Academic Research,  Summer,  Tourism Management

A critical evaluation of sustainable tourism planning in the Montenegro tourism strategy


This is another academic essay and research on sustainable tourism planning, which I have spent a lot of time on. I would like to share it, to benefit your research and make your work a little easier.

The purpose of this essay is to evaluate and analyse the best practices for sustainable tourism planning and critically asses how the Montenegro tourism development strategy to 2020 comply with those practices. The essay will discuss the importance of collaborative planning, the triple bottom line, product portfolio, issues with seasonality, issues with low quality of infrastructure and issues with human resources in Montenegro. This will be achieved through careful analysis of the academic literature, the use of past examples and through Montenegro’s position in the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index.

Tourism in Montenegro

Tourism has played a very important role in Montenegro’s dramatic growth and transformation. Over 25% of Montenegro’s GDP, directly and indirectly, comes from tourism. The country expects this percentage to grow in the upcoming years, prioritising tourism as critical to their economy (Montenegro Ministry of Tourism and Environment, 2008).

A tourism development plan will require a responsible approach from the industry to achieve sustainability. A sustainable development is an approach where the many positives and negatives are balanced with the aim of benefiting the economy and the society (Jenkins, 2015). Additionally, the balance between private-sector and government involvement in policy planning is needed (Hall, 2011).

Issues in Tourism Planning for Developing Countries

One of the key issues in tourism planning for developing countries mentioned by Jenkins (2015), is that usually the government is the policymaker for tourism with limited involvement of the private sector. The ideal practice is to involve the private sector and the local community to create balance in the planning process, which helps to understand the concerns and issues from all of the stakeholders (Jenkins, 2015). This process is known as collaborative planning (Bramwell and Lane, 2000).

Collaborative Planning

There are many benefits of collaborative planning in tourism. A summary of potential benefits from collaborative planning by Bramwell and Lane (2000), outline the key benefits to be; cost-effective solutions, integration, efficiency, elimination of the overlap of services & less conflicts. This approach allows to bring knowledge and experiences from the key stakeholders, which can help in creating effective policies that do not conflict with values and interests (Ladkin & Bertramini, 2002).

Several authors (McKercher & du Cros, 2002; Hall, 2007; Petrova & Hristov, 2014; Jenkins, 2015) support establishing balanced collaborative practices to promote successful sustainable urban tourism. Collaborative approach would allow to create realistic and effective strategies.

Collaboration in Montenegro’s  Tourism Strategy

The Montenegro’s strategy declares collaboration (Hall, 2007a), by expressing the involvement of the citizens and the private sector. A consistent message is seen throughout the report expressing the commitment to balanced and sustainable growth, by involving the local communities.

The examination however shows that the actual collaboration is not balanced appropriately, as there is a greater involvement of the Ministry. So, a very typical issue for a developing country (Jenkins, 2015).

High Involvement  of Foreign Establishments 

The development of Montenegro’s strategy took six years and it was developed by the Ministry with the involvement of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), German Investment and Development Corporation (DEG), Deutsche Investitions-und Entwicklungsgesellschaft, and the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) with international market expertise provided by CREATOP- Creative Tourism Projects (Montenegro Ministry of Tourism and Environment, 2008). The examination shows a high involvement of external and foreign in addition corporations, which suggest economic focus of this strategy.

Lack of Details

The plan was limited to only say that “The review process has drawn on the input of many citizens and organisations, using as the starting point our commitment to balanced and sustainable growth” (Montenegro Ministry of Tourism and Environment, 2008, p.2).

The question is how the citizens were involved? How did the private organisations contribute to this plan? The report does not explain in enough detail how the citizens and private sector were involved, which suggest that the collaboration balance was weak. Yes, this plan involved some organisations but they were not from Montenegro, so how reliable their expertise can be in the Montenegrin tourism?

Triple Bottom Line

Another important concept in planning for sustainable development is the triple bottom line (TBL) which is a consideration of environmental, economic and socio-cultural impacts to the core of developments (Dwyer, 2005).

The expressed core of the Montenegro’s strategy for tourism development is to preserve the natural assets for future generations, to keep the beauty of the tourism destinations within the country. This almost sound like the famous pioneer definition of “Sustainable development” which was outlined in the Brundtland report (WCED, 1987, p.16) as:

“The development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability to future generation to meet their own need”

The plan expresses the desire to protect biodiversity, preserve its heritage to encourage the protection of local traditions and improve the quality to bring high-yield guests into the country. So, the TBL is clearly addressed throughout the plan, which is important to sustainability (Dwyer, 2005).

