, through a number of trainings for activity instructors, guides and rescue service providers, including kayaking guides. This is especially important, as it ensured provision of competent guiding services and professional rescue assistance to injured people in the mountains.
Another goal of the project was the establishing of an ICT promotional tools (geoportal and 2 mobile applications for android and iOS); further promotional video was made and a brochure with new tourism products was developed. It was recognized that electronic platforms, social networks, interactive web and mobile applications, etc. have become a growing trend in developing nature-based adventure tourism. The use of ICT in tourism in Montenegro and Croatia is still not in full swing, and that is why this type of promotion needs to be better utilized.
Sustainability of the project was ensured through boosted entrepreneurial cooperation. Outdoor tourism agencies from both countries have gathered into formal business clusters. All outdoor travel agencies, both in Croatia and Montenegro, are small or even micro-enterprises. As their joint action is essential, a mentoring process was of key importance for them. In this way, the agencies recognized the benefit of working together, therefore they undertook common promotions, introduced joint offer to the outbound tourism markets, and will further cooperate to develop guide training courses and other collaborative tourism activities.
Emil Kukalj, representative of the National Tourism Organisation of Montenegro (NTO), explained that they coordinated promotional activities and the organisation of business workshops abroad. The first business workshop was organized in Paris, France. This event was hosted by the Croatian Embassy in France, supported by the Croatian Tourism Association Board - Office in Paris and Montenegrin NTO. Ten members of the outdoor tourism clusters from Croatia and Montenegro took part in the presentation for French tour operators, specialized in active tourism. Subsequently, in November 2014, four French tour operators visited Montenegro. This visit brought a concrete result – one the tour operators, Atalante, has already included Montenegro in its programme for 2015.
The second business workshop took place in Stockholm, Sweden, also with participation of outdoor tourism clusters from Croatia and Montenegro. On this occasion, the Swedish tour operators showed a high level of interest in the overall offer of two countries. This led to a study trip of two Swedish tour operators to Montenegro and Croatia, in February 2015, when they had first-hand experience of the diversified outdoor tourism offer. They were impressed by the natural beauties, cultural heritage, and outstanding possibilities for adventure tourism in the border area between Montenegro and Croatia. However, they pointed out that there are still some challenges to be resolved. First of all, the flight connections should be improved, more attention should be paid to minimizing and preventing littering, and it is necessary to prohibit smoking in public areas.
Finally, the project also connected people from both sides of the border and established firm entrepreneurial links for future visitors of the cross-border destination.
***The project Development of ICT for Outdoor Destinations (DIOD) was implemented in cooperation between the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (CMRS) as the lead partner, UNDP Country Office as main partner in Montenegro; and Croatian Chamber of Commerce, the National Tourism Organization of Montenegro and the Mountain Rescue Service of Montenegro. The total value of the project, financed by the EU and implemented under the IPA Cross-Border Programme Croatia - Montenegro 2007-2013 for both countries was 498,957.16 EUR. EU Grant approved for the project was 419,845.5 EUR.