Tourism is a driving sector for economic growth in Montenegro. The sector directly accounted for 9.5% of total GDP and 9.0% of total employment in 2019. In 2020, international and domestic tourism receipts amounted to about EUR 159 million, 86% lower than in 2019 according to the National Bank of Montenegro.

International tourism is key for tourism in Montenegro, with international tourists accounting for 95.5% of nights in 2019. At this time, international tourists hit a record high, with 2.5 million tourists. This fell by 83.2% to 351 000 tourists in 2020, before recovering to 1.6 million in 2021. The top source markets in 2021 were Serbia (26.7%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (13.8%), Russia (6.9%) and Germany (4.9%). International tourists accounted for 351 000 arrivals (down 86.0%) and 2.2 million overnight stays.

In 2020, domestic tourists fell 31.2% to 93 270 arrivals, which resulted in 360 700 nights. Domestic tourists increased 25.8% to 117 321 tourists in 2021, returning to 86.5% of 2019 levels.

A return of international tourism to pre-pandemic levels is expected in 2023.

In Montenegro, the Ministry for Economic Development and Tourism, the National Tourism Organisation of Montenegro, and local tourism organisations have a leading role in defining development policies in tourism, destination management and creating a tourism product.

Montenegro is also in the process of establishing a National Tourism Council. The main task of the Council would be to strengthen tourism as a sector, both nationally and internationally. The mission of the Council would consist of proposing and implementing activities of importance for all entities in the country in the field of tourism and complementary branches, as well as raising standards in this sector with the aim of better global positioning of Montenegro as a tourist destination, strengthening the economy through better integration of tourism and other branches of the economy, creating a stable business and investment tourist environment and greater tourist satisfaction.

The Council would have a role in controlling the implementation of the strategy and programme documents. It would include representatives of the private sector, which would further strengthen public-private partnerships and the role of the private sector in making strategic decisions in the field of tourism.

To improve the business and investment environment and create a new destination management model, Montenegro is looking at possibilities to restructure tourism and economic bodies by introducing a destination management model. The synergy of the National Tourism Organisation with local tourism organisations and other tourism actors is necessary through strengthening public-private partnerships, which should be the backbone of the future functioning of the Montenegrin tourism sector.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Montenegro worked to support the economy and the tourism sector with the goal of adapting and harmonising the business environment to the new circumstances. The ministries of Health and Tourism created a guide to health and safety protocols for COVID-19, entitled “Montenegro as a safe and responsible tourist destination.” The protocols included measures and activities that reduced the risk of infection and covered a range of tourism businesses, including accommodation, food and beverage, transportation, and natural areas. Montenegro also implemented a national health and safety communication strategy.

The Strategy of Tourism Development in Montenegro 2022-25 is aligned with tourism development trends and new circumstances after the pandemic. All the activities and projects are focused on sustainable, inclusive, smart, green and responsible tourism, with the ultimate goal of establishing Montenegro as a globally recognisable tourism destination by 2025.

The road map for achieving the strategic goal is: managing destinations in a sustainable way, creating an innovative, green and inclusive tourism product, influencing the increase in tourism spending, reducing seasonality and regional imbalances, raising the living standards of local populations and increasing tourist satisfaction.

Several key operational goals have been defined in relation to the Strategy, which includes:

  • Improving the regulatory framework in tourism with the formalisation of tourism turnover.

  • Supporting the development of tourism infrastructure.

  • Expanding the quality and quantity of accommodation capacities.

  • Diversifying the tourism product while retaining quality.

  • Enhanced human resources, knowledge and skills in tourism.

  • Developing digital, innovative solutions and new technologies in tourism.

Currently, 95% of tourism overnight stays and income are achieved in coastal regions, and 75% occurs in the summer months. Montenegro is focusing future activities on the quality of coastal tourism products relative to quantity. Another focus is the diversification of the tourism product, especially by encouraging year-round travel and offers based on nature. The development of tourism in the new circumstances is based on the potential of green, smart and inclusive tourism from the aspects of:

  • Improving the quality of accommodation facilities: developing “green” types of accommodation facilities that meet eco-standards.

  • Upskilling of business: intensifying the application of new technologies and digitisation in tourism businesses.

  • Raising the quality of the tourism offer: developing special types of tourist products and activities based on nature and providing a unique experience and healthy lifestyles.

Regarding a green tourism economy, Montenegro is working with the private sector and other stakeholders to assure the commitment to environmentally sensitive tourism development. This is being worked on through areas including carbon-neutral buildings, environmentally appropriate tourism development projects, nature preservation, and building citizen awareness and commitment.

Digitalisation and innovation in tourism are focused on supporting tourism service providers, encouraging the development and promotion of tourism in a sustainable, green, smart and inclusive way, encouraging tourist experiences, quality tourism content with a focus on cultural heritage, and the authenticity of the destination. The Smart Specialisation Strategy 2019-24 and the Health Tourism Development Programme 2021-23 recognise and promote the importance of medical tourism, which has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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