Economic Focus

However, the examination shows that more focus is being directed towards the economy. The success of the previous master plan from 2001 was established with the following words: “One single figure is enough to prove how successful this strategy has been. Estimates from the Central Bank tell us that total income from tourism has increased from 2001 to 2007 by 460%, or from €86 mil to €480 million.” (Montenegro Ministry of Tourism and Environment, 2008, p.7). This once again suggest more economic focus of this plan.

In reality the given figure is not enough to prove the success of sustainable development. This could have a similar result to the Poland’s strategy for rural tourism development in 1990’s, where the strategy boosted the number of tourists but not where the country wanted the tourists to go and not the tourists the strategy aimed at (Augustyn, 1998). This development plan caused more issues than benefits, because the tourism increased in areas where the demand was already high, causing challenges for the carrying capacity.

Carrying Capacity of the Local Environment

Challenges for the carrying capacity of the environment occur when the supply is insufficient, which is usually caused by seasonality of the destination (Martín Martín, De Dios Jiménez Aguilera, & Molina Moreno, 2014). During peak periods the pressure on the carrying capacity can lead to a damage in vegetation, disturbance to fauna, accumulation of waste and physical erosion (Martín Martín, De Dios Jiménez Aguilera, & Molina Moreno, 2014).

Seasonality of Montenegro 

Extending the season would encourage long-term employment and help to manage the carrying capacity of Montenegro (Lee, Bergin-Seers, Galloway, O’Mahony, & McMurray, 2008). It would provide more valuable social and economic benefits, and it should allow the environment to cope with tourism better (Sungmin, 2011; Coccossis & Mexa, 2004).

Montenegro already has issues with carrying capacity due to it’s summer seasonality and insufficient supply (Todorovic, 2014). The strategy addressed seasonality as one of the key issues, which translated into a commitment of spreading the season over 12 months. To achieve this, the aim is to upgrade the quality of infrastructure and quality of accommodations in Montenegro to remain attractive during the winter.

Seasonality can be dependent on different factors such as the availability of tourists to travel at different times of the year (Fletcher et al, 2013) e.g. families will be dependent on school holiday timetable.

Targeted Demographics

The target market in this tourism strategy is up-market with a lot of money. According to Carrera and Beaumont (2010), couples without children are more likely to be at the higher end of the income distribution. So, the chosen audience is likely to travel out of school holidays as they are less likely to have children, which is advantageous to achieve the objective of spreading the seasonality.

However, the infrastructural, social and educational issues in Montenegro do not look promising to attract tourists with high income. This is because only 12% of accommodations are high quality, whereas 79% are at 3 stars and below (Montenegro Ministry of Tourism and Environment, 2008).

Poor Standards of Accommodation

Other issues related to the poor quality of accommodation in Montenegro, are with education and lack of social awareness of the benefits of upgrading the standards. The owners see no need to invest as the low standard accommodations are fully occupied in high season months (Montenegro Ministry of Tourism and Environment, 2008). Additionally, there are inadequate human resources in numbers and skills in the tourism and service sector which transfer to low standard services (Montenegro Ministry of Tourism and Environment, 2008).

Inadequate human resources can encourage the private sector to seek for employees from foreign countries which would not be beneficial to the society and economy in Montenegro (Baum et al., 2016). A high number of foreign workers are already engaged in the Montenegrin tourism industry (EMCC, 2013).

The positive side to all of this is that the Ministry acknowledge the weaknesses and they plan to encourage the owners to invest in their properties by showing them the benefits and potential demand into this type of tourism. On top of that, the Ministry believes that the developing high-standard resorts will increase competition and the owners will have to adapt to the changing environment.

Low Budget Market

Currently the tourism in Montenegro is highly oriented to low-budget market, focused on the sea and sun. A framework for studying competition among tourism destinations (Buhalis 2006) suggest, that in the world of increasing improvements to the communication technology, the customer can identify more products that they would find interesting and the competition to a destination increases. Focusing on one type of tourism can be risky in the long-term, therefore there should be more types of tourism to achieve sustainable tourism industry (Evans, Campbell & Stonehouse, 2002).

Wider Product Portfolio 

The advantage of having wider product portfolio is that a downturn in one market will not threaten the whole tourism industry (Evans, Campbell, & Stonehouse, 2002). If a customer leaves a homogenous market due to accelerated destination lifecycle in today’s competitive world, then the country will need other markets to compete for.

Montenegro’s plan addresses the issue with highly oriented to “sun and sea” tourism, and the plan expresses the desire for a wider “product-portfolio” to move some of the tourism from the coast to the hinterland.  The product portfolio will consist of appealing attributes to several key segments in the mid and upscale market, such as water-sports, agriculture tourism and golf.

