TIVAT: Industrial city to become haven for high rollers

Industrial city to become haven for high rollers

24/09/2007

A major investment project in Tivat aims to turn the city’s 24-hectare shipyard into a mega-yacht marina, making the town a centre for top-end tourism.

By Robert C Austin for Southeast European Times – 24/09/07

photoTivat is a coastal town in southwest Montenegro, located in the Bay of Kotor. [MontenegroPhoto.com]

By any account, Montenegro had a good summer for tourism. It was not problem-free, due to some nagging infrastructure problems, especially with roads and water supply.

Nevertheless, the newly-independent country continues to make strides towards its goal of becoming a premier tourist destination in Europe. Even the Rolling Stones stopped by, drawing a huge crowd for their July show in Budva. Mick Jagger and his band mates did not hide how impressed they were with the venue, the coast and the town’s magnificent Hotel Splendid.

Montenegro has seen enormous increases in revenues and the number of international visitors in 2006 and 2007. The tourism ministry says the past season was the best in 20 years. For those looking for cheap properties on the coast, it is probably too late — international and domestic investors are already there, and prices seem to go up daily.

The Porto Montenegro project in Tivat, initiated by the Canadian industrialist and Barrick Gold Chairman Peter Munk, is by far the largest such venture so far. It envisions a massive, mega-yacht marina in the former Arsenal shipyard which occupies around 24 hectares.

Munk now has a 90-year lease on the site, and his local team is moving ahead with a view to having the first phase of the project open in 2009. The first phase includes approximately 200 apartments, 300 berths and many restaurants and shops.

The investment will capitalize on the astounding growth of the mega-yacht industry. Many consider the trip from Venice to Corfu and the Ionian Islands to be one of the best cruising areas in the world. Tivat is smack in the middle.

photoThe Arsenal Shipyard went from having 1,500 employees in the 1980s to less than 500. [State.gov]

Despite its promising location, Tivat has, until now, never been a major tourist site. The Arsenal Shipyard, with over 100 years of tradition, was the engine of the city’s economy and thanks to that it was essentially an industrial city. Other places along Montenegro’s coast like Sveti Stefan, Budva and Kotor are better known. The history of Tivat is the history of Arsenal. However, the changing geopolitical context called the future of the industry into doubt. Arsenal went from having 1,500 employees in the 1980s to less than 500 before it was taken over by Munk.

Now, a total transformation is required at every level. The city’s mayor, Dragan Kankaras, found that Munk’s vision was very much in line with his own thinking about Tivat’s future. The idea is simple: transform Tivat from a transit point to a final destination and make it decidedly different from what is available elsewhere on the coast.

„Little could be gained by duplicating what else is available in Montenegro,“ Kankaras says. According to the mayor, the town could be a leader in nautical, cultural and ecological tourism. It has a blank canvas to create something new and unique, avoiding mistakes of the past.

Kankaras says that the key issue for him was to convince Arsenal employees that the changes will bring long-term benefits. This was not an easy task, as the 13,000 people who reside in Tivat are closely linked to the shipyard. Kankaras worked hard to ensure the implementation of a social programme for people rendered jobless by its closure. He also has collaborated with national and local officials to develop programmes so that people can be re-trained for careers in the tourism sector, and especially in the yacht repair facility that comes with the project.

Munk’s project also includes a significant initiative in higher education with funds available for students from the region to study at university and workshops in tourism sector training in partnership with the University of Montenegro’s Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management in Kotor.

The Porto Montenegro project is decidedly different from other investments in Montenegro, focusing as it does on high-end, exclusive tourism. Kankaras expects Tivat as a whole will rise to a new standards, with the city expected to undergo a complete makeover in the coming years.

For Kankaras, the project has all the ingredients for success. Tivat already has an airport, located 4km away, providing a level of access that is not found elsewhere on the coast. Munk’s project also calls for an exclusive marina, with full boat repair and servicing facilities and a golf course. Porto Montenegro’s Managing Director Oliver Corlette says the project „will establish a long-term, sustainable industry that will build a skill base which establishes Tivat as a global center for nautical tourism“.

Setimes