Rob Davidson shines his event searchlight on a coming destination deep in the Balkans
For you, it may be just one of those countries that you only ever hear about when you watch the Eurovision Song Contest. But for me, it’s one of Europe’s most exciting destinations for conferences and events. With a population of only 600,000 (that’s a smaller population than Sheffield), the south-west Balkans state of Montenegro is fighting above its weight in terms of winning all kinds of meetings, large and small. It’s one of the former-Yugoslavia states that I find myself visiting more and more – usually on business, but also for fun (and there’s plenty of that to be had). I was there twice last month – the first time to train hotel managers in venue sales; and the second time to speak at an event of over 600 participants.
What’s the big attraction? Novelty value has a lot to do with it. Most people haven’t already been there, so it’s easy to get attendees excited about spending a few days in a place that was made iconic by the Bond movie, Casino Royale.
Meeting planners have easy access, with UK flight connections to Podgorica, the capital, as well as Tivat. But my preferred route is via Dubrovnik in neighbouring Croatia. Turn left as you come out of that airport and you’re in Montenegro in less time than it takes to travel into Central London from Heathrow. The stunning scenery of that journey prepares you for the beautiful vistas that lie ahead.
Although the country is named after its ‘black mountain’, most of the action is on the coast. The capital is where most governmental meetings are held, but the majority of corporate events that Montenegro does are held in and around the resort of Budva, famed throughout the Balkans for its hospitality. That’s where you’ll find excellent hotels such as the Splendid and the Mediteran, as well as the newly-opened Hotel Budva. Any contact with any of these venues will show you another factor that makes Montenegro such a magnet for conferences: the warmth and professionalism of the people working in the hospitality industry. From the breakfast waitress to the events manager, Montenegrins carry out their duties with flair and enthusiasm. They are big-hearted people – and big talkers too, especially when they speak about their own country, which they all clearly love to bits.
And there’s a lot to love. The Mediterranean climate, the heritage sites from the pre-Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque periods, the excellent cuisine, all at a price that won’t break the bank. Check it out. The Montenegro Convention Bureau and the Tourist Organisation of Budva can tell you more.
Last month, Jaguar launched its new F-Pace, its luxury SUV in Montenegro. Hundreds of auto journalists from all over the globe were flown into Montenegro to test-drive the car over a period of seven days. So if Montenegro is good enough for Jaguar …