How The Pandemic Shaped Us
Tourism in Montenegro is a very important part of its economy as it drives 54% of total national export, 32 % of total employment, and 32 % of total contributions to GDP. The year 2019 was a very successful year for Montenegro when it comes to tourism: record level of tourist arrivals, record levels of spending, and hotel occupancy was enjoying years-long growth. When 2020 arrived, the COVID-19 pandemic influenced the whole world. Daily lives have been changed and economies have fallen into recession. Due to the global shutdown, which closed borders and caused months of travel restrictions, the tourism economy experienced a decline of around 80% in international tourism in 2020.
Demand for accommodation fell dramatically, and as a result, the entire hospitality sector had to think fast and get creative in order to survive. Destinations and hotels, most dependent on international markets, were the most affected, as was the case with us, as 95% share of travelers were coming from the international market. Knowing that domestic tourism will drive short-term recovery, we had to adapt and implement a new business model.
As soon as the Government allowed hotels to be open again in June 2020, we came back to the market focusing on local and regional guests, easily accessible by a couple of hours drive. It was a huge change in the feeder market for us, but we stayed confident not to close again and be operational all year round. No one could tell you, and still cannot tell you, what the right way to survive during these times is. There is no case study you can look to, the only way is to work hard and adapt to all the changes in front of you.
After adopting and implementing all the sanitation procedures specifically designed to combat the transmission of COVID-19, we got to work to restore confidence and stimulate demand. The peak season was in front of us, the weather was beautiful, the beaches were empty, streets were without traffic jams, and Montenegro was never more beautiful than now. Our “Back to nature” philosophy seemed perfect for the comeback. Being in a bit secluded area with a private beach, however, still close to all important sights and medieval towns, was a huge plus as guests felt safe and the business started again. We focused on homemade food from our peninsula, with a “From farm to fork” philosophy. Supporting an active lifestyle has become our main mission now, offering outdoor activities, where one can enjoy nature and isolate from others if needed. We strongly believe that a proper tourism product has the potential to create beneficial effects on the environment by contributing to its protection and conservation. Only if you become part of nature, you can understand nature and raise awareness of environmental values. Grateful for the beauty of the country and our home, we can offer a wide range of outdoor activities, such as SUP and kayak ride to hidden caves of a clear Adriatic sea, diving, swimming, e-biking, and mountain bike tours passing olive trees of Lustica, quad tours through the hidden jams of the surrounding nature, visiting old fortresses, diverse beaches, and some seemingly unreachable points to enjoy the beautiful view.
After the season passed and demand naturally started to decrease, we put our emails down and picked up the phones to personal relationships offering added value and loyalty programs. Complimentary entertainment for hotel guests for example, both for adults and children, which are in line with all the protective covid-19 measures. In a time when entertainment seems to be forgotten, and very much needed, this has proven to be the best way to go. Being mindful to follow all rules, distance, wearing masks, and controlling the number of guests per area, we managed to see a return of smiles on our faces. Our individual, couple, or family local meals cooking classes, kids pizza and cookie classes, movie nights, arts and crafts kids’ classes, and various thematic programs (Halloween workshops, fall of colours, orientation in nature), seemed to be just what our guests needed.
By being very active during these hard times, we believe we are positioning ourselves for the future. Being just a piece in a whole puzzle, we want to give our contribution to the local community, the national economy as well as the hospitality industry worldwide to restore traveler confidence and shape a stronger, more sustainable, and resilient tourism economy. As we all know, any crisis may also be an opportunity to make it all better for the future.
With all the bad things Covid-19 brought us: lost incomes, lost lives, lost social closeness, lost great events, lost fun dinners with a lot of friends, lost free world traveling, lost freedom, the Chedi Lustica Bay team wants to remind on some positive things we can be thankful for:
Our New Year’s Eve wishes became easier: We wish all our families and friends great health and love. Also, jobs to bring food to the table and to stay warm and safe. Everything else: We can for sure survive without.
II When it comes to business, it taught us to be active and fast thinkers, and that there is no formula for success except hard work, creativity, and foolishness.