At a meeting in Podgorica with the president of Montenegro, Filip Vujanović, European Travel Commission (ETC) president, Arthur Oberascher, delivered a letter officially inviting Montenegro to join the organization. Oberascher was in Montenegro at the invitation of the country’s tourism minister, Predrag Nenezić, to attend celebrations marking the new state’s declaration of independence. Montenegro declared independence following a May 21 referendum that dissolved the country’s union with Serbia.
The ETC brings together the National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) of thirty-four European countries to market “Destination Europe” globally - principally using the recently revamped visiteurope.com website.
Contacts between Montenegro and the thirty-four nation ETC were initiated in 2004 and the country participated in ETC’s General Meeting as observer with a high-level delegation for the first time last October. Independence has opened the door to full ETC membership, and Montenegro is expected to formally join the organisation at its next General Meeting in Malta in October.
Arthur Oberascher expressed ETC’s thanks for the support lent to its efforts by Erhard Busek, the European Union’s Special Co-ordinator of the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. Busek, who was also in Podgorica to take part in the independence celebrations, underlined the significance of ETC’s initiative to bring the region’s countries into the organisation.
In discussions with President Vujanović, Minister Nenezić and the director of the country’s NTO, Vojin Vlahović, Oberascher extolled Montenegro’s tourism potential. With its Adriatic coast, rugged mountains and cultural heritage, the country last year attracted 820,000 guests (+16.6% over 2004). The Montenegrin partners highlighted the important place of tourism in their country’s development plans, and outlined the various activities being undertaken to upgrade Montenegro’s tourism infrastructure, product quality and promotion.
Arthur Oberascher, who doubles as CEO of the Austrian National Tourist Office, explained that the invitation to Montenegro was part of ETC’s strategy to extend its membership to the entire continent. “Tourism is a dynamic force for stability and economic growth” said the ETC president adding, “in Southeastern Europe, tourism can help transform the region’s economy and, equally important, its image from political tinderbox to vacation playground”.