However, is the proposed golf tourism sustainable? Well there are many issues with golf tourism, mainly around land and water usage. According to Briassoulis (2007), one 18-hole golf course requires at least 50-60 ha, and together with the infrastructure needed around that course it can take up more land. This can generate conflicts with other users of that land e.g. agriculture, nature protection, etc. This can be even a bigger issue for a small country with rich natural heritage like Montenegro (Todorovic, 2014).

Golf developments also need high quantities of water, which is a serious concern for the environment and the industry (Ridley, Maurer, Rosenbaum & Riopelle, 2007). “Golf courses may consume up to 10,000 m3 ha a year, the equivalent consumption of 12,000 people” (Briassoulis, 2007, p.8).

So, the plan to have several tourism sectors is good (Evans, Campbell, & Stonehouse, 2002), but the chosen golf tourism might not be the most sustainable industry to go for.

Overall the tourism development strategy in Montenegro to 2020, defines clear goals which need to be achieved to boost the economy and improve the quality of life for the society (Todorovic, 2014). It is highly concentrated on protecting the nature and environment, which is reflected through their “Montenegro: Wild Beauty” marketing campaign. Most of the objectives set in this plan should lead to sustainable growth as the key environmental, social and economic issues are addressed throughout the strategy.

So, is this strategy likely to promote sustainable development?

Well, analysing the current results of this development in relation to the proposed objectives show that further engagement is needed in the direction of raising the quality of the tourism industry and infrastructure in Montenegro (Todorovic, 2014).

One of the ways to evaluate the progress leading towards sustainable tourism in a given country is through the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) (Schwab et al., 2015).

“The TTCI measures the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable development of the Travel & Tourism (T&T) sector, which in turn, contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country.”  (Schwab et al., 2015, p.7).

The index has 14 pillars which affect the position in TTCI, and looking at this report shows that Montenegro has serious issues with; international openness, air and ground transport infrastructure and very limited natural and cultural resources for people to see.

According to the results from 2015, Montenegro is 67th in the world with a score of 3.75 out of 7 (Schwab et al., 2015). What is worrying is that Montenegro is moving down the index rather than up since the introduction of this strategy. For example, Montenegro was classified on the 36th position in 2011 and 40th in 2013, with higher score of 4.50 (Schwab, Brende, Greenhill, & Moavenzadeh, 2013).

Main Issues With The Strategy

The main issues that the country faced when the plan was proposed are still challenging the present. Insufficient supply, low quality service, high seasonality, insufficiently diversified orientated to sun and sea tourism offer have not been sufficiently improved since 2008 (Todorovic, 2014; Monstat, 2015), which shows that there is an issue with unsuccessful implementation of this strategy.

What seems to work in this strategy is the pro-poor approach (Hall, 2007b) to use tourism to improve the economy and the quality of life for the locals. As mentioned in the Montenegro’s report, the low-standard privately owned accommodations are fully occupied during the high season months so the locals benefit directly from the raising number of tourists (Monstat, 2015), but it is still seasonal and concentrated on the coast tourism.

Economic Benefits

The strategy certainly increases the number of visitors (Monstat, 2015), which turn into economic benefit for the businesses and locals, but it does not meet the triple bottom line (Dwyer, 2005), as the environment is not capable of hosting the current number of tourists in Montenegro (Todorovic, 2014). The low quality and seasonality of the tourism offer in Montenegro will not provide environmental sustainability. It encourages high volume of tourists and low value in return from them.

The insufficient supply in Montenegro (Todorovic, 2014; Schwab et al., 2015) can lead to serious irreversible environmental damage due to weak infrastructure and the stretched carrying capacity in the high season period (Sungmin, 2011; Coccossis & Mexa, 2004).

Post-Communist Approach

Although the strategy addressed how to overcome these established environmental issues, it does not implement the strategies effectively because of the post-communist approach in this tourism plan (Jenkins, 2015; Augustyn, 1998). The weak balance in collaboration between the state and the citizens is the cause for the ineffective implementation (Hall, 2011; Jenkins, 2015; Augustyn, 1998).


The strategy looks alike the Polish experience (Augustyn, 1998), where the plan addressed the main issues but because it was highly developed by the state, it was not effective. The strategies did not work, as the involvement of the citizens and private sector was limited.

The strategy shown that the owners do not see the benefits of upgrading the standards, so it is unlikely that they will follow this strategy. If the involvement of the accommodation owners in the planning process was higher, then the polices to implement the upgrades in quality would have been more effective.

Overall, the strategy is not likely to promote sustainable tourism in Montenegro because of the economic focus, lack of skills and education in the tourism industry and government led planning approach.


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