PJ: Mr Munk, thank you for consenting to this interview, can you tell us what the key success factors were behind Porto Montenegro looking back now?
PM: Firstly, we picked an industry and target client that is always growing no matter the economic circumstances – that is large, luxury, super yachts. We then needed a government and leadership that understood the complexities that was needed for such a large project, which clearly Montenegro had and continues to have in abundance.
Next, we needed a naturally beautiful backdrop that was suitable for yachting, which the Bay of Kotor and the Adriatic coastline unquestionably has, and finally, we needed ambitious, young, dynamic, Montenegrins to turn our dream into a reality, which Montenegro has in spades!
PJ: Looking back now, how do you see the development of the marina in recent years?
PM: Our first few years have been effectively major ongoing investment in best of class infrastructure – the marina, utilities, roads, landscaping, parking facilities, our international school, the Regent hotel, the residential and retail village, which provides the community for people to live in, and extensive international promotion, to build the highest quality profile of Montenegro with the international community.
Like all sustainable businesses, the hard work and large capital commitment needs to be done upfront to establish a platform for success, which we have now done and we are now poised to benefit from. Given the right opportunities Porto Montenegro should be the center of Montenegro’s leadership position for high quality tourism.
PJ: How do you see Montenegro developing in the future?
PM: The Montenegrin Government had vision and courage to create the conditions needed to establish a high-end tourist destination and follow a strategy to reduce business barriers and to use its natural harbors and strategic location to become a center of growth of the yacht tourism industry.
As such, Montenegro is also uniquely poised to play a leading role in the yachting industry – with a great nautical tradition, low taxes, a stable political situation, an excellent location in the middle of the Mediterranean with easy access to all the popular yacht cruising destinations, a naturally protected harbor, international airports nearby, beautiful landscapes, and a Government that recognizes it needs to develop a sustainable industry where it has clear competitive advantages.
The real challenge for the future is the market itself –competition is intense in the yachting industry. Therefore, we have to constantly promote our business and Montenegro to continue our success. It is also extremely important that we keep business barriers and taxes low to attract international investors who will further fuel Montenegro’s growth.
Our goal is not for yachts to be berthed in Tivat just during the summer months, we want them to stay here all year, just like we want to have guests staying at Regent during November and March; we want our homeowners and yacht owners to fall in love with Montenegro in autumn or spring.
Step by step, Montenegro is becoming a recognized destination in one of the most steadily growing, lucrative industries on Earth - the luxury yachting industry - that attracts year-round guests and will ensure all the other investors here can benefit from a twelve month season, not a two month one. That is how I believe the Government ought to position Montenegro in the future, and for which they laid the vital ground.
PJ: What has been your experience of doing business in Montenegro?
PM: First of all, we chose Montenegro because we trust the Government to share our long-term objectives and deliver on its promises. Secondly, the business environment here is favorable for investors thanks to the low taxes and an efficient bureaucracy for large investors.
The Montenegrin tourism development strategy which focuses on high-end travellers remains the right approach. I believe Montenegro cannot be competitive if it focuses on mass tourism, since it does not have the size or infrastructure required, nor the financial resources to build it. Mass tourism also means excessive construction of infrastructure that would endanger the natural beauty and ecological purity that is one of Montenegro’s most important attributes.
The Montenegrin Government and tourism entrepreneurs need to think how to target the right audience – high end customers travel all year round and will be happy to invest here if they continue to find an unspoiled country rather than one that is gearing up for large-scale tourism.
PJ: Looking beyond Tivat, do you see opportunities for developing other areas of the country such as the north for example?
PM: Absolutely, Montenegro is a young yet diverse country with an abundance of nature. The lakes, mountains, rivers and canyons provide the base for a host of activities. Its diversity continues to capture the attention of the international media, with many already describing it as a hub of outdoor adventure activities. Visitors and our homeowners are always looking to see more, they want to discover other parts of the country, from the coastal towns to the mountain villages of the north, they want to sail in summer but also ski in winter. And they are looking to experience traditional Montenegrin hospitality.
This diversity in the landscape holds great potential for future investment in leisure and recreational sports and attractions, including in the northern regions. Combined with the development of larger-scale projects that with the scope to attract the attention of the international media, such as Porto Montenegro, Montenegro is now becoming an attractive and well known destination for the meetings, incentives, conference and events (MICE) market. The north should aim to play its role in that development too.
PJ: Can you give us a brief outline of your philanthropic activities?
PM: I believe that, ultimately, wealth belongs to the society where it has come from. That is the base of our Foundation led now by my wife Melanie. It is an obligation to give back to the community as much as you can. I consider myself a very lucky person - I’ve had some success and I wish to give some of the money success brings back to the ones that need it most. We support various health and educational institutions, including Toronto General Hospital Cardiac Center, the University of Toronto, but also various projects from Tivat and Montenegro, via Porto Montenegro. I like to say: “Life is about integrity and not compromising your values, it’s about what you give, not what you take out.”
This article has been adapted from an original interview in The Luxury Collection, www.theluxurycollection